What kind of compensation can you expect in settlement of your personal injury case? That is a very common question that accident victims have, and a very fair one too. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a very simple one, and your attorney will take multiple factors into consideration before arriving at a final determination of the settlement amount that you can claim, and can expect to recover.
Many personal injury law firm websites offer potential clients a settlement calculator. This calculator is supposedly meant to allow you to enter key details, and then spit out the settlement amount that you can possibly expect, based on monetary damages including: medical expenses (past and future), lost income, and property damages.
Personal injury settlement calculators like this do not account for key non-monetary factors including: pre-existing injuries, fault, negligence, pain and suffering.
Were injuries pre-existing?
For instance, a settlement calculator does not account for the cause of the accident. The calculator is designed to fix a dollar value to the different types of damages that you can claim, like medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. However, the calculator does not account for whether your injuries were actually caused in the accident. If a case goes to trial and the jury has reason to believe that your injuries were not caused as a result of the accident or were pre-existing, it might decide to not award you any damages at all. Such possibilities are not included in a settlement calculator.
Is the victim partially at fault?
Additionally, a personal settlement calculator does not take into consideration the fact that you might also be partially responsible for your injuries. In some cases, a person may, by his or her negligence, have been responsible for his injuries. In such a case, the victim may continue to be eligible for damages, but the damages may be reduced by the percentage of the victim’s own fault in the accident. This is called comparative negligence, or comparative liability, and many states do have specific versions of such negligence laws that apply to personal injury cases. Your calculator however, will not account for such negligence at all.
Was the defendant negligent?
The calculator will also not take into consideration the negligence of the other motorist in causing an accident. This is a major factor that could significantly impact your damages. Take for instance, a case in which the other person involved in your accident was extremely negligent, callous, or reckless in causing an accident. In cases like this, some states allow victims to claim punitive damages. These are damages that are designed to punish the defendant, as well as to serve as a deterrent to other motorists. Your settlement calculator however, will not account for the possibly of any punitive damages being awarded in your case. Many personal injury settlement calculators also do not account for damages involving pain and suffering.
These are some of the most obvious financial damages that a victim suffers in an accident. They include not just the cost of treatment in a hospital, but also the costs of hospitalization, surgeries, medication and even the cost of transportation to and from the hospital, the doctor’s clinic etc.
Lost income refers to the wages that you have lost as a result of the days lost from work, after the injury. Lost income for all the days that you spent in the hospital, in therapy, or at home recuperating from your injuries must be accounted for in your claim.
Potential Lost Earnings
In some cases, injuries are so severe that they may severely impact the person’s ability to earn the same income that he was at the time of the accident. For example, a professional athlete who suffers a foot injury, may never be able to play the sport that pays his or her bills, and this can severely impact his income-earning ability. Your lost income damages must also include potential lost income in the future. Failure to do so could be financially catastrophic for you.
Pain and Suffering
These are noneconomic damages that are slightly more difficult to quantify. It’s difficult to put a dollar value on your pain and suffering, but your attorney will take into consideration a number of factors, including the actual financial losses that you have suffered, in order to arrive at an appropriate value.
Loss of Companionship or Consortium
Claims for loss of companionship or consortium damages are typically filed by the spouse of the injured victim. These are meant to cover the loss of relations, household services, companionship, attention, care and affection that the spouse provided before the accident, and would have continued to provide if the injury had not occurred. Again, these are non-economic damages, and attorneys will use appropriate factors to determine the value of these damages.
In those cases, in which the jury has reason to believe that the defendant displayed grossly negligent conduct resulting in the injuries, it may decide to award punitive damages to the victim.
Relying on a calculator could mean that you end up with a settlement that does not cover many of your expenses, especially the expenses that you can expect in the future. Establishing liability, and identifying all the various types of damages that you have suffered will actually help you arrive at a personal injury settlement amount that is fair to you, and covers all of your expenses.
The truth is, if accident settlements were as simple as using a calculator, there would not be much need for personal injury attorneys. If you want your case evaluated to get a comprehensive understanding about all factors involved in receiving proper consultation, call Attorney Michael J. Brennan at (312) 379-9270 or fill out our contact form.