When you have been injured in a personal injury accident, one question you are likely to have relates to what sort of compensation award you might expect if you were to file a personal injury lawsuit. Many personal injury plaintiffs have unrealistic expectations: either they overestimate the worth of their personal injury lawsuit and believe they will be entitled to millions of dollars in compensation, or they will believe their lawsuit is not likely to result in much compensation at all.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “What is your injury case worth?” However, by considering the nature of your past losses and anticipated future expenses, you and your California personal injury attorney can arrive at a reasonable estimate of what your personal injury case is worth.
Step One: Consider Your Past Economic Losses
Economic losses include those expenses that you have had to pay as a result of your accident or financial losses you have suffered because of your injury. Your emergency room bill, your hospital bill and any treatment costs (if you have completed treatment), the gas that you have spent traveling to and from doctors’ visits, and the cost of your prescription medications are all types of past economic losses. You should also consider the time you missed from work as part of your past economic losses, including any bonuses or promotions that you were not able to realize because of time missed from work. These losses should be the easiest to document and prove because you should have bills, time and wage statements, and/or other objective evidence to document your losses.
Step Two: Consider Your Future Economic Losses
Next, consider the losses and expenses you can reasonably anticipate to suffer over the next several months and years. These can include ongoing treatments or surgeries, future pharmaceutical costs, time from work you have not yet missed but can be expected to miss, and similar expenses. You can also include the loss of future opportunities that you might have been able to realize but can no longer pursue due to your injury. The key with calculating these types of damages is that you must be able to prove more likely than not that you will suffer this loss in the future because of the personal injury you suffered. You could have been an astronaut, for example, but if your personal injury incident is not the reason why you will never blast off into space you cannot recover any compensation for the “loss.”
Step Three: Consider Your Noneconomic Losses
Noneconomic losses can be broadly defined as “injuries” and “losses” you experience but that are difficult to quantify because you have not actually lost any money or incurred any documented expense. Nevertheless, these “losses” can be just as real and painful as any economic cost of your injury. Mental pain and anguish, the loss of enjoyment of your life, and any household services that your family is deprived of because of your injury accident are all common examples of noneconomic losses sought in personal injury lawsuits. A skilled California personal injury attorney can provide valuable assistance in helping you quantify and support these claimed losses.
Step Four: Are Punitive Damages Appropriate?
Punitive damages are meant to punish an individual who recklessly or deliberately causes injuries to another person. In most personal injury cases premised on the defendant’s alleged negligence, punitive damages simply will not be available. Your attorney can inform you whether you may be able to seek punitive damages in your case.
Step Five: Deduct Reasonable Expenses
You should finally deduct costs you can be expected to bear (like attorney’s fees and expenses related to your case) to arrive at a true picture of what you can expect to obtain if your personal injury lawsuit was successful.
Calculating what your case is worth may seem like a daunting task but an experienced personal injury attorney can help you do this. Understanding what your case is truly worth can help you decide how to proceed following a personal injury accident.