We often get asked “how much is my case worth” or “what kind of settlement can I get” following one of our clients being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Even though we have been handling personal injury cases for almost 60 years and even though we have successfully handled thousands of cases, we would be lying (and any lawyer would be lying) if we told you precisely at the beginning of your case what the value of your case is. If your lawyer has told you at the beginning of your case how much your case is worth, it may be time to consult another lawyer.
It is unfortunate that there are so many lawyer commercials out there where perfectly healthy individuals are smiling into a camera proclaiming that they received $700,000 following an accident. While it is true that there are cases where big Judgments and big settlements occur (and we have helped many of our clients receive incredible results where appropriate), an accident should not be looked at as hitting a jackpot. That's not the way we practice law. For our clients, an accident is a tragic event that affects their lives in serious ways. When our clients come to meet with us following an accident and ask “how much is my case worth”, the truthful and honest answer is that we do not know yet. The value of a case depends on so many things which take a lot of time to pan out. Before anyone can put any type of estimate on how much your case is worth, you need to first ascertain through your doctors the nature and extent of your injuries. If you talk to a lawyer one week after an injury and say your back hurts, no attorney should tell you how much your case is worth. No attorney should tell you how much certain procedures are worth or push you to undergo them within months of being in an accident.
If your back hurts after an accident, you can be experiencing a muscle spasm that will go away after a couple of months, or you can be experiencing symptoms that result from a herniated lumbar disc, which could require surgery to rectify. Discovering the nature and extent of your injuries is a process that can take months if not years and both you and your attorney need to be patient and let the medical process play itself out. You do not want to settle a case before you know exactly what is wrong with you and you do not want an attorney who is going to push you through medical treatment as fast as possible so he can quickly turn around and settle your case for less than it is worth and before you know the truthful effects your injuries may have on your life. Once you settle, you cannot reopen your case even if you find out that the accident caused the need for a surgery! You need to know that there is no deadline put on your recovery and no one should feel like there is.
When it is appropriate to discuss with our clients what kind of settlement they can get or how much their case is worth, we take our 60 years of experience to the table to balance dozens of factors. This will always depend on the specific case. We may be looking at things such as where the case is pending, who the Judge or jury may be, what kind of witness the person who injured you will make at trial, the costs for you and your family of bringing the case to trial, the opinions of experts, the nature and extent of your injuries, and more. Even though we consider dozens of factors that could influence the settlement value of your case or how much your case is worth at trial, we find that these are the top five things that affect how much your case is worth.
1. What your injuries are
While we all suffer when we are suffering, Louisiana law does place more value on some injuries over others. For example, if you break your femur bone, that is considered to be worth more under the law then if you break your pinky toe. If you have an injury to a disc in your neck, that is generally considered to be worth more than ankle sprain. Whether your injuries cause permanent disability, scarring, or any types of residual problems that your doctor thinks will be present in the future will be considered to increase the value of a potential claim as well.
2. How long you were in medical treatment for your injuries
Another factor judges, juries, and insurance companies will look to in determining how much your case is worth is the length of time that you received medical treatment. The longer you received treatment, the more value that will typically be placed on your claim.
3. What type of medical treatment you received
The value of your case will also depend on the nature and type of medical treatment you underwent. Having a surgery, for example, will generally be worth more than just undergoing chiropractic treatment because there is an assumption that it is more painful and more invasive.
4. How much your medical bills are
Someone who injures you is responsible for your medical bills. Your attorney will compile all of your medical bills in a case, even bills that were paid for by worker's compensation, health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare., and you will be entitled to recoup these in the settlement in addition to your pain and suffering.
5. How much insurance coverage is available
Unfortunately, sometimes the value of a settlement is limited by the amount of insurance coverage out there. You can have very serious injuries and high medical bills, but if the person who injured you has minimal insurance coverage or does not have any other available assets, the value of the settlement can be limited by things not in your control.
Every case is different and every case needs to be analyzed by an experienced attorney who can give you the best recommendation of whether to settle a case and for how much. If you have been injured and would like a free consultation on whether or not you should accept a settlement offer an insurance company has extended, or how much your case is worth, please give us a call.