As a Portland Personal Injury Lawyer I am often asked by a client or prospective client, "how much will I get for my case." It really is a difficult question and one that's very hard to answer. It's not that your attorney doesn't want to tell you what the lawsuit is worth, it's actually very hard to determine in the early stages of the legal claim.
Because litigation is, at best, as much an art as it is a science, what can seem like a valuable case early on can end up with a disappointing result after trial for many different reasons, and what seemed like a small value claim may end up with a large jury award at the end of the day. Sometimes this could have to do with what evidence was allowed by the Court or whether the jury thought a witness was lying, which would likely make then angry.
If you have been harmed by someone's careless or reckless behavior, and you're wondering how to determine the best value of your potential lawsuit, there are some basic considerations that can help you understand the possible value range for your lawsuit.
Remember many lawsuits will settle before trial, but some parties to lawsuits will, for different reasons, choose to present their case to a jury to decide. If you think about your lawsuit as having two basic components, liability and damages, it can help you understand the process. If you believe someone else is responsible for your injury, that person will either accept liability or dispute liability, meaning they will admit fault or deny fault.
A disputed liability lawsuit is clearly the most difficult to value because the value could be anywhere between zero dollars and as much as you ask for, and that's a wide range. Obviously if the defendant refuses to offer a settlement and a jury agrees that they are not at fault, the case will have a value of nothing, actually less than nothing because it will cost you time and some money to have put the trial together.
In many instances, however, the defendant will admit fault and then it's a matter of determining what the plaintiff is entitled to fairly recover. Usually a good place to start is with the question, "how much did the negligence cost the plaintiff in medical costs and lost wages?" This includes, medical co-payments, over the counter medications, heating pads, crutches, bandages and any other out of pocket expenses that the injury cost the plaintiff. Remember then that if a plaintiff is able to prove liability – that the injury was another person's fault – then the plaintiff has a right to recovery compensation for all reasonable losses that can be calculated. Those losses are different for virtually every plaintiff. The same accident or injury will not impact every person in the same way.
A smashed hand that results in permanent nerve damage, will result in a different loss calculation for a professional concert pianist than it will for a motivational speaker, than it will for a long haul truck driver.
After you have some sense of your medical bills and lost wages, as well as any other quantifiable damages, the next consideration is evaluating how much compensation you're reasonably entitled to recover for the actual pain, distress, anxiety, and other kinds of losses you've suffered. Again, each plaintiff is different because we all lead different lives. An injury from a car accident may force one person to give up a favorite pass time they can no longer enjoy, but another person's pass time might not be affected. Serious injuries cause many patients to experience lasting depression or similar symptoms. Pain, headaches, and inability to sleep can easily affect a person's relationship with their spouse or partner. When one partner can no longer contribute to household duties like shopping, cleaning, and child care, tension can develop over time in even the most loving relationship.
Compensation for pain, distress, anxiety, depression, strained relationships, having to give up a hobby like gardening because you can no longer bend over without pain, not being able to pick up your two year old toddler, no longer being able to run through the park, or go with your family on backpacking hikes along the numerous trails of the Pacific Northwest, are all examples of non-economic damages. This has been a fair and accepted element of compensation in the American law tradition for a long time. Still there are some who feel that money for pain is not a reasonable component of a plaintiff's lawsuit because the money can't make the pain go away. It's a rigid and stingy outlook and in my experience it dissolves immediately once the holder of that viewpoint is injured by someone else's reckless conduct.
Estimating how much compensation you may recovery in a personal injury lawsuit, should start with a look at the lost wages, if any, you suffered, as well as the total medical bills the injury has cost you and will cost you in the future. From there, you have to think long and hard about how the injury has impacted your daily life. You should think about what activities you can no longer do as a result of your injury, or activities that you can no longer do in the same way. Each person's injury lawsuit can be dramatically different in terms of case value. It depends on all the factors above and many others which have not been discussed.
Give us a call at Angel Law, P.C. to discuss your case if you've suffered an injury due to someone else's careless behavior. We are happy to help you evaluate the various aspects of your potential lawsuit.