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How to Determine the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim

One of the first questions my personal injury clients ask is usually  — what is the value of my case?  The appropriate legal appraisal is based on the type of injury and the losses you have suffered. I have tried cases for many years and have had multiple awards in excess of one million dollars. However, compensation for injuries varies widely based on many factors. It is possible to have very different awards for similar injuries.

To give you an example, I was recently reading a Louisiana trial lawyer magazine that listed two personal injury awards for back injuries:

Herniated disc $4.6 million
Soft tissue damage and psychological injury $430,000

Obviously there is a huge monetary difference between the two awards. How could this be?  Each of these claims is valued differently, based on the loss that occurred.  Some injuries may not include a wage loss or loss of earning capacity. The $4.6 million award was for an offshore worker who was injured on the job. A 30 year old diver who cannot work anymore and who was making $120,000 a year prior to the injury will have a huge wage loss. The annual loss of $120,000 for an estimated 30 years of future employment would result in a wage loss of $3.6 million. Your personal injury lawyer will hire an expert economist to testify to these losses.

Another factor that determines the value of your claim is past and future medical expenses.  If you have a full recovery, for example, your award would be less because you will not have any future medical expenses.  However, if your injury causes you to need ongoing care such as the use of a wheel chair or home health care, your award will be larger to cover those costs. An expert in future life care costs can help determine the compensation needed to pay for future medical expenses. We litigated a claim for a man with extensive burn injuries and received a jury verdict of $2.8 million. The award was large because the burn injury was severe and current and future medical costs were extremely high.

All of these issues are taken into account when determining the amount of compensation for an injury. So when you ask your personal injury attorney “what is the value of my claim?” – your lawyer should ask you the following questions:

  1.  What is the nature and duration of your injury?
  2.  Is there a wage loss for the time you have been injured?
  3.  Will there be a loss of future earning capacity? (i.e will you be returning to work? Can you perform the same type of work?)
  4. What are your current medical expenses?
  5. Will you have future medical expenses?
  6. Is there a psychological component to your injuries? This would be mental and emotional pain and suffering
  7. How has your family suffered as a result of your injury? (This is called a “loss of consortium”)

Many factors must be considered when valuing a personal injury lawsuit – type of injury, medical costs, wage loss, pain and suffering, and the degree of negligence on the part of the defendant.  Be sure you contact an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the real value of your personal injury claim.

Thomas Alonzo

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