“What do you think my case is worth?”
When a client first meets with their personal injury lawyer, this is one of the questions that is often asked. It is a very important consideration because money is the way that people who are injured due to the negligence of others are typically compensated. Because of this, most people are naturally curious about what amount they can anticipate.
However, at that first client meeting,the answer to this question is almost always “I don’t know.” This is because your lawyer hasn’t yet gathered and evaluated the evidence that is used to persuade insurance companies (or jurors) that you have suffered real, debilitating physical and emotional injuries and are deserving and entitled to substantial monetary compensation for your losses.
What Evidence Is Used to Determine Compensation?
The only way to determine the worth of a car accident lawsuit or personal injury case is to start collecting and studying the evidence needed to establish negligence of the defendant that caused our client’s injuries.
After our first meeting, we immediately get to work on this process, an important part of proving what is called the client’s “damages.”
These “damages” affect the amount of our clients’ ultimate compensation, and they are supported by many different forms of evidence.
Here are some of the most important types of evidence that your lawyer will want to obtain and examine.
Medical Records: Medical records provide essential evidence documenting our clients’ injuries.
These records show the injuries the client has suffered, how those injuries have affected their home and work life, and the extent of the medical treatment they were required to undergo to address these injuries. These records can sometimes also provide evidence of the opinions of the treating doctor, therapist, or chiropractor as to the success (or failure) of medical treatment in curing the injuries.
Medical Bills: Our legal system provides that our clients have a right to recover “the reasonable value of medical services” that they received for injuries caused by negligence. This means that you will get reimbursed for the cost of your medical treatment, provided that the amounts charged by the doctor, hospital, or clinic are “reasonable.”
Medical Reports: Often, medical records alone will not provide sufficient evidence of the extent of the injuries suffered, how the injuries affected the client, or whether symptoms or disabilities caused by negligence may be considered permanent and affect the client for the rest of their lives. When the medical records do not prove this essential evidence, trial lawyers enlist the help of a qualified medical doctor or chiropractor to provide a medical report. The person providing such a medical report is often one or more of the client’s treating physicians.
Lost Wages: Trial lawyers gather evidence to establish whether the injuries their clients suffered due to negligence prevented them from working. Once the lawyer has evidence showing that their client was unable to work because of their injuries, they gather information from their client’s employer (or even their accountant) to establish the amount of money they lost because of their inability to work. In Wisconsin, even if the injured party works for a salary rather than an hourly wage and continues to receive their salary from their employer while they are unable to work, the negligent party or their insurance company is required by law to compensate the injured person as if they were an hourly employee and did not receive any income during the time they were unable to work.
Lost Earning Capacity: Sometimes injuries are so severe and permanent that our client is unable to return to their previous job. In that instance, they are entitled to compensation for the income they would have been able to earn in the future. This sometimes requires the analysis of a vocational expert.
Pain and Suffering: A person injured due to negligence is entitled to be financially compensated for what they went through physically and mentally because of their injuries. Severe injuries can prevent you from enjoying life, participating in activities, doing household tasks, and even taking care of yourself: these are examples of pain and suffering.
Compensation for things like medical bills and lost wages can be calculated to a precise dollar amount—but there are no guidelines for what a person is entitled to for their pain and suffering. There are no tables or manuals that tell a lawyer what their client’s pain and suffering is worth. Trial lawyers are uniquely qualified, based on their experience, to determine a “range of reasonable” value for an individual’s pain and suffering.
Some of the factors that go into determining the amount of compensation for pain and suffering damages include:
- The type and severity of the injuries
- The extent and type of medical treatment needed to address the injuries
- The length of time the client was experiencing symptoms from their injuries
- Whether the injuries eventually resolved
- Whether all or some of the symptoms are considered to be permanent
- How the injuries affected the person’s ability to participate in their daily life, including work, social, and recreational activities
Proof of Fault: Finally, the available proof of the other party’s fault needs to be taken into consideration. If a driver who caused a crash was intoxicated, damages are often enhanced. On the other hand, in a case where a sudden and unexpected mechanical failure of a vehicle caused an injury, the damages may be adjusted downward to account for a risk of a complete loss. These factors typically take time to understand and are not known by the lawyer at the initial meeting.
Each of these unique types of evidence can include both small details and big-picture issues. When your lawyer tells you during your first meeting that he or she cannot immediately tell you what your case is worth, it is because trial lawyers and their staff have a lot of work to do before that assessment can be made. Carefully gathering and evaluating all of the evidence that makes up your case is essential before a dollar figure can be determined.
Find the Right Personal Injury Attorney
An injury can have a significant impact on nearly every aspect of your life and the lives of others. Make sure that you partner with a trusted, experienced trial lawyer to navigate these confusing, concerning events successfully.
If you are still searching for the right personal injury attorney to help you or your loved one, please contact Murphy & Pracuthauser or complete a free online case evaluation now.