After an injury, the most important thing to do is seek treatment. Getting better and moving forward with life is top priority. But what happens when medical expenses keep someone from moving forward? They thought the hard part, healing, was over. But the situation they’re in now is, in some ways, worse.
When it’s time to call a lawyer, there are always questions and doubts. Is the case sound? What happens if I lose? What happens if I win? How much money can I receive for damages?
When seeking a reward for damages, there are aspects of personal injury law to keep in mind. Studying these specifics can help someone decide if pursuing compensation is reasonable and worth it.
To go into the specifics of exactly how personal injury law functions would take pages upon pages and probably end up a book. But in very broad terms, there are typically no clear-cut, one-size-fits-all charts for how much an injury claim is worth. The entire process is very subjective. It is up to lawyers to convince the courts that a certain amount of compensation is justifiable for someone’s injuries.
When asking oneself how much they stand to receive in an injury suit, there are variables to consider.
It isn’t wise to assume that just because this driver hit that pedestrian, it’s all the driver’s fault. Yes, there are laws about right-of-way, but the whole matter is going to be argued in court. Did the pedestrian jump out in front of the driver? Was the driver busy texting on their smartphone? Good, aggressive lawyers are going to probe and ask these kinds of questions.
The final compensation is partly determined by fault. A botched surgery, for example, is not the patient’s fault. They weren’t even conscious at the time. A goofball who’s dangling from the ceiling and falls is at fault and is not likely to have a strong case against the property owner.
How badly did the injured party suffer? Did the accident require a few stitches, or did it leave someone paralyzed? Lawyers are going to use this line of questioning to argue for or against a settlement.
The prosecutor is going to say, “My client lost all feeling in their thumb; they deserve a large sum of money.”
The defense will argue, “It’s only feeling in the thumb. They can still use it, so compensation does not need to be a vast sum.”
This is why it’s important to choose a good, aggressive lawyer. It’s up to them to make a strong case and convince the judge one way or the other.
At its most basic, a personal injury suit will ask for medical expenses and lost wages. But if the injury is severe enough, lawyers may also request compensation for pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering is the most vague claim for injury compensation. Lawyers need some kind of system to calculate the amount of money necessary to cover it. There are a couple systems lawyers use for pain and suffering claims.
In this method, lawyers take the total cost of the medical bills and multiply that cost by a number between one and five. For less severe injuries, they use a lower number. For more severe injuries, they go higher. The final product is the amount they request for pain and suffering.
Next, negotiations take place. The lawyer is always going to argue for the highest reasonable number, and the insurance adjuster is always going to argue for the lowest reasonable number. Once they reach a conclusion, the bills are now multiplied by the pain-and-suffering number, and that’s the amount that gets awarded to the plaintiff.
The multiplier works like this:
Per Diem (Latin for “per day”) pain and suffering is used for cases involving short-term pain. In essence, it looks at the number of days the injured party was in pain. Then it looks at how much money the plaintiff should receive for each day of their pain. An easy way to come up with this number is to figure out how much money the plaintiff makes per day at their job. The defense will argue that each day of pain was equal to a day’s work. Finally, that “per diem” number is multiplied by the number of days the plaintiff was suffering, and that is the final pain-and-suffering amount requested.
Jack was in pain for 30 days after his hand injury. His yearly salary is a gross of $55,000. Divided by 365 days, Jim’s salary is $150 a day. At $150 per day for 30 days, Jim’s lawyer is asking for $4,500 in pain and suffering.
When trying to determine what a person stands to gain in a personal injury suit, it’s also important to understand which arguments the defense will use.
The amount of money a plaintiff receives may be directly tied to their fault in the event. Were they sitting on a designated bus stop bench when a motorcycle hit them or were they sitting on the curb? Courts will look at facts like these to determine the amount of money owed. States use one of two different methods when ruling on a personal injury case: comparative negligence or contributory negligence.
Comparative negligence is a way for the state to look at how much each party’s behavior contributed to the overall accident and resulting injury. The courts look at the amount of responsibility for each party and assign a percentage of fault.
Clark was in a hurry. His friend Jimmy was in trouble, and Clark was flying through stop signs to go help him. Diana had forgotten to turn her headlights on when she left the brightly lit gas station. Her black car was almost invisible against the dark evening. She was driving along, completely within her right-of-way, when she passed in front of a stop sign. Clark plowed into her. She was sent to the hospital that night.
After reviewing the case, the courts determined that Diana was 55% responsible for the accident, driving a dark car at night with no lights; Clark was 45% liable. His lawyers argued that even if Clark had been breaking for stop signs appropriately, it was still possible for him to hit Diana because he couldn’t see her.
In this model, the plaintiff receives money only if their fault is lower than or equal to the defendant’s. The plaintiff, in this case, was 55% responsible for the accident, so she will get no compensation.
In this model, a plaintiff can receive compensation, even if they were more responsible for the accident. The court takes the total compensation and reduces it by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. In the above example, the court has determined that the plaintiff is entitled to $10,000 in compensation. She is still entitled to money because the defendant should have been obeying the stop signs. The court will now reduce that total by 55%.
55% of $10,000 = $5,500.
$10,000 – $5,500 = $4,500.
The plaintiff will receive $4,500 in damages from the defendant.
As a defense, contributory negligence operates under the same basic philosophy as comparative negligence, just without the percentages. Contributory Negligence assumes that everyone has the responsibility to behave reasonably. Ignoring crosswalk signs or warning signs would be considered unreasonable, as would ridiculous behavior like swinging on power lines.
In states that use this system, the plaintiff files the initial negligence suit. Then the defense may file a counterclaim of contributory negligence. If the courts sees evidence of contributory negligence, they may completely throw out the case.
Florida uses the Pure Comparative Model when ruling in favor of the plaintiff. It’s wise to be careful when using this defense. When the plaintiff is found to have more fault than the defendant, it may open them up to be counter-sued.
It is possible to come up with a general idea of what a personal injury claim may be worth. Consider the total of medical bills; loss of income; who was at fault; how severe the injuries were; and a reasonable estimate for pain and suffering. The final amount isn’t assured, but it will give lawyers and plaintiffs a goal and help them devise a plan to reach that goal.
If you have been injured and need someone to fight for you, we can help. We have free consultations, and there is never any risk involved. Call today at 850-764-0383 or contact us online.