How Are Personal Injury Settlements Calculated?
People usually hire accident attorneys because they don’t understand the value of their case and how to go about getting compensated for their losses. Although calculating personal injury settlements is far from an exact science, there is a very general formula that can give you a rough idea of what your case might be worth.
Even a seemingly minor accident can cause thousands of dollars of damage to a vehicle, and if your vehicle is totaled, you will need to consider the cost of a new car as well as any rental car fees you will be required to pay while your car is being repaired or replaced. Property damage also includes personal property damaged or lost in the accident, and can include anything from clothing to cell phones to laptop computers.
Physical injuries are one of the more straightforward damages to calculate, by simply adding up the cost of ambulance trips, emergency room charges, hospitalizations, diagnostic tests, doctor appointments, medications, surgeries, medical equipment, therapies, pain management, rehabilitation and other accident-related medical procedures. If your injury is permanent, your attorney will also ask your primary physician for an opinion regarding the cost of future medical treatment for accident-related injuries and factor that in as well.
Your injuries may cause you to miss a few days of work, or you may never be able to work again. To calculate a lost wage claim, your attorney will need to know:
- How much time from work was lost?
- How much income did you lose?
- Will you be able to perform your work duties post-accident, or will re-training be necessary?
- Have you suffered a permanent disability as a result of the accident that will result in a long-term wage loss claim?
- Will your injuries significantly lower your future earning capacity?
Pain and Suffering
While pain and suffering is very real, it is also very hard to put a dollar value on. A common method of calculating the value of pain and suffering is to add up actual damages (property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages) and multiply them by one to five times and possibly even higher, depending on the type of pain and discomfort, and the severity and duration of the injury.
For example, soft tissue injuries like whiplash, muscle and ligament sprains are often multiplied by one and a half while broken bones or herniated discs may be multiplied by as much as three or four. Serious and debilitating injuries like scarring and head trauma can be multiplied by five or more, and for permanent damages like traumatic brain injury, the multiplier may be even higher.
After a general calculation is used to determine your damages, one other factor is considered: your fault for the accident. Most states follow the shared fault rules in personal injury cases where more than one party may be to blame for the accident — comparative and contributory negligence.
Colorado uses the modified comparative fault rule, which reduces your total damages award by whatever percentage of the fault the judge or jury believes belongs to you. So if you were partially at fault for your injuries, the percentage of your fault will be calculated and deducted from the initial calculation, directly affecting the amount you receive when your case settles.
There are many variables to how personal injury settlements are calculated, and no two injuries are alike. Each case is unique, and because of that the outcome is virtually impossible to predict.
Image by 401K 2013.