After a Colorado car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for out-of-pocket damages, general damages, and intangibles. Learn how attorneys calculate what a case is worth.

Damages Estimate Basics

Many people wonder how attorneys come up with the worth of a personal injury case. Each side typically has its own process, and although the numbers may be thousands of dollars apart, the parties are often able to come to an agreement through the negotiation process.

Although damages are not usually easy to calculate, attorneys often use some form of what is known as a damage estimate worksheet, multiplier, or calculator, personalizing it for each client’s circumstances.

A typical damages estimate worksheet contains the following sections:

Out of Pocket, or “Special” Damages

Special damages are economic losses sustained and paid out of pocket by the injured person due to the negligence of another person. These typically include bills for:

  • Medical professionals, including doctors, surgeons, pain specialists, physical therapists, psychologists, and chiropractors
  • Ambulance services
  • Emergency room care
  • Private nursing care
  • Prescribed medications
  • Medical supplies and devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, and prostheses
  • Future medical care
  • Household help
  • Lost wages, present and future
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Job retraining
  • Travel and/or lodging arising from medical appointments.

Special damages are calculated according to fair market value at the time of the injury.

General Damages

General damages, also known as non-economic damages, can sometimes be harder to quantify than economic losses. Non-economic damages might include:

  • Pain and suffering, present and future
  • Partial, total, and future disability
  • Inability to perform certain functions
  • Depression
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium.

After a catastrophic injury, some of the greatest losses may be non-economic, and many plaintiffs bring lawsuits to obtain compensation for their loss of quality of life.


Severe injuries are often life-changing. People who are seriously injured in a car accident may experience pain every time they attempt an activity that most people take for granted, such as cooking, dancing, or driving to work.

A serious injury often renders people unable to enjoy the activities they were previously able to appreciate. Putting a dollar amount on these types of injuries is much more difficult than adding up your medical bills since non-economic damages typically affect your life and finances in many indirect ways.

How Insurance Companies Value a Personal Injury Claim

Insurance adjusters also have their own process for evaluating a liability claim. They typically add up the total medical expenses related to the accident, and in order to come up with a way to compensate the accident victim for general damages, the adjuster might multiply the amount of special damages by one-and-a-half to three times if the injuries are relatively minimal, and up to five times if they are catastrophic or permanent. He will then add in any lost wages, and from there the negotiation process will begin.

Only a Starting Point

It is important to note that the way an attorney and an insurance company value a claim is only the starting point in reaching a settlement. But regardless of what each side thinks the case is worth, it is important that an accident victim be represented by a Colorado personal injury lawyer who is skilled at the negotiation process and will work hard to obtain the most compensation possible for their client.

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