If you’ve suffered an injury and are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, you’re probably wondering how much your case might be worth. Is there some specific formula that is used?
Yes and no.
Generally speaking, insurance adjusters do use a formula to help determine a settlement:
Cost of medical expenses + (medical expenses X 1.5) + loss of income
In other words, if you have $10,000 in medical expenses and lost $5,000 because you weren’t able to work, their settlement offer will likely be in the neighborhood of $30,000. But here’s the thing: that’s just a starting point. And depending on the severity of your injuries and what you’ve suffered, they may end up multiplying by up to 5 – or more – instead of 1.5.
What it boils down to is that it can be difficult to determine an exact amount you might be awarded, but an experienced personal injury lawyer should be able to give you an honest assessment of your case based upon what your injuries have cost you physically, mentally, and monetarily.
These costs are called damages, and there are often a variety of damages you can claim that are common to many personal injury cases. These damages are classified as either compensatory or punitive, and it’s important to know the difference.
Compensatory damages are exactly what they sound like. They are meant to compensate the injured party – the plaintiff – for anything that was lost as a result of the accident or injury. The basic purpose of compensatory damages is to apply a monetary value on everything the plaintiff has suffered to help the plaintiff recover and feel as whole as possible again.
Compensatory damages in a personal injury case can include:
- Medical costs. Almost all personal injury cases involve damages for medical costs associated with the incident. This includes reimbursement for hospital and doctor visits and any treatment you had to receive because of your sustained injuries, as well as an estimation of medical care costs you will need in the future.
- Loss of income. You can be compensated if you lost any income due to missing work because of your injuries. On top of that, you can also be compensated for any income opportunities you missed or any income you would have been able to make in the future, also called loss of earning capacity.
- Loss of property. If any kind of property was damaged because of your accident, you will most likely be reimbursed for any repairs you had to make to the property, or fully compensated for the fair market value of the lost property.
- Pain and suffering. This covers both physical and mental pain and suffering. Physical pain and suffering deals with the actual injuries – pain endured to date and pain the plaintiff might endure in the future. Mental pain and suffering can include any negative emotion the plaintiff suffers due to the accident, such as emotional distress, mental anguish, anger, anxiety, fear, shock, and so on.
- Loss of enjoyment. If you are a tennis player who can no longer play tennis because of your injuries, you may be entitled to “loss of enjoyment” damages. This can apply to your daily hobbies, exercise, or other activities that you do on a regular basis.
The last two here, pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment, make up the middle part of the above formula – the one multiplied by 1.5.
Compensatory damages focus on the plaintiff and what he or she has suffered. Punitive damages, on the other hand, focus on the party or parties responsible for the incident and their behavior.
Was the defendant’s conduct especially careless or reckless? If so, punitive damages can be awarded to the plaintiff for the purpose of punishing the defendant and making them personally pay for the injuries they caused.
Since punitive damages can often be excessive, Florida law has a cap on the amount of punitive damages a plaintiff can receive. A plaintiff can receive the greater amount of three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or the sum of $500,000. However, if it’s determined that the defendant had a specific intent to harm the plaintiff and the plaintiff was harmed, there won’t be a cap on punitive damages.
With the amount of damages someone can claim, it might take some work to figure out exactly how much your case is worth. But working with a qualified personal injury attorney will make the process easier and will allow you to fight for what you’re rightfully entitled too.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.