THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM REPRESENTS VICTIMS OF CAR ACCIDENTS IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
If you are approximately my age (41), give or take a few years, then you have probably seen "Jerry McGuire." This movie stars Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding, Jr. In the movie, Cruise plays the title character (McGuire) who works as a sports agent. The movie details how Jerry McGuire sort of had a falling from grace and ended up with only one client who decided to stay loyal (Rod Tidwell - played by Gooding, Jr.). Even though Mr. Tidwell stays loyal to Jerry, there are scenes in the movie where Mr. Tidwell puts Jerry McGuire on the spot to prove his loyalty so that Mr. Tidwell doesn't fire Jerry and hire a new agent. The most famous of these scenes is when Jerry and Mr. Tidwell's discuss the renewal of Tidwell's contract with his employer. Mr. Tidwell makes Jerry scream over and over again into the phone "Show Me The Money!!!" After several minutes of this humiliating discourse, Mr. Tidwell tells Jerry McGuire "congratulations, you are still my agent" and then hangs up the phone.
I bring up this movie because it is a stark reminder of what we, as personal injury attorneys, deal with from time to time on a personal level with clients who have valid personal injury claims from car accidents. We will get the client who walks through the door and immediately wants a lawyer to do the "Show Me The Money!" routine. It is the combination of clients who think every case is a six-figure case because of what they see advertised on television by other attorneys and just a genuine ignorance of the applicable law on calculating damages in car accident cases.
So, the natural question that comes up from all clients is . . . How much is my personal injury claim worth from my car accident?
ECONOMIC LOSSES - THE "SPECIALS"
In determining the value of the claim resulting from a car accident, personal injury attorneys will look to several specific factors:
- Medical Expenses:
- Simple enough, this is the total for all medical bills that have been incurred directly as a result of the automobile accident. Include in this total all bills, whether you have paid them out of pocket, insurance co-pays, or not paid at all
- Lost earnings:
- This is the amount of lost wages from missed work as a result of the auto accident. It is very important to have missed work documented from two sources - your employer and your doctor. Personal Injury attorneys like to see medical records that indicate how long a personal injury victim should remain out of work and then a statement from an employer who verifies this absence. I personally ask for the proof of income 60 days prior to the accident to help verify lost income.
- Future Lost Income:
- This is the amount of income that will be lost in the future due to missing work days for ongoing medical treatments or the inability to work during the period of recovery from the injuries resulting from the accident
- Estimated Future Medical Expenses:
- This is the amount required to pay for future medical treatments as the result of the injuries sustained in the car accident. This could for something as simple as follow-ups and physical therapy to major surgeries.
The sum of these five categories of damages are your actual economic losses as a result of the accident, or what we in the profession call your "special damages." The "specials" are the first calculation that a personal injury attorney will make in determining the value of your case. It is the baseline of the entire negotiation.
THE "MULTIPLIER" - PAIN AND SUFFERING
The remaining factor in the calculation of what your injury is worth comes from the "pain and suffering" component. "Pain and suffering" is the measure of your non-economic and non-quanitative losses as a result of your car accident.
Generally, in making a case evaluation, "pain and suffering" is calculated using a multiplier of between 1 and 5. What is the multiplier? This is the number we use to then multiply by the amount of your "special damages" to get to a ballpark of how much the case should generally be worth.
Example: Your special damages (actual economic loss) from your car accident is $10,000.00 The multiplier between 1 and 5 would then be used to calculate for the pain and suffering. If you were in a fender bender or low speed collision, the multiplier may be 3 or 3.5, if you were hit at high speed by someone texting or acting recklessly in the car, the multiplier would be 4.5 or 5.
The first scenario, once $10,000.00 is multiplied by 3 or 3.5 would evaluate your case at ($30,000-$35000), in the second scenario the case would evaluate at ($45,000-$50,000).
Two obvious thoughts come to mind for most clients when I explain this. One, yes as your attorney I am always pushing for a higher multiplier of your claim to increase your compensation and the insurance company is always trying to lower that multiplier to reduce the claim. Second, in very rare but warranted cases the multiplier can be more than 5 if the specific facts of the case warrant such an adjustment.
The other important consideration that must be acknowledged in the "pain and suffering" calculation is that the amount here, even in a case that goes to trial, will be very dependent upon the facts of the accident and the people involved. One job that personal injury lawyers do very poorly in their television ads is that they never acknowledge how fact specific each case can be. It is a never ending parade of people who state they got a $100,000 settlement, but they never tell you what happened in the case to warrant that. For example, a broken leg is a more valuable injury, for lack of a better term, for a construction worker or a soccer coach than it is for a payroll processor who works in a cubicle. They all have a compensable injury and they all will receive a "pain and suffering" adjustment, but who's daily life and ability to work has been impacted more? That is the point on pain and suffering . . . It is more than the accident itself, how does it affect the specific individual in the car accident.
HOW ABOUT THESE PEOPLE WHO GET MILLIONS?
One question I am often asked is how do these people have cases where they get hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million dollars? My response to that is one of two things has occurred that fundamentally changes how the damages are calculated. One, it is a case of wrongful death within a personal injury claim, and the liability limits go sky high and the recovery is actually obtained by the estate of the deceased. Second, the personal injury claim is being pursued under a separate legal authority that allows punitive damages. Remember, if you are hit and injured by a drunk driver, then the drunk driver is also subject to punitive damages. If you are hit by a tractor trailer being operated by a driver who is either operating in violation of federal regulations or was negligently hired by the trucking company, you are again possibly entering into punitive damages land. Punitive damages are damages above and beyond the compensable claim that are specifically designed to punish persons who recklessly violated negligence laws through some intervening act.
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - CHARLESTON PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY
Contact me at The McMillian Law Firm. Once you have obtained legal representation on your matter, the insurance company must cease direct contact and deal with your lawyer instead. Contact me as soon as possible so that I may conduct a site visit of the accident and begin to obtain witness statements, police reports, and all relevant materials I need to build your case towards an acceptable settlement or trial.
It is never too early to contact me! Each and every day is a day the insurance company will try and short-change your claim I am available for home visits, hospital visits, nights and weekends, just let me know what works for you.
If you have been involved in a car accident and live in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, James Island, West Ashley, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, Walterboro, Folly Beach, or any of the other fine communities of the South Carolina Low Country, contact The McMillian Law Firm now at 843-900-1306 or email me directly at [email protected]