VALUING PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
When I meet with new clients, usually the handshake is not even finished before the client pops the question . . . How much is my claim worth?
Well, I wanted to take the time to dedicate my knowledge and my experience to help you, the client, begin to understand the process by which a personal injury attorney values a claim.
DEBUNK SOME MYTHS ABOUT INJURY CLAIM VALUATION
This must be said up front . . .
If an attorney tells you at the initial consultation that they know exactly how much your personal injury claim is worth, they are being naive at best, and dishonest at worst. There are also websites that offer a "personal injury calculator: that attempts to put a settlement value on your accident. These "calculators" will a vast majority of the time be wrong simply because they work on averages, versus independent valuation of each claim.
I would never portend to tell a client a specific amount that I think a claim may be worth. Believing that an automated online calculator can do the same is mere fantasy too. One of the most important factors in valuing your claim is determining the value of intangibles, something no machine can do with any accuracy. There is no substitute for expertise in helping with the valuation component of a claim.
Unfortunately, personal injury attorneys often make claims that they know what a case is worth or that case is a "policy limits" case within minutes of an introduction. The attorney tells a prospective client what they can get, fails to do the homework, fails to give it their full attention, and then the attorney fails to deliver. This is especially common with many "settlement mill" television injury attorneys. If an attorney makes you promises of recovery without having all of the information, you need to go seek another attorney!
I want to discredit another common myth regarding the value of accident cases. I frequently hear people say or see "legal" websites state that any personal injury case is generally worth three (3) times the economic damages – medical bills and lost wages. I even overheard personal injury attorneys speak of how they advise clients to accept settlements that or 2 1/2 times the medical bills so that the claim is paid quickly and the client doesn't "suffer" from delays in settling the case.
Nothing could be further from the truth! There is no magic formula that allows me or any personal injury attorney to determine the value of a claim. The value of your case is based on a specific valuation analysis of the relevant categories we are about to discuss.
SO HOW DO I VALUE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
Each and every personal injury claim is unique. It is irresponsible and impossible to quote a client the full value of a personal injury claim without first getting all of the relevant necessary information.
For any personal injury attorney to accurately value a claim requires a thorough evaluation of a lot of relevant information. Here's just a handful of things that impact the worth of your personal injury lawsuit:
- Liability and any possible mitigation of liability (did my client contribute at all to accident)
- Types of injuries (soft tissue, spinal and back, broken bones, etc.
- Existence of pre-existing injuries and did accident aggravate injuries
- Type of medical care received after the accident
- Medical care that will be needed in the future
- Dollar amount owed on medical bills
- Able to return to work or permanent disability
- Restrictions on daily activities
- Changes to life style forced by injury
- Changes to relationship with spouse
- Changes to relationship with children
Believe me . . . this list is not exhaustive . . . This is just off the top of my head!
If I can get enough relevant information to address the factors above, I can make a pretty good estimate. Still, to give a reliable answer, there are five categories that must be explored.
5 KEY FACTORS TO VALUING A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM
The categories of damages that must be explored to value a case include:
- Liability: Did the other party get a ticket from law enforcement, did the negligent party admit liability, did you contribute at all to the accident;
- Medical bills: This amount will include medical bills incurred up to the time case is ready to settle plus any medical costs reasonably projected to be incurred after settlement and for the remainder of the injured person's life;
- Lost wages: This amount includes any wages lost from missed work through the date the case is ready to settle and any wages reasonably projected to be lost after settlement for the remainder of the person's life;
- Pain and suffering: The monetary value placed for any pain that the client must experience through the date the claim settles and that the client will continue to experience, after settlement, for the duration of his or her life. Consider the severity and the frequency of the pain;
- Loss of Consortium. If the client is married, the spouse is entitled to loss of consortium incurred both before and after the date the case is settled.
THE CORE OF ANY CLAIM VALUATION - MEDICAL TREATMENT
It is worth noting that in any consideration of the factors listed above, their "value" to any specific clients case is largely dependent upon the severity of injury suffered. The best evidence of the severity of an injury is by the medical diagnosis, treatments received, and the cost of the medical care.
For instance, if an individual is treated by a chiropractor and has $3000 in medical bills incurred up until the time the doctor releases him from care, the presumption would be that the injury is not necessarily severe. On the other hand, if the person has had two surgeries and has incurred medical bills of $100,000, it would suggest the injured person has suffered greatly. This analysis is very important in determining the value of pain and suffering.
EXAMINING MEDICAL BILLS FROM YOUR INJURY
In valuing the medical expenses of a personal injury claim, I will obviously look first to the amount for medical bills incurred to date. Then I look to the possible future medical bills that are likely to be incurred by the client over the course of the necessary treatment period. In some cases, this may be one surgery. In other cases this may be an ongoing pain management regiment that last the rest of their lives.
Based on the review of the client's medical records, I usually contact all the treating physicians and discuss with him/her what type of future medical care is likely to be as incurred by my client. Then, I have the doctor price out that care and indicate the care is likely to be received. This amount must be contemplated in the settlement amount.
CONSIDERING LOST WAGES FROM YOUR INJURY
The next aspect of evaluating settlement value to a claim is to consider lost wages, both in the past and for the future. This is relatively easy to determine. If he/she misses two weeks of work and doesn't get paid, those two weeks need to be recovered in the settlement. It is as simple as that.
Specifically as it applies to determining future lost wages, this requires the assistance of a highly skilled attorney. Case in point, you may be back to work and earning your full salary but you have had to switch positions or job duties to accommodate your injuries. Your employer may comment that his will not be a permanent arrangement and that either you return to your previous duty or risk losing employment. There is a real risk of loss of future earnings.
One other common type example of example would be the situation where you are scheduled to receive surgery several months into the future. While you are not losing wages today, this future surgery may require you to miss work while recovering. This lost time must be accounted for if you are going to get fair value on your claim.
EVALUATING PAIN AND SUFFERING
The concept of "pain and suffering", like lost wages, must consider how pain has affected you to date and how it will affect you into the future. Pain and suffering means exactly that – the manner in which your injuries have disrupted your life.
Included in the concept of "pain and suffering" is the inability to do the activities of daily living that you otherwise enjoyed prior to the injury. It is amazing how one's activities are completely disrupted by pain.
This is the most challenging factor in valuing a claim in a personal injury case. Claims adjusters see hundreds of cases on a daily basis. This leads them to develop a very detached attitude towards pain and suffering. In a nutshell, they do not believe anyone is actually suffering as much as they say.
If you have surgery, it is obvious you have suffered. However, if you have a soft tissue issue injury but no broken bones or hard damages that are easily observed, it is much harder to get value.
It is well recognized that chronic muscle spasm and soft tissue injury can be just as debilitating, if not more so, than a condition that requires surgery. When even the simplest tasks, such as sitting, standing and walking, become difficult, you have a right to be compensated.
FACTORING IN LOSS OF CONSORTIUM
The final factor to consider is valuing a personal injury claim is loss of consortium. This is the money that your spouse is entitled to as part of your claim. The law recognizes that not just the injured person suffers as a result of injury. The entire family suffers when a loved one is hurt.
An example of this is when a wife has surgery and her husband now has to come home from work and tend to all of her personal needs, such as dressing, bathing, cooking and other things that she would otherwise do herself. The law allows that he or she is entitled to be compensated. The challenge with this is to place a tangible dollar amount on this.
THERE IS NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL IN CLAIM VALUATION
Determining the value of a personal injury claim is more of an art than a science. Using a simple multiplier or resorting to a one size fits all calculator will not suffice for valuing your claim. The only way a you, as a client, can possibly be confident with the valuation of a claim would be through a claim valuation performed by a qualified attorney.
It is only through careful and thorough evaluation that I can determine what your case is worth and what should you expect to receive for your case. Of course, if the claims adjuster is not willing to pay that, your recourse is to go to trial.
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY
Contact Jay McMillian 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, Summerville, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, James Island, Johns 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 @ 843-900-1306