How much to ask for in a personal injury settlement will vary depending on the nature of the case, including the extent of injuries sustained and the degree of negligence involved. To determine the appropriate settlement amount to ask for, it’s important to calculate all damages involved and show that another party’s negligence or other improper conduct caused them.
Damages in Personal Injury Claims
The amount that an injury victim and his or her personal injury lawyer can ask for largely depends on the different damages involved. Damage awards encompass the financial, emotional, social, and physical losses suffered because of the negligent acts of another.
In personal injury cases, there are three broad types of compensation that victims may receive: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Personal injury cases may involve an award of future economic and non-economic damages. For example, many types of car accident damages can result, including steep medical expenses, long-term treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and many others. An experienced attorney can help determine which damages play into the total settlement amount.
These are damages that come with a specific amount of monetary loss. Economic damages may include a variety of expenses resulting from an accident, such as:
- Medical bills, including hospital stays, prescriptions, and surgeries
- Lost wages resulting from the inability to work during recovery or due to disability
- Lost earning capacity because of injuries that limit or eliminate the victim’s ability to gain meaningful employment
- Property damage
- Long-term care costs
Other economic costs could include therapy and any other expenses that result from negligent behavior.
Non-economic damages also influence the final settlement amount, but they’re not as easy to calculate as economic damages because of their intangible nature. These damages are subjective experiences that affect injury victims, including the pain and suffering they endure. Some victims may experience severe physical and psychological pain because of the injuries and losses they sustain. Non-economic damages may also include the loss of relationships suffered by the accident victims due to the injuries they endured.
In rare instances, the court may award punitive damages to the injury victim. While economic and non-economic damages help compensate victims for the damages they sustain, punitive damages punish defendants whose actions are grossly negligent, egregious, or intentional. The goal of awarding these damages is to prevent the defendant and others from committing the same or similar act in the future. Because of this, the amount of punitive damages the court awards is likely to be substantial.
Average Personal Injury Settlement Amounts
As mentioned above, there are many factors that can influence the damage awards for each personal injury case and settlement. This makes it difficult to determine exactly how much a case is worth without considering all the elements influencing the settlement.
Personal injury settlements can range from thousands to millions of dollars. Some victims could even suffer the same injuries and receive significantly different settlements. Generally, it depends on the negligence that took place, the extent of the damages, and how those damages impacted victims’ lives and wellbeing. The more severe the injuries, the higher the settlement tends to be.
How Settlement Calculation Works in Personal Injury Cases
Calculating economic damages is fairly straightforward in personal injury cases. The plaintiff presents evidence of his or her past and current expenses along with estimates of anticipated expenses.
Calculating non-economic damages is less straightforward because they compensate victims for intangible losses. Factors that the court and the parties look at to determine the appropriate amount of non-economic damages include:
- The severity and duration of pain and suffering
- The impact of the injury on the victim’s life (e.g., work, school, and relationships)
- The damage awards that similarly situated plaintiffs received in past cases
- The loss of quality of life and its resulting costs
To calculate non-economic damages, one method parties may use is the multiplier method. To accomplish this, you add up the economic damages and multiply them by a number between 1.5 and 5. The more severe the damages, the higher the number.
Another method is the per diem method. To use the per diem method, the parties assign a specific dollar amount for every day, week, month, or year of pain and suffering since the date of the accident. It also accounts for future damages based on the life expectancy of the victim. For instance, the parties might start with a reasonable sum, like daily income, and multiply this by the number of days that the plaintiff suffers because of the accident or injury. The result would be a lump sum that considers all the pain and suffering the victim has experienced and is likely to experience.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
If individuals are wondering, “Is it worth getting an accident lawyer for a personal injury case,” the answer is often yes.
While cases involving minor injuries may be easier to settle, more serious injuries and other damages can make these cases far more challenging to navigate.
Insurance companies are notorious for minimizing losses in personal injury cases. They tend to fight harder to reduce payout amounts when injuries are severe. Hiring a personal injury lawyer can maximize the amount you recover. An attorney will calculate your losses to help you determine how much to ask for in a personal injury settlement.
Cases are particularly difficult to handle if they go to trial. Insurance companies frequently employ teams of experienced attorneys to represent their side of cases. Hiring a personal injury lawyer to represent your side levels the playing field in court.
It is not uncommon for insurance companies to hide evidence in personal injury cases. A lawyer who is familiar with insurance company tactics may be able to uncover evidence that demonstrates fault, identifies additional defendants in your case, or proves the severity of your injuries.
Many personal injury victims have more than one source of recovery available to them. An attorney can help inform them of their rights and available options when it comes to pursuing compensation for their losses.