The first question on many clients’ minds when they first meet their attorney is: “What’s my auto accident case worth?”
You’ve just been through a traumatic experience that’s compounded by lost time from your job, medical bills, and the stress of finding an attorney and dealing with insurance companies. Are you going to be fully compensated for your auto accident? If so, what is that worth?
It’s a reasonable question that, in most cases, cannot be answered immediately. The value of your auto accident case will depend on many things, including whether liability is clear, the amount of your medical bills, the amount of your future medical costs, the “shock value” of your case, and the opinions of any experts that you may need including economists and life care planners.
The value of your case may also depend on factors that may seem unfair – like whether you have an attorney, who your attorney is and what the insurance adjuster’s experience has been with that attorney. Does your attorney routinely settle auto accident cases cheaply, or do they have a reputation for litigating their cases and trying them to a jury when insurance doesn’t pay full value?
If you have been involved in an auto accident caused by someone else’s negligence, get an experienced SC personal injury lawyer on your case immediately – call or email your attorney on the Axelrod team now to set up a free consultation.
What’s My Auto Accident Case Worth? Liability and Causation
What’s my auto accident case worth? Nothing, unless the other driver was negligent.
To have a claim at all, we must be able to prove that the other driver negligently caused your auto accident – it wasn’t your fault and they can’t blame it on someone else.
Consider the following scenarios:
- John runs a red light and hits your car. (All else being equal, insurance will probably pay your claim after investigation and discovery)
- John may have run a red light, but there is no proof other than your testimony. (Insurance might pay your claim, but it will be reduced based on the insurance company’s estimate that they might win at trial)
- You ran a red light and hit John’s car. (Insurance is not paying your claim)
When liability is contested, it doesn’t necessarily end your case, but it may reduce the settlement value of your case – the insurance company will pay less in a settlement if they believe the jury will return a defense verdict or if they believe the jury will find you partially at fault for the accident.
“Shock value” is another factor that affects the value of your case.
If Jane Smith makes an illegal left turn and hits your car, she may be liable. You are entitled to full and fair compensation for your injuries that are caused by her negligence.
On the other hand, if Jane Smith is roaring drunk, makes an illegal left turn, and hits your car, injuring your young children, and then jumps out of her car to scream obscenities at your children as they are lying in the roadway, the “shock value” of the case will likely result in a higher settlement (or verdict) for you and your children, and a punitive damages award following a trial is almost certain…
What’s My Auto Accident Case Worth? Damages
Assuming the other driver was negligent and their negligence was the proximate cause of your accident, the value of your case will be determined by the type and amount of damages that you have.
More than anything else, the amount of economic damages drives the value of your case. These are the financial losses that you have suffered that are tangible – you will most likely have documents like bills, invoices, receipts, or payroll records that the jurors can hold in their hand and review while deciding what your auto accident case is worth.
Your economic damages may include:
- Property damage
- Emergency medical care.
- Doctor visits.
- Hospital stays.
- Physical therapy and other rehabilitation costs.
- Chiropractic care.
- Medical devices.
- Nursing care or the costs of other long-term care.
- Future medical care.
- Lost wages if you are forced to miss work as a result of your injuries. If you have suffered a long-term disability as the result of another driver’s negligence, they must also compensate you for any loss in earning capacity.
- Any out-of-pocket expenses that you incur as a result of the accident.
For some areas of economic damages, you may have an expert witness like an economist or life care planner who has reviewed your case and can provide testimony as to the exact dollar value of your case.
It is harder to put a dollar value on non-economic damages, but they are a part of the value of your case and they are critical to ensuring that you are fully compensated after an auto accident.
In some cases, the value of non-economic damages is “anchored” by the economic damages amount. In others, the value of non-economic damages may be driven by the trauma that the accident caused for you or your family – for example, your award for “pain and suffering” should be greater depending on the amount of pain and suffering the accident caused.
If you broke an arm in the crash, your pain and suffering award may be significantly lower than it would be if you were trapped inside a burning vehicle that exploded moments after first responders pulled you from the wreckage…
If you suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or if the injuries you suffered have prevented you from engaging in normal activities that you enjoyed before the accident, your non-economic damages should be greater.
When the other driver’s conduct was egregious – they were “grossly negligent,” or their behavior was “willful, wanton, or reckless,” the jury may award punitive damages in your case.
If the other driver was drunk or if they committed a felony in connection with the accident, it is likely that the jury will award punitive damages. In cases where punitive damages may be awarded at trial, “what’s my auto accident case worth” may be significantly higher – even in a settlement.
Your case is worth full and fair compensation for the injuries that you suffered, both economic and non-economic, and an amount of money that is designed to punish the defendant and ensure that it does not happen again.
To estimate what your auto accident case is worth, your attorney will need to know whether liability is clear or contested, all your past and future medical expenses, your non-economic damages, and whether there is a possibility of a punitive damages award at trial.