Estimating Settlement Value in Personal Injury Cases

Once some time has passed after an accident, personal injury plaintiffs consider the dollar value of their personal injury case. Inevitably, they wonder how much they can recover if they settle quickly. An experienced personal injury attorney knowledgeable of the factors and considerations involved in estimating the settlement value of a personal injury case is essential.

Calculating damages includes special damages such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage. The total amount of medical expenses may be based partially upon future medical bills that are often speculative and require expert testimony.

It is easier to estimate lost wages with more reasonable certainty because of the availability of paystubs and other pay records. On the other hand, it is always more difficult to gauge the total amount of general damages such as pain and suffering and other emotional distress that result in injuries that are non-physical in nature. This almost always requires expert medical testimony to prove.

A qualified Pennsylvania personal injury attorney may assist plaintiffs in estimating economic damages like medical bills, property damage, and lost income. They can then add non-economic losses, like those for pain and suffering, to arrive at a dollar amount to set as a starting point for initial negotiations.

Personal injury attorneys often use multipliers to estimate general damages like pain and suffering. The multiplier used depends on the seriousness, duration, and pain associated with the injury. The more severe the injury, the higher the multiplier. 

Next, the comparative fault of the plaintiff must be assessed. Like almost every state, Pennsylvania has adopted the doctrine of comparative negligence and establishes liability using a modified comparative negligence system. This means that a plaintiff’s percentage of fault must remain at or below 50% to make any recovery, i.e., a defendant’s percentage of fault must reach 50% or greater for a plaintiff to receive any money damages.

If a plaintiff is at fault, but this fault is 50% or less, the plaintiff’s damages must be reduced by its percentage of fault. For example:

  • If a plaintiff is 27% at fault, the plaintiff’s damages will be reduced by 27%. Thus, if damages are $100,000, and the plaintiff is 27% at fault (the defendant is 73%), the plaintiff will only collect $73,000.
  • If a plaintiff is 50% at fault, the plaintiff’s damages will be reduced by 50%. Thus, if damages are $100,000, and the plaintiff is 50% at fault (the defendant is 50%), the plaintiff will only collect $50,000.
  • If a plaintiff is 51% or more at fault, the plaintiff will make no recovery.

Even after estimating the amount of damages and calculating the percentage of fault, assigning a dollar amount to a personal injury case to represent its value is a complex determination. The assistance of a personal injury attorney with many years of experience litigating and settling personal injury cases is crucial when calculating the accurate value of a personal injury case.

If damages are $100,000 with the plaintiff entitled to $73,000 under principles of comparative fault, it must be determined to what extent this amount may be further reduced by the chance that a finder of fact may decide on behalf of the defendant.

Any decreased chance of success may arise from credibility issues relating to any witness or piece of evidence that supports the plaintiff. Knowledge of how all of the case’s relevant facts affect the decision-making process and final verdict are of the utmost importance when establishing the settlement value of a personal injury case.

The assessment of damages and applicable insurance coverage is important in any personal injury matter. If you or a loved one has been injured in any type of accident, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. Our decades of experience make us the clear and obvious choice for all types of legal representation in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. The consultation is FREE, and you don’t pay anything unless we win. Our attorneys, past and present, have represented motor vehicle accident victims for 115 years. Call today!

Estimating Settlement Value in Personal Injury Cases

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