If you have been seriously injured due to someone else's negligence, you have the right to seek compensation. In the case of a personal injury lawsuit, the injured person, also called the plaintiff, seeks compensation from the person or company that is legally responsible for the accident: the defendant or their insurers. A damage award can be agreed upon out of court in a private, negotiated settlement, or it can be ordered by a judge/jury following a court trial.

To determine how much your case is worth, it is important to know just what factors into a personal injury claim. The following components will have significant impact of the value of your claim:

  1. Compensatory Damages
  2. Punitive Damages
  3. Fault
  4. Policy Limits
  5. Choice of Attorney


Damages are key components in determining the amount of the award, and fall into two categories: compensatory and punitive damages.

Compensatory Damages

As the name suggests, the compensatory damages describe losses you suffered due to the defendant's negligence, and that you should be compensated for. Compensatory damages include but are not limited to medical costs, loss of income and property, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are unrelated to specific cases, instead focusing on the behavior of the defendant overall. In cases where the defendant's conduct is found to be particularly negative or careless, they will be required to pay punitive damages. While considered a form of compensation, their real purpose is to punish the negligent party for their irresponsibility.


Fault is an important factor that can significantly affect your damages award. If you, as the plaintiff, show yourself to be irresponsible with your time following the injury, or are even slightly responsible for the accident causing the injury, your damages award will be considerably reduced.

Besides damages, there are two other factors that can significantly affect the amount of your personal injury claim.

Policy Limits

Policy Limits refers to the maximum coverage of the defendant's insurance policy. If the policy limit is $25,000, then the insurance company will not settle for more than that amount. It is possible to obtain in excess of the policy limit by going to trial, or going after the defendant personally.

Choice of Attorney

The attorney you choose can greatly affect the value of your personal injury claim. Reputation in court is particularly important, because if an insurance company knows an attorney is not afraid of going to trial, they will often offer a better settlement to avoid losing a much higher judgment in court.

When deciding on an attorney, look for experience with cases similar to your situation and their general success rate. Be sure to ask what types of verdicts or settlements they have obtained for such cases.

The partners at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley have more than 50 years of experience protecting the rights of victims. We have successfully negotiated thousands of cases and have tried and presided over more than 250 jury trials. Our experience and courtroom skills are unparalleled. Review our Verdicts and Settlements

If you have been seriously injured due to someone else's negligence, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at the law offices of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley today. We provide free consultations in order to evaluate your case and discuss the legal options available to you.

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. - Updated February 18, 2020
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