How much is my personal injury claim worth?
If you have been seriously injured due to someone else's negligence, you have the right to seek compensation. The following factors will impact the value of your personal injury case:
Compensatory damages are the losses you suffered due to the defendant's negligence. Compensatory damages fall into the following categories:
- Special damages (economic damages) such as:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of income (including future earnings)
- Property loss or damage
- Costs associated with a disability
- Funeral costs
- Legal fees and court costs
- Travel expenses
- General damages (non-economic damages) such as:
- Emotional Distress
- Mental anguish
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Loss of consortium
- Lost quality of life
In cases where the defendant's conduct is found to be particularly negative or careless, they will be required to pay punitive damages, with the purpose of punishing the negligent party for their irresponsibility.
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.
The term "Policy Limits" refers to the maximum coverage of the defendant's insurance policy. 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.
The Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit you will typically need to complete the following stages before the case lands in civil court:
Seek Medical Care Immediately
Find a Good Attorney
This is especially important if you have suffered substantial injuries and/or other losses.
Your lawyer will investigate your claim to include:
- Asking questions to determine the facts of the case.
- Obtaining medical records, including bills that relate to the injuries suffered in the accident.
He/she will review this information to determine whether you have a case.
Filing the Lawsuit
Once the lawsuit is filed it typically takes one or two years before the trial would start in a personal injury case.
Each side investigates the other side’s legal claims and makes requests the opposing side to include:
- Answers to questions
- Depositions from important witnesses
After discovery, attorneys from both sides will discuss and settlement, or choose mediation. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will go to trial.
Going to Trial
A trial date is set for hearing arguments before a judge and jury. Personal injury trials can be over in just one day, or last up to a week or longer.