Determining Personal Injury Case Value.
What is my personal injury case worth?
What kind of damages am I entitled to if I suffer personal injury due to the negligence of someone who is not my employer?
If you were injured on the job, you are limited to receiving worker’s compensation in relation to your employer. If you were injured while not working or while working but injured due to the negligence of someone who did not hire you, you are entitled to the same damages as any other personal injury litigant. For instance, we have handled cases for postal carriers who were bitten by dogs while delivering the mail. We have also handled auto accidents for people who were driving in the course of their employment when injured by a negligent driver who was not their employer. Below are some of the damages that you may be entitled to recover:
- Medical bills (Accident or incident related);
- Non-economic damages, which includes pain and suffering;
- Lost income or wages as a result of your injury;
- Lost earning capacity if you can prove as a result of the injury that you can no longer earn as much money;
- Reimbursement for substitute domestic services as a result of your injury;
- Property damage reimbursement;
- Punitive damages, which are meant to punish. In order to have punitive damages you must prove that there was more than mere negligence. Punitive damage claims apply to drunk drivers or those who intentionally harm others. Under ORS 31.730 the State of Oregon gets 70% of all punitive damages. This means that there is an incentive to settle a case for an amount that does not include punitive damages. There is a lack of incentive for an Oregon Plaintiff or Oregon Plaintiff’s attorney to win punitive damages at trial in a case. The jury won’t be instructed that the state confiscates 70% of all punitive damages awarded.
Are all claims worth pursuing if I can prove that the other person was negligent and I was injured? Unfortunately, a claim is not worth pursuing unless you can reasonably collect from the person that you are suing. Collections: In order to collect, hopefully, your injury was caused by someone with insurance or assets, such as a home. In Oregon and Washington drivers are required to be insured to drive. If you were hit by an uninsured motorist, most policies have uninsured motorist coverage. Most homeowners and businesses have insurance policies that cover injuries due to negligence. If someone with no insurance or assets negligently causes your injury, you may technically have a legal case. But you will have difficulty collecting. For instance, if a homeless person’s Pit Bull attacks you, you might win a large jury award in a lawsuit. However, your chances of collecting from someone living under a bridge are minimal. If you have been the victim of a crime, the Oregon Victims Assistance Fund may be able to help with your out-of-pocket medical bills if the district attorney’s office accepts your case for criminal prosecution. However, if you accept money from the victim’s assistance fund, they will have a lien on any award or settlement that you might receive.
What is my claim worth if I can prove someone negligently caused my injury and they have the money or insurance to pay me? Each case is individually evaluated. Below are some of the factors used to value your case.
- The degree to which each party is at fault
- The strength of your evidence
- Severity of your injury
- Recovery time
- Permanency of your injury
- Amount of past medical bills
- Amount of any identifiable future medical bills
- Past lost wages
- Future lost wages
- Life impact/inconvenience
- The likelihood of collecting, even if we win
- General reputation of your jurisdiction for jury awards
Will I receive more for my personal injury case if I hire an attorney?
The insurance adjuster for your auto accident will never tell you that the insurance industry’s own research establishes that people with attorney representation on average recover almost three and one-half times more than people who settle with the insurance company on their own. Adjusters must protect the profits for the insurance company or risk unemployment. Multiple Studies have shown you will receive more money for your case if you hire an attorney, even after you pay attorney’s fees.
• “Injured people recover 3 ½ times more when they were represented by a lawyer.” (-2004 Insurance Research Council study)
• The 2003 IRC internal document [Auto Injury Insurance Claims: Countrywide Patterns in Treatment, Cost, and Compensation Malvern, PA: December 2003] to its member insurance companies. On page 112, the IRC’s data showed the vast majority of dollars paid out to bodily injury claims are paid out to claimants who retain attorneys. Injured people with representation (less than 1/2 of claimants) received 79% of all liability payouts.
• A 1999 study by the nonprofit Insurance Resource Council also concluded that insurance payouts are on average 3.5 times higher for people who have hired an attorney.
• According to the 1999 Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims, injured people represented by an attorney received an average of 40% more money than those representing themselves. (“Paying for Auto Injuries: A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims,” Insurance Research Council, 1999, pg. 45-52)
• In 1995, Allstate’s claim adjusters training manual [Allstate Insurance Co., Unrepresented Segment Training Manual, July 1995] emphasized to its adjusters the importance of convincing claimants to not retain an attorney. Allstate explained its position with statistics: for settlements under $15,000 injured claimants represented by an attorney averaged $7,450 in a total settlement. Those who represented themselves in their claims averaged only $3,464. People with an attorney for a small claim on average more than doubled (a 115% increase) the likelihood of a better settlement. The manual also indicated that overall personal injury victims with attorneys recovered 2 to 3 times more than self-represented claimants.
• In 1980, a study was conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo, “Settled Out Of Court: The Social Process of Insurance Claims Adjustment,” by H. Laurence Ross. The study focused on the effects of attorney representation and the average recovery one could expect to receive because of such representation. From the study, the average recovery of represented claimants was found to be from 4 to 12 times as high as that of the unrepresented claimant.
What if my case is not worth a whole lot? Is it worth it for me to hire an attorney or should I go to small claims court? There are attorney fee provisions under some statutes such as ORS 20.080 that apply after a lawsuit is filed. The threat of attorney fees can leverage the value of Oregon cases worth $10,000.00 or less. If the case is filed after a 30-day demand letter and the arbitration award is higher than insurance company’s offer of settlement, then attorney fees and costs are awarded.