I can’t think of a single client who hasn’t asked me this question. More often than not, it is a question that is asked during my initial meeting with the client. It is a question that I struggle greatly to answer. I have been helping injured victims and their families for over a decade now. I’ve represented people with all types of injuries and I’ve seen all kinds of bad conduct on behalf of the defendant. But I still struggle to answer the question: “what is my case worth?” It depends – on so many things.
It depends? If anyone would know what a case is worth, shouldn’t it be me – the person who is about to embark on this endeavor with this client? I’m a fixer. I like to help people. I want to answer their questions (see other answers here). So when my clients ask me this question, it’s frustrating to not have an answer to give then. But “it depends” is the truth. If you have been injured, you are to be compensated for all of your harms in losses including your medical bills incurred as a result of the injury, other expenses incurred as a result of your required medical treatment, your lost wages, your pain and suffering, future expected medical bills, future expected pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of a normal life, and property damage. All of these things are very case specific. Certainly, lost wages vary significantly depending on the type of job, rate of pay, and length of time off work. Medical treatment varies significantly as well depending on the type of injury and how the individual’s body responds to the treatment. Your pain and suffering may be quite different from the pain and suffering of someone else. Two people can be in the same car and sustain the exact same impact during a car crash but have very, very different personal injury cases.
Ultimately, it is up to a jury of your peers to determine what your case is worth. Some cases never make it to a jury. The settlement value of a case differs greatly from the jury trial value of a case. Typically, when a settlement is reached, both parties have compromised; meaning, the wrongdoer has paid more than he/she wanted and the injured party has accepted less than he/she wanted. By reaching a settlement, both sides have eliminated the risk of an unwanted verdict. So, in addition to the various factors affecting case value as discussed above, your intent regarding the course of litigation can affect the value as well. If the other party believes you will be willing to try the case all the way to a jury verdict, your case value may be higher. On the other hand, if the other party knows you want to settle before trial, that party knows you will be willing to accept less and therefore, will offer you less.
There are other factors that play in this analysis too. Will the jury find you credible? What about the defendant? The witnesses on each side? What evidence will be allowed to be presennted at trial?
When I’m faced with the question of “what is my case worth”, and I am faced with it in every case, I explain that the answer to that question can change many times during the course of litigation. I believe it is important to speak freely about these various factors over time and what should be expected. Every case is different. Every plaintiff is different. Every jury is different. There is no formula. There are no certain predictors. But through open conversations with your injury attorney, you should be able to gain an understanding as to range of possible verdicts and settlement amounts.
Lindsay Rakers, Tapella & Eberspacher