Calculating Damages: How Much Is Your Injury Worth?
If you’ve been injured by a third party’s negligence, one of your first questions was likely “How much is my case worth?”
Calculating damages after an accident can be exhausting. For most liability cases, the basic rule is that the settlement should roughly equal the extent and intensity of the injuries. While many websites offer free calculators that claim to approximate the value of your settlement, these are vague and fail to account for comparative negligence. An experienced Florida personal injury attorney can help you deal with insurance adjusters, doctors, and other third parties relevant to your accident, such as car mechanics, while you focus on your recovery.
Calculating Damages Overview
There are a few different types of damages for which you could recover:
Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional distress, loss of consortium (companionship of husband, wife, or partner), loss of enjoyment of life.
Economic damages may include the costs of medical treatment, estimated future medical expenses, lost earnings, future lost earnings, property damage, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Punitive damages serve to punish the defendant for gross negligence. “Gross negligence” means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.
Since it can be difficult to put a tangible dollar amount on “my back hurts and I might be out of work for a while,” attorneys use what they call “the multiplier.” Often, but not always, an insurance adjuster will add up economic damages and multiply that by a number between 1.5 and 5. The multiplier’s value depends on specific facts of your case:
- the severity of your injuries,
- the medical treatment you have received to date,
- how much treatment you anticipate needing in the future,
- the prognosis (are you expected to recover?),
- whether there are any permanent or long-lasting effects, and
- your injuries’ impact on your daily life.
In rare cases, the multiplier’s ceiling (5) can increase. However, this is often reserved for extraordinary cases where there is an immediately apparent injury, a permanent disability, and a prolonged recovery, among other factors.
When a value for non-economic damages is calculated, that is added to the rest of the damages for an estimated settlement value. This total number is what your attorney will argue for during negotiations, though he or she will likely pad it and give himself room to negotiate.
Florida follows the pure comparative negligence doctrine. This means that your recovery is reduced by your percentage of fault in the accident. (Some percentage of fault will be assigned to the plaintiff during settlement negotiations, and unless you were entirely without any fault whatsoever, this will likely not be 0% fault.) For example, if you were awarded a $100,000 verdict, but were determined to be 25% at fault, you will only receive $75,000 in damages.
Insurance Policy Limits
Insurance policy limits are simply the highest amount an insurance company will pay for a claim. In some cases, the insurance policy limit has the potential to devastate your personal injury lawsuit. For instance, assume you get into a car accident and feel confident that your claim is worth over $1 million. The other driver was underinsured with a policy limit of $20,000, which barely covers your medical expenses. Once you pay attorney’s fees and other reimbursements, you’ll likely end up with next to nothing. While you still have the option to file a case against the driver for negligence, keep in mind that an underinsured or uninsured driver is probably not going to have much in assets.
Other Factors to Consider
When accounting for all of the factors in personal injury cases, merely plugging a number into a formula is ineffective and difficult to do. Some factors are more foreseeable (i.e., if you’re married you can add a loss of consortium claim to your damages), while others are more unpredictable such as where your accident occurred. For example, Miami-Dade and other big-city counties in Florida tend to have higher verdicts than the more rural Florida districts.
Determining the value of your claim and your degree of fault in an accident can be confusing. Strongly consider hiring an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer to assess your claim.
More importantly, a skilled personal injury lawyer can often find additional insurance coverage, beyond what the average person might know to look for. Finding this additional coverage could significantly increase the amount of money you will receive from a settlement.
If you or a loved one suffers injuries in an accident, Miller Trial Law can help you.
Please call us today at (305) 697-8312 for a free, no-risk consultation. We look forward to serving you!