You’re driving your car when suddenly, another vehicle crashes into you. You suffer a serious back injury that will keep you out of work for months, and you already have thousands in medical bills. But how much is your personal injury case worth?
It can be difficult for most car accident victims to fully calculate their case’s settlement value. While it’s best to consult with an experienced injury lawyer at Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, it’s important that you understand the primary factors that impact damage calculations.
What Are Damages?
Damages are compensation for injuries and losses caused by someone else’s negligence. When you settle your case or win a jury award, you’re receiving damages. There are three common types of damages:
- Economic damages: Compensate you for your financial losses, including:
- Medical expenses and bills
- Lost income and wage-earning capacity
- Property damage
- Non-economic damages: Reimburse you for losses that aren’t easily quantified, like pain and suffering
- Punitive damages: Punish the wrongdoer for their intentional or wildly reckless behavior
While most personal injury claims involve economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are less common. If your lawyer believes that you are entitled to punitive damages, they will help you navigate this part of your case.
Now that you understand the concept of damages, you can start calculating your case’s settlement value.
1. Identify All of the Insurance Policies That Cover Your Claims
Most, if not all, car crash claims involve insurance companies. Because Alabama is a “tort state,” you’ll file a claim with the at-fault driver’s liability policy. However, depending on your circumstances, you may be able to recover damages from other policies too. If you have Med Pay and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UI/UIM) coverage, these policies can supplement your damages.
You must identify every policy that covers your injury claim. Otherwise, you may lose out on valuable compensation. If you need help with this process, consult with a skilled injury attorney.
2. Collect All Your Medical and Other Bills
The first step is to collect all your bills for your medical expenses, car repairs, and any other crash-related costs. If you have receipts, keep them and scan them into your computer or phone to avoid losing them. You can also find how much you spent by looking at your bank statements. Finally, you should keep track of all your expenses in a spreadsheet that you regularly update.
If you don’t have all of your bills, it’s okay. A car accident lawyer can help you collect these expenses and estimate the full value of your claim. However, this process takes time, so don’t wait until the very last minute to start compiling your bills. (You must file a lawsuit within two years of your crash or injury in Alabama.)
3. Calculate Lost Wages and Wage-Earning Capacity
If you’re unable to work because of your injuries, you can demand compensation for your lost wages. Similarly, if you cannot return to your pre-accident occupation and take a pay cut, you can get damages for this lost wage-earning capacity.
Calculating lost income is relatively simple. If you couldn’t work for six weeks while you recovered from your injuries, you’ll demand your average weekly wage multiplied by six. Suppose you earn $1,000 per week. If you were off work for six weeks, you’d have $6,000 in lost income.
Wage-earning capacity calculations are more complex. Your lawyer may have to consult with experts, like vocational consultants, to identify the precise ways that your injuries impacted your earning capacity.
4. Add in Your Non-Economic Damages
How do you put a value on pain and suffering? It’s not an easy question to answer. Typically, your lawyer will use their experience to value your non-economic damages. Factors like the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits and the severity of your injuries may impact this calculation.
5. Consider Your Future Needs
If your injuries are going to cause long-term problems, you need to consider your future expenses and losses. This may include a lifetime of lost income, medical care, and even time in a nursing or long-term care facility. You should never ignore these future damages.
- Will I need more surgeries in the future?
- Are there ongoing medical services that I’ll need, like MRIs, pain injections, or counseling?
- Will I ever be able to return to work? If so, will I experience a wage cut?
At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we frequently work with experts, like doctors, care planners, and financial consultants, to precisely identify and calculate our clients’ future damages.
How to Calculate Economic Damages: An Example
Now, let’s apply these concepts. Please note that this is a simple example. If your case involves significant non-economic and punitive damages, you’ll need to perform a more careful analysis.
Suppose you were rear-ended and suffered from whiplash and back pain as a result. Your car bumper came off, and you had to take time off of work. You collect all of your medical and property damage expenses.
- Visit to urgent care: $100
- X-rays co-pay: $200
- 10 visits to a chiropractor for back and neck pain: $1,000
- 10 visits to a massage therapist for back and neck pain: $1,500
- 10 visits to a physical therapist for back and neck pain: $800
Total medical expenses = $3,600
- Cost for a new bumper: $200
- Labor/installation for a new bumper: $300
Total car expenses = $500
Thankfully, you recovered from your injuries quickly, only missing out on a week of full-time work. You calculate your lost income for this time:
- Time taken off work to go to doctor/mechanic: 40 hours
- Income = $50/hour
Total lost wages = $2,000
Adding up these numbers, you have $6,100 in total economic damages. Again, this number doesn’t include your pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. Before you accepted a settlement offer, you would need to add in those calculations.
Why Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we discourage people from using online settlement calculators. While they can provide rough estimates of your lost income and medical bills, they don’t take into consideration your future needs, punitive damages, and other factors that can complicate your claim. An injury lawyer can do all of that and more.
For example, a personal injury attorney can help you determine future loss of income, including raises and promotions. They can also calculate the value of your car, including mileage, depreciation, condition, and other important characteristics.
Our team carefully calculates settlement values, and then aggressively fights for every penny. And, we won’t charge you for our services unless we get you a settlement or win at court.
Want to Understand Your Claim’s Value? Contact Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys
If you’ve been in an accident and need to know how to calculate damages and get the settlement you deserve, contact the team at Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys. We’re here and waiting to help you. We’ve recovered millions for our clients and are committed to our clients.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.