“What is my case worth?” is one of the most commonly asked questions by prospective Fox Law clients. My answer is usually, “Go ask your neighbor.” I am kidding when I say that, but in reality your neighbors are your prospective jurors should we not receive an acceptable settlement offer.
There are many factors that will determine the value of your case. The level of negligence that caused your injury; the type of injury, severity, and permanence; venue; and the insurance company or corporations involved, are all factors in the litigation process. If we are dealing with an unreasonable insurance company, then it may be a jury that determines the value of your case.
Case Value Usually Develops Over Time
Your case value can rarely be determined early on, as there are many unknown valuation factors that can only be developed over time, such as the correct diagnosis of the injuries, length of treatment, amount of medical bills, amount of subrogation liens (Workman’s Compensation, Medicare, and Health Insurance), work loss, lost earning capacity, and future prognosis addressing daily living restrictions. If a lawyer tells you what your case is worth following an initial consultation or within a short time period of the injury, be wary of their motives.
What is a good settlement offer?
According to Pennsylvania personal Injury law, your case value will be determined based on three factors: Liability, injury, and economic loss. However, it is rarely that simple. We will also add the X-Factors in determining case value.
First you have to address the liability and that directly effects the amount of the recovery. If liability is contested, and there is a percentage chance that you can lose the case, then that can directly effect the value of the case. I assess cases as though the other party is 100% liable. If liability is contested then the valuation needs to be adjusted. For example, if there is a 50/50 chance that you can lose a case because of liability issues, then the liability will need to be adjusted. If you are comparatively negligent by 50 percent or less, you may still be able to recover for your injuries. However, if you are found to be comparatively negligent, in a jury verdict, your case value will be reduced by what the jury determines your percentage of comparative negligence to be.
There are many unknown factors that will determine the value of the injury sustained, such as diagnosis, length of treatment, medical bills, permanency of the injury or scar, and future prognosis. Insurance companies will value a sprain and strain injury differently than they will value a herniated disc. And they will value a herniated disc differently than a herniated disc resulting in surgery. Therefore, it takes time to fully develop your case value.
Economic damages consist of past and future work loss and past and future medical bills. It is often necessary to retain an economist to calculate wages and fringe benefits, and a life care plan expert to calculate future medical needs and the cost associated with those needs.
The X Factors
The County where the claim will be filed.
Insurance companies also take into consideration the County in which your claim will be filed. If your case will be filed in a Suburban County, insurance companies tend to make a lower settlement offer due to the conservative nature of the jurisdiction. If your case is in Philadelphia, the insurance companies are more generous because of the reputation of Philadelphia juries.
The lawyer you choose to handle your case can make a difference in whether you win or lose, or how much you receive for your injury. All lawyers are not the same. And insurance companies know that. Although personal injury lawyers often get a bad rap, the truth is that the good ones are very skilled negotiators and trial lawyers. And they work very hard for you. Choosing a personal injury trial lawyer who has good communication skills, and with whom you are comfortable, may increase the value of what your case is worth.
Negotiations and Settlement.
What your case is worth if you settle as compared to a jury trial verdict can make a difference in how much your case is worth. We will discuss the valuation of your case before we make a demand and the strategy that we will use to obtain the best result. We communicate with you during the negotiation process and will advise you as to whether their best offer is acceptable. Ultimately, it is your decision as to whether you should accept a settlement offer. We make recommendations and provide you with the associated risks if you do not take the settlement offer. In other words, you are very much involved in the settlement process.
Taking your case to trial.
Taking a case to trial is always a risk for both plaintiff and defense attorneys. However, when all negotiations have been exhausted and we cannot reach an acceptable settlement offer, it’s time to consider taking your case to trial.
A good example of when to take a case to trial is the case of Bisel v Wochnik. In this case, we felt our client, Bisel, had a case value of around $400,000. The problem was that the case was to be filed in the very conservative town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The joke among Pennsylvania trial lawyers is that defense attorneys don’t even need to show up to win their case in Williamsport. In this instance, defense attorneys only offered Bisel $50,000 to settle the case. With such a low offer, we decided to take the case to trial even though it would be tried in Williamsport. In the end, the jury awarded Bisel $463,000. This was an excellent outcome, although all trials have the risk of any possible outcome. Jury verdicts can go either way. But if we don’t receive a fair settlement offer from the insurance company, then a jury trial should be considered.
In summary, there are many factors that determine case value. Case value is rarely known early on, and is usually developed over time. The three traditional legal elements in determining case value are liability, injury, and economic loss. However, other factors such as the County where the claim will be filed, the insurance company handling the claim, the amount of insurance available, and the lawyer you choose, are also factors in how much your case will ultimately be worth.