“What is my case worth?” is one of the most commonly asked questions by prospective 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, severity and permanence of your injury, 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.
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? When do you take a case to trial?
There is no easy answer to this question. 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The true Fox Law story of a $50,000 settlement offer rejected and a $463,000 Jury Trial Verdict
They say that in conservative Williamsport, Pennsylvania, defense attorneys don’t even need to show up to win their case. This was not true in Bisel v. Wochnik and Get Green Ltd. The case was against a truck driver who rear-ended another truck causing multiple head, neck, and leg injuries including herniated discs requiring lumbar surgery. I felt the value of this case was around $400,000. Two settlement meetings resulted in offers of $50,000, followed by $100,000 and then $200,000. After the first day of trial, the settlement offer increased to $350,000. Although this offer was getting closer to the fair value of the case, my client and I felt it was still a low offer. We rejected the $350,000 offer and took the case to a jury verdict which awarded the plaintiff $463,000. This case is a good example of how a settlement offer substantially increases if your attorney is prepared to go to trial.