The Brief Answer to the Question “What’s My Case Worth?”
What's your case worth?
It can be a clever marketing tactic for a lawyer to say that they can tell you what your case is worth, but the answer is far more complicated, and as we have discussed in an earlier post, if a lawyer tells you that they can predict what you case is worth, run and run fast. What’s your case worth? If you’re lucky, not much. Valuable personal injury cases are valuable because the injured individual has serious injuries that required either extensive therapy, surgery, or have left the individual permanently injured as a result of a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, or another type of injury. Maybe the personal injury case is valuable because you have lost a loved one as a result of a wrongful death. Either way, you do not want a good personal injury case – you would rather have a better life. While an attorney cannot tell you the value of your case, a qualified personal injury attorney in Denver should be able to tell you the categories of damages that are sought. What’s your case worth? Read below:
This category in Colorado consists of any medical expenses including prescription medication, out of pocket expenses, lost wages, impairment, and disfigurement. But what does all of this mean? Economic damages are, as the name suggests, damages to which you can attach an economic figure. In Colorado, the insurance company is responsible for the full value of medical bills that are customary, reasonable, and related to the injury you sustained. This means that if a chiropractor charges $1,000.00 for an adjustment, the insurance company or the liable party following an auto accident, motorcycle accident, or any other type of injury is responsible for a reasonable charge, which may vary depending on where you live. What is reasonable in Denver may be different from other areas of Colorado like Boulder or Colorado Springs.
The insurance company or liable party is responsible for your lost wages. This can be a more difficult element of damages to prove so be prepared to keep all records of your lost wages including lost vacation pay or sick time. Keep in mind that in the state of Colorado, an injured individual must mitigate (or reduce) their losses. This means that if, for example, you lose your job because your employer can no longer accommodate you after an injury, you must actively seek new employment and show proof that you did. If for example, you hurt your back and can no longer work in a lumber yard like Remington did during college, you must try to find a job at a desk doing something that does not require you to use your back.
Impairment and disfigurement are similar to the next category of damages we discuss but are considered an economic damage in the State of Colorado so there is no cap on the amount of damages you can recover if, unfortunately, you are impaired or disfigured. We will discuss caps on damages in a later post. Impairment is a class of damages that a jury or insurance company can award based on what limitations you have as a result of an incident. If you have received medical care and a doctor determines that you will live with back pain for the rest of your life, a doctor must determine how much you are limited or how impaired you are. When presented with this information, a jury or insurance company can award a measure of damages commensurate with the amount of impairment you have. Disfigurement encompasses scarring, the loss of a limb, burns, or any other physical change to the appearance of your body. Again, the jury or insurance company can choose to award any amount that is appropriate when presented with evidence of disfigurement. As cold as it sounds, scars on a female are more valuable than scars on a male. Scars on visible parts of the body are more valuable than scars on invisible parts of the body. While these are considered an economic damage, they are similar to non-economic damages, which we will discuss next, because there is no set amount that must be awarded for these losses following a car accident or any other type of injury.
This category of damages is what you will hear about the most. It is compensation for the pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, trauma, or other types of emotional damage you experience following a car accident, truck accident, or any other kind of injury. These damages, as the name suggests, are damages that are not assigned a specific value. What is pain worth? It is like many things in this world- it is worth whatever two people (or six people sitting in a jury box) agree that it is worth. What is a night’s sleep worth? Five dollars? Five million? How does one quantify into dollars the loss of a spouse or a child in a wrongful death? Many of us would simply say, “keep the money, keep all of it, just bring back my loved one, just for five minutes.” Instead, the most justice the law will allow is money damages, and so the category is hard to value.
It is worth noting that in a case where an injury heals and there are no aggravating circumstances, research shows that juries will award non-economic damages based on economic damages. This is where many of you will hear attorneys “ballpark” pain and suffering as two, three, four, or ten times the medical bills. One can see why this unspoken rule of the jury exists. In a case where medical expenses are $10,000.00, it is hard for a jury to award $100,000 or more in pain and suffering because a jury does not see $10,000.00 as a lot of treatment or damages. There are of course exceptions. In a case where the defendant was drunk, fled the scene, berated the injured person at the scene, or if the circumstances of the incident were so traumatic like with a vicious dog bite. Likewise, if an injured person is taken to the hospital and the hospital runs a battery tests, running the medical expenses to $25,000.00, for example, the injured person is completely fine, and never treats again, it is hard to imagine a jury awarding three or even twice the medical expenses in non-economic losses. If, however, a person spends $25,000.00 on medical expenses going to the chiropractor, physical therapist, MRIs, etc., and the treatment lasts for several months or even a year, the non-economic damages, being in pain for that long, the inconvenience of going back and forth to medical appointments, etc., is worth several multiples of non-economic losses.
As you can tell, the subject is extensive, and the question of what your case is worth depends on many different factors, many of which are unknown to the attorney early on. We suggest that you sit down with a qualified personal injury attorney after your car accident, motorcycle accident or other injuries, but that you be very cautious if an attorney promises big dollars early on. You want an attorney you can trust, who has the experience necessary to give you reasonable expectations. You should trust your attorney to seek every penny of your economic losses and non-economic losses, but do not trust an attorney that tells you what your case is worth early on. If you would like to do a little preliminary research on your case, head over to the State of Colorado’s Consumer Resource Guide with a wealth of knowledge to help you along the journey.
Stay tuned for future blog posts where we explore each of these categories in more detail with real life examples.