Every injured victim that walks into a lawyers office wants to know how much their case is worth. Some don't really care about the money; some want revenge. Some want the doctor's license revoked; some want the hospital punished. Then again, some want total and full compensation.
"YOUR CASE IS WORTH $2 MILLION DOLLARS," says Jim Bob, Lawyer extraordinaire. "Oh no, your case is worth more than that," says lawyer Dewey Cheatem. "Just sign right here with me and I promise you I'll get you millions!" screeched the TV advertising lawyer.
Whatever the motivation, a civil lawsuit for medical malpractice and personal injury seeks money for the injured victim. But how are you to know how much your injury is worth?
The answer is not so easy to answer, and here's why...
If you listen to each of those attorneys above, they all promise you something that they can't do. How do I know? Just ask each of them to put that guarantee IN WRITING. They'll never do it. That I guarantee!
In every State, and in every County there are multiple factors that go into the mix to determine what your case is worth. It is important to remember that no two cases or injuries are the same. Having said that, I'm going to explain the basics:
1. Economic loss: This one is easy. How much money did you lose because you were injured? Were you out of work for days, weeks or months? Did your employer pay your salary during that time? If not, you can calculate the amount of money you would have been paid had you not been injured.
What if you have a permanent disability that prevents you from working in the future? Well, now things get a little more complicated. Your lawyer will need to hire an economist to predict what your earnings would have been for years into the future. He will also have to predict what perqs and benefits you'd have received if you worked to retirement age.
This gives us hard numbers that we can use to show the extent of your permanent injury.
But what if you didn't lose time or money from work? What if you were a housewife (or househusband), or unemployed at the time of the injury? Does that mean that you're not entitled to collect any economic loss? Yes. But all is not lost. There is still pain and suffering, and possible claims for loss of services that I'll explain in a moment.
2. Pain & Suffering: How do we know that your fractured hip in Brooklyn, New York is worth the same as in Cincinatti, Ohio? Your lawyer is usually able to do research which will tell him (or her) what similar cases have settled for or resulted in jury verdicts and appeals.
Here are important points to know which will help you answer the original question, 'how much is your case worth?':
1. What is your race or nationality?
2. What town do you live in?
3. What is the race or nationality of the people you have sued?
4. What County have you brought your lawsuit in?
5. How old are you?
6. What is your life expectancy (based upon statistical tables)?
7. How long were you in the hospital?
8. Over what period of time have you received medical care for your injuries?
9. What problems do you still have from your malpractice?
10. How are you disabled or limited from doing those daily activities that you used to be able to do?
11. Do you have kids?
In the case of an 80 year old woman who fractures her leg, her case has less value than say, a 35 year old executive who lost 1 month from work, was in the hospital for 3 weeks and now limps from the injury.
Take a look at a recent settlement in New York City...
It involved a young man who had both legs amputated when the Staten Island Ferry crashed because of negligence of the crew. The City of New York decided that this injury was worth almost $9 Million dollars. This was one of the largest settlements ever for an injured victim in New York. Why is his injury worth more than a family who lost their father when doctors misdiagnosed his lung cancer?
The answers can be confusing. The answer can also depend on which lawyer you hire and how experienced he (or she) is in negotiating and trying cases.
So beware the lawyer who tells you what your case is worth as soon as you walk in the door. A thorough investigation of your case, your injuries, your disabilities and limitations all go into the mix to determining what your case is worth. Even then, there's no guarantee you can get that magical number. But try you must. Remember, keep an open mind and ask your lawyer lots of questions.