Every case has a value that depends on a variety of factors in any particular case. Full value for an injury is based on what juries typically award for the type of injury. The settlement value may be “discounted” by the risk of losing the case on the issue of liability or on factors of comparative negligence. (Comparative negligence is the percentage of fault that the plaintiff, who is the suing injured party in a personal injury case, has for causing the injury.
In Oregon, if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault then they are not entitled to recover any damages.) We keep track of what juries award for different types of injuries and our day to day experience with settlements gives us a solid base to know the common settlement values and value trends for any particular injury.
Injury values are influenced by a number of factors including primarily the severity of the injury, the permanence of the injury, the type of medical treatment required to address the injury, the amount of pain produced by the injury, limitations on movement, limitations on enjoyment of life and a variety of other similar factors.
Settlement values are influenced by the injury and the type of liability involved and can be influenced by the amount of insurance and assets available to compensate for the injury. If the person that caused the injury has only the minimum insurance required ($25,000.00 in Oregon) and has no significant assets then the monetary recovery may well be limited to the available insurance if the injury has a value in excess of the available insurance.
If the person has no insurance then your own insurance policy may cover you for Un-Insured motorist benefits. Similarly, if the defendant does not have enough insurance to compensate fully for the injury, then your own policy may cover you for Under-Insured motorist benefits.
Although people often want to know the value of their case right away the fact is that most prudent lawyers often cannot tell you what your case is worth at the outset of a case, right after the injury occurs and before treatment is complete. This is because it is often necessary to wait until treatment is completed and the full extent of the injuries and recovery is known before assigning a value to the injury or trying to settle the case.
Usually, a lawyer will want to wait and review all the medical records after treatment is complete before advising as to the value of a particular case. Sometimes, though it is apparent from the outset that a case has a particular value or is worth the limits of the policy involved. Sometimes other factors may influence whether a settlement is sought before treatment is complete. However, “early” settlements may be ill-advised since we feel it is often better to know the full extent of the injuries and recovery before the final settlement is attempted. Each case is different and a lawyer should advise as to what is appropriate in your case.
The fact is there are many variables that influence what any particular case is worth. There is no formula to determine case value and even cases with similar injuries may well have different values. Ultimately, if no settlement is reached it will be up to a jury, judge, or arbitrator to decide the value of your case. Given the large number of factors involved in obtaining a positive result, it is good to have an experienced lawyer to guide you through the process and fight for you in attempting to obtain reasonable and fair compensation that maximizes the amount recovered given the factors present in any given case.