One of the questions I get most often in my initial meeting with a new client is, “What do you think my case is worth?” This can be an awkward moment since many clients feel like I should be able to get out a calculator and compute the value of their case. The reality of the situation is there a many factors to consider in determining the value of a case. The following are factors that must be taken into consideration before an attorney can reasonably make a recommendation regarding value and case settlement.
What Does Liability Mean In Regards To Your Personal Injury Case?
Liability is simply "lawyer-speak" for who is responsible.
If an attorney believes you are responsible for the accident or incident at issue he or she will not agree to represent you. However, liability is not an all-or-nothing proposition. In Nevada, there is a legal principle known as comparative negligence which allows a jury to divide fault between the plaintiff and the defendant(s). This does not usually come into play in a rear-end type accident. However, when right-of-way issues come into play or the speed of a vehicle is deemed excessive for conditions, fault on the part of the plaintiff can reduce the value of the case. For example, if the plaintiff is deemed 30% at fault for an accident, the entire judgment would be reduced by that percentage. That can have an effect on the value of the case.
What Type Of Damages Can You Seek In My Personal Injury Case?
There are 2 basic types of damages in a personal injury case – special damages and general damages.
These damages are the types of damages to which you can identify or compute with specificity. The normal special damages we see in a car accident case are medical billings, lost wages, and sometimes property damage to the vehicle if that is not resolved prior to the settlement of the case. On the initial visit it is impossible to determine the extent of the injuries or the total amount of special damages that may be incurred in a case. Symptoms can continue to manifest themselves well after an accident. For this reason, it is irresponsible on the part of an attorney to essentially “guess” on what the value of a case is or will be.
These damages are primarily the “pain and suffering” component of a case. The Nevada Jury Instructions set forth the law on this point: “No definite standard is prescribed by law by which to fix reasonable compensation for pain and suffering.” The factors that can play into how to evaluate potential values for pain and suffering are nearly limitless. Although we as a society should be able to evaluate these cases with blinders on, age, gender, race and socioeconomic status all play a part in how a jury can value a case. Insurance companies will use these factors against an injured party when possible. Attorneys cannot predict the future, but an experienced attorney can estimate a reasonable value of the pain and suffering once the medical treatment is completed or properly estimated by a competent medical professional.
What Intangibles Can Impact Your Personal Injury Case?
Apart from the legal and factual issues, there are often wild cards that can impact a settlement. The policy limits of the other driver, the number of claimants involved, whether there is additional underinsured motorist coverage, the prior medical condition of the claimant, etc.
These factors, plus a myriad of others, can impact the value of a case. While it would be nice to be able to advise a client during the initial meeting how much their claim is worth, there is really no way to predict the value of a car accident case. The best advice is to seek out an experienced personal injury attorney who can make sure you maximize your recovery following your personal injury accident to make the best of a bad situation.
If you've been injured please contact us online or call our office directly at 702.405.6000 to schedule your free consultation.