Copyright 2013, Joe Miller, Esq.
Probably the most common question I hear as a personal injury attorney is the following: How Much is my Case Worth?
In this article, I would like to go through the factors that determine the value of an injury case, more specifically, a car accident case. There is first a warning: Really, until we have the specific facts of your case, we cannot discuss specific numbers. No lawyer can really do that. This is because your injury case is completely different from any other case. There are a variety of factors that determine the value of a case.
This article will discuss the top six factors that determine the value of a car accident injury case, from most important to least important.
First, let’s dispel some myths. What is the number one factor that determines the value of your case? Well, it is not the severity of the injuries that you suffered. It is not how bad the damages are to your car, or the other car, or the road conditions, or anything like that.
Available Insurance Coverage. No, the number one factor that’s going to determine the value of your case is something very boring. It is the available coverage for insurance on your vehicle and on the other person’s vehicle. Of course, we are talking here about cases in Virginia and North Carolina specifically. If you live in a no-fault state, this is still a factor, but less of a factor, because in those states, everyone is required to carry a great deal of insurance.
But in Virginia and North Carolina, the minimum coverage amounts are very low. In Virginia, the minimum amount of coverage is $25,000 for liability coverage. That’s the limit of all you can recover, no matter how severe your injuries, unless you have higher underinsured motorist coverage . In North Carolina, the minimum limit is $30,000, only $5000 more than Virginia.
So you may say, ok, if the person who hit me has insufficient coverage and my injuries are severe, why can’t I just sue them personally to get more money? The reason that is very unlikely to work out is because there is a reason that people purchase minimum coverage most of the time—-it is because they lack the funds to afford more coverage. So you are not going to recover anything from them personally, because it is unlikely that the person has anything to give you.
On the other hand, if you were hit by a driver employed by a large trucking company, or another company, such as a bus company or waste company, that company is probably going to have an insurance policy covering their driver with typically much larger limits of $1,000,000.00 or mor. Plus, you have available the value of the trucking company’s assets, which could be many millions of dollars.
So we see right away what a difference coverage is going to make in terms of the value of your case.
Your Credibility. So if coverage is the number one factor, what is number two? If we assume there is sufficient coverage that matches the severity of your injuries, the number two factor is: YOU, as the Plaintiff, or person claiming an injury. Are you someone who a jury will believe, if your case ends up in Court? Are you going to follow the advice of doctors? Are you going to consistently treat for your injuries or are you going to do things that are not appropriate for someone who is claiming a severe injury? I don’t care what kind of injuries you have. If you are not credible than a jury is not going to give you any money. If you do not treat as your doctors have advised you, or refrained from activities which they advised you to refrain from, then you have destroyed the value of your claim.
Your Injury Lawyer. The third factor is the reputation and preparation of your trial attorney. Does your lawyer have a good reputation amongst assurance of insurance adjusters as someone who knows how to try an injury case? Is your lawyer known among the defense attorneys as a person who is familiar with personal injury law, and does your lawyer get results? Does your lawyer, in fact, prepare your case in an appropriate way, so that it is more likely that insurance adjusters will put a higher value on the claim?
I mean, if your lawyer has not gathered all of the appropriate medical records and bills, and everything that is necessary to present your claim to the insurance company in a reliable and organized manner, how can the jury award you what your case is really worth?
So these are the top three factors: The insurance coverage, your credibility, and your attorney. The remaining factors are more of the traditional things you are likely familiar with:
Once again, I cannot emphasize sufficiently that NONE of these factors are going to matter much if the top three, especially factor number one—insurance coverage—is insufficient to cover you for your severe injuries.
There is so much more to discuss. For instance, are there other ways to find additional coverage beyond just your policy and the defendant’s policy? What is the appropriate way to handle a case where the injuries far outstrip the coverage? What about punitive damages?
I invite you to please be looking for my upcoming book, Strong Justice for Car Accident Victims, which will be coming out very soon, and available for free download on this website.
In the meantime, I hope this article has been informative. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, please call us at 1-888-694-1671 or email Joe Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org to experience what Joe Miller and his team can do for you.