Pretty often in a personal injury claim, an insurance company will make an initial offer to settle all damages. Before accepting any preliminary offers, it’s very important that you speak with a professional about the total value of your case. Unless you understand all the factors that go into valuing a claim, it’s really easy to accept an offer from an insurance company that is far too low. In this webinar, attorney Joe Patton covers this important concept in detail. Learn from Joe how to calculate the value of a personal injury claim.
Hi, I’m Joe Patton. I’m a senior partner at the law firm Patton and Patton Personal Injury Lawyers. And you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to teach you today how to value your personal injury case. This would include a typical auto accident case, slip and fall, or any sort of injury to yourself as a result of a fault of another person.
The first thing you really need to do is slow down. In valuing your personal injury claim, the insurance company wants to get the case settled right away. Sometimes they make offers within days of the accident. You don’t want to settle it at that point. You want to make sure you know full nature and extent of your injuries and once you have a full understanding of what your injuries are, then you’re going to be able to follow the formulas that we’re talking about here to come up with a good, proper, reasonable and just value for your claim.
We’re going to give you the answers. We’re going to tell you how to lower your stress and calculate a value of a case. If you need some help, you can feel free to contact us because I know it’s very confusing. You’re hurt. You’re in the accident. You’re worried about blowing your life savings. You have all these bills coming in, all these people calling you. It gets very, very confusing, particularly when they treat you like a criminal, as opposed to someone who’s been injured in the accident.
So take a look, take some notes, give us a call if you have some questions. Let’s take a look at our background. We’ve been practicing law since 1977. We have a well-respected firm, and we have very many satisfied clients. Most of our cases come from prior satisfied clients who have been through the process with us and understand that our first goal is to add value to your case.
We don’t even take the case if we don’t think we can add value to it. We created a book that can be helpful to folks if we aren’t a good fit to officially represent them. I’ll talk more about that resourse later in this webinar. But when we take a look at personal injury claims, there’s basic elements that you have to include in your claim to come up with the value.
Here are the elements. The medical expenses, the economic loss, and the pain. Let’s talk about the medical expenses first. It has two parts. First of all, if there’s no liability, it doesn’t really matter what the expenses or the damages are. Your case is now worth very much, but let’s assume that you do have liability. With the medical expenses, you have to include all the necessary medical care expenses.
Now, the key word here is necessary. Just because you run up a lot of medical bills or chiropractic bills or physical therapy bills doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be included in the claim by the insurance company or by the judge and the jury. The law says they include what’s necessary. So keep that in mind when you’re getting the treatment.
You want to get treatment. You definitely want to be getting all the treatment you need, but don’t over-treat and don’t make up anything. When you’re talking to your doctor, as part of making sure you get full compensation, you want to make sure you fully tell the doctor where you’re hurt and what the problems are. You’re not going to understand all the ins and outs of the medical condition, but the doctor takes notes. He writes down the history about how the accident happened.
He writes down what you tell him as it relates to where you have the pain. If that information is not in his notes that’s going to lower the value of the case. So make sure you tell him about all your injuries and pain and mention when the pain began. If it began shortly after your motor vehicle accident, be sure to mention that. The necessary medical care and bills are included as an element of the damages.
It’s important that you get the actual billing. I’m not talking about those balance forward statements that you get in the mail. Get it from the medical providers or if you hire us, we’ll get it for you. You’ll need the actual medical bills. When you prepare the valuation for the insurance company, you’re going to want to include all the ICD codes, the diagnostic codes, the CPT codes. These are often found on the medical billing you would get from your provider. These codes are very important to retrieve for the insurance company because the computer program uses these codes to value your claim.
If you leave it up to the adjuster, they may or may not include all the injuries that you’re suffering from from this accident. Also keep in mind that if you have pre-existing conditions, that can cut two ways and adding or distracting value from your case. You’re only entitled to be compensated for what was injured in this accident. Not from something that you already had.
However, you can still be compensated for the aggravation of that pre-existing conditions. So don’t let the insurance company talk you out of that. So that’s the medical expenses. Keep in mind the medical expenses are not just what you have incurred, but what you’re likely to incur in the future.
So when you’re talking to your doctor, and they release you from the care, talk to him or her about the nature of what they can reasonably foresee coming down the road. For example, they may be recommending a surgery. They could be recommending taking hardware out that they’ve put in during the surgery, or they may be recommending additional physical therapy or problems.
Sometimes if the pain doesn’t go away, they’re going to be recommending cortisone injections, or various other kinds of things in the future. Have them clearly write their recommendations in their medical records or give you a note as to what they’re recommending and why. We can use that recommendation to get an expert report about what those future medical conditions and treatments will cost you. That is included in the value of your case dollar for dollar.
Sometimes it’s discounted or reduced to present value, but you’re entitled to be compensated for the future medical expenses. That’s important because once you settle your case or once you have a jury verdict, that’s all you’re going to get on this personal injury case. We need to make sure we include everything.
If the physician indicates you’re going to have a future operation or procedure, then you need to know approximately how long you’re going to be off work so that we can also include the economic loss from that, which brings us to the second component of compensation, which is the economic losses. That includes according to the jury instructions, both loss of time and income.
It may be just as simple as an off-work slip and getting documents signed and verified by your employer as to what your wages had been or would have been during that period of time, but it can become much more complicated if you’re talking about situations of future losses or limited disability that’s going to prevent you from making the income that you’re capable of making. For example, if you have a physical limitation of 50 pounds and your past jobs have included that, then you’re going to be limited in what you can do in the future.
That limitation or loss of earning capacity has a value. We can get economic experts and economists to put a value on the loss of earning capacity. That’s included in the economic loss, as well as your actual loss of wages and loss of income. For a self-employed person, that becomes a little more complicated because we have to get into the actual books of the company and document from the income statements, the tax returns, receipts to show what you would have reasonably made if you weren’t off work during the medical treatment period.
If you have limitations from this injury that’s going to have an impact on your business, then those kinds of costs are included in the calculation. In terms of permanent disability to assist us or you and figuring out the value of your case, you’re going to want that documentation in writing from the physician that would indicate that there is permanent disability, that it came from the accident and the nature extent of that disability. Sometimes we have you do functional capacity evaluations so that we can get a quantitative measure of what you can and cannot do.
Then the key thing after that is to get that vocational rehabilitation report in the proper case so that we can include it in the economic loss. So you add your medical expenses, you add your economic loss, and the last part of it is the pain and suffering or the non-economic loss that the jury would award for the pain that you’ve gone through, the suffering, the disability, the disfigurement if there’s a disfigurement or a scar and the mental anguish involved in what you’ve gone through.
Now, it’s important that you keep a diary. If you haven’t started one yet, go ahead and start one. You sit down and write out everything that’s happened from the few minutes before the the accident until now and then keep a daily diary going forward, because you remember all the details. You remember that you hurt when you attempted to lift your grandchild or that you couldn’t sleep last night because of the pain in the back.
You remember all that sort of thing or how you weren’t able to go to the grocery store or you couldn’t do an ordinary tasks around the house. You remember those things now, but should we have to present it to a judge or jury or insurance adjuster in the future, you’re not going to remember all that. So write it down. Keep a diary because everything you document there can be translated into compensation for you, and you’re entitled to be compensated for that.
If you came into the courtroom and you just said, “Oh, I hurt for a long time,” they will give you something, but if you’re able to clearly document what you’ve gone through from the time of the accident forward and how that impacted your life, that’s going to be a much higher a jury verdict or a much higher settlement with the insurance companies.
We always try to get the case settled with insurance companies. We have got great success with that because we have great success going to trial. 90% of our cases are able to get settled with insurance companies and often for very high amounts. I’m thinking of one particular case where a man came into our office, and we were able to get eight times the settlement offer from an insurance company by way of settlement after walking through these steps that we’ve talked about, or you could try to do those on your own.
The key thing on the pain and suffering is to take a look at what other jury verdicts in this county have been and what juries are awarding for similar kinds of cases and similar kinds of injuries, duration, and nature and extent of that pain and suffering and how that’s going to impact you.
Oftentimes they say there’s no formula for calculating the pain and suffering. That is not quite accurate. We actually put a dollar amount on pain and suffering all the time. If you have a headache, you’ll go to the medicine cabinet, and you’ll pull out an aspirin. Well, that aspirin has a dollar amount. All the pain medication has a dollar amount. We put dollar amounts on compensating for pain all the time.
We can add that up and include that in this calculation. Take a look at the jury verdicts that have been comparable and give you a clear value. So you add the medical expenses, economic losses, and those estimated jury verdicts for the pain and suffering. And that’s the value of your personal injury case, assuming there’s no aggravated circumstances and assuming there’s no particular reasons to add punitive damages. Punitive damages is when the injury was willfully inflicted and punitive damages are based on the economic value of the defendant.
Punitive damages don’t often come up in personal injury cases, but in the right case, it’s very important to add that in. So those are the elements of calculating your personal injury value. That’s how you go about coming up with a what would be a reasonable and a just value for settling your case. That’s based upon what a jury would actually do.
Now, you might be willing to take less than that if you got the compensation today, as opposed to going to trial and that is a judgment call that you would have to make in consulting with your lawyer and the adjuster and your family and just taking a look at what you would like to go through in order to get compensated in the case. So those are the kinds of factors you have to take into consideration.
We encourage you to go to kansasaccidentbook.com and get our free book entitled Every Person’s Guide To Saving Thousands Of Dollars In Your Auto Accident Claim. Many people have read that and found it to be extremely helpful, particularly if you’re just new to this process and trying to get some background as to how to handle your case. Of course you can always give us a call. In this situation we give free case evaluations. Just give us a call and we’ll be glad to help you figure out what your case is worth. It’s been a pleasure sharing this with you. And if you’ve got any questions, let us know. You can call us at (785) 370-0001 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks a lot.