September 11, 2012

What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

No one can give you a certain, definitive dollar-amount answer to that question, absent a jury verdict or a settlement. The value of any personal injury depends on so many variables and unknown factors that make each claim and each case unique. The uniqueness and individuality of each case is one of the reasons why the civil justice system is needed.

Compensatory damages: both easy, difficult to quantify

Conceptually speaking, your case is worth whatever amount of damages the jury determines you have suffered as a result of your injuries. Under Florida law, an injured person may collect two types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to, just as the name implies, compensate you for the injuries you suffered.

There are two types of compensatory damages: special damages and general damages. Special damages cover specific economic losses and usually are among the more easily quantifiable of damages awards. Special damages include economic losses like lost property, lost wages, lost earning capacity, or past and/or future medical expenses. The non-economic losses that make up general damages are much harder to quantify, as they include harms like physical and/or mental pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium (which relates to damage to emotional physical aspects of a couple’s marital relationship.)

Punitive damages: only for outrageous actions

In some cases, a jury may award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages only arise when the defendant acted in an especially outrageous manner and, the defendant deserves to be “punished” monetarily for its unconscionable conduct. Punitive damages exist, like most punishments, to serve as a deterrent; hopefully preventing others from acting in a similar manner in the future. Many courts only allow a jury to consider punitive damages after deciding the compensatory award, and most courts also cap the amount of punitive damages a jury may assess.

The Variables of a Case’s Value

Legally, each case’s value is governed by the extent of your injuries, and the need (or lack thereof) for awarding punitive damages. In practice, though, several other elements, unrelated to the extent of your injuries or the defendant’s behavior, may factor in to how a jury values your case. These may include:

  • How the jury views you (Do they find you likeable and believable?)
  • How the jury views the respective attorneys (Again, whom do they find likeable, and credible?)
  • Where the case is heard (Juries in some counties might be more receptive to injured persons than those in other counties.)
  • The identity of the defendant or defendant’s insurance company (Does the defendant or the insurance company have a particularly notorious reputation, either in that community or generally?)

No two personal injury cases are exactly alike, and so no two personal injury cases are worth the exact same, even if the facts of the cases and the injuries resulting from the accidents are extremely similar. Evaluating the worth of a personal injury case takes years of experience. In our area you should contact a Jacksonville personal injury attorney to discuss the value of your case.

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