What Is My Case Worth?

Robert Edwards Oct. 25, 2021

That is a common question and the very lawyer -like answer is "it depends." Personal injury lawyers look at the following elements when determining whether a case has merit and, if so, what it's worth.1. LIABILITY. This concerns who was at fault for the injuries sustained by the potential client. Liability isn't always clear-cut. From a liability standpoint a very good case would be one in which the potential client was rear ended while at a stop sign. In the usual case the party who rear ends the client is 100% at fault. Where things can get complicated is in intersection crashes, where one party is making a left turn and the other is coming through the intersection. The question always arises about who had the right-of-way and liability can end up being a 50/50 split or something else. What's important to note is that the percentage of fault assigned to the client will reduce the client's claim for damages by that same percentage.2. COLLECTIBILITY. This refers to the ability to collect the damages that the potential client has suffered. If the client is injured by someone who has no insurance coverage then collecting any judgment becomes more than just a little problematical. Most lawyers won't take cases where there is no insurance coverage available because it just results in a lot of time and effort spent with usually very little return.3. ECONOMIC LOSSES. This refers to "hard" damages like medical expenses and lost wages. Typically the greater these numbers, the greater the value of the case.4. NONECONOMIC LOSSES. These kinds of damages (pain, loss of enjoyment of life, suffering, embarrassment, disfigurement, etc.) are more difficult to quantify than economic losses, but in some cases they are so great that a smart lawyer representing the injured person will waive the economic losses because it creates a lower anchor number and instead emphasize the noneconomic losses as being the most important (which they typically are). Noneconomic losses can sometimes be close to $1 million in a case where the economic losses are less than $50,000.5. CAUSATION. This refers to establishing a link between the negligent conduct of the defendant and the injuries which the potential client is claiming. Sometimes this is very clear-cut, sometimes not. It requires expert medical testimony in the vast majority of the cases to establish causation. Without a helpful and cooperative physician, an injured person has almost no chance of getting fair compensation for the injuries.6. THE CLIENT. Does the client communicate well? Does the client whine or complain excessively? Does the client make a good physical presentation? Has the client done everything within reason to recover from the injuries and get on with their life? All of these things and more can have a huge impact on the value of the case and the willingness of an attorney to take it. Because human beings are all individuals, this is always the wildcard in every case. The better a client comes across, and the better story they have to tell, the more it frightens the insurance company, and the more they are willing to pay to get rid of the case.7. THE JUDGE. This is also a wildcard. You don't know who your judge is until after you file a lawsuit and there is no guarantee that same judge will be the same judge at trial because some time judges retire or transfer from one division to another. But a judge can make a difference. Some judges or very defense oriented (typically appointed by Republican Governors) and they will not, in many instances, decide issues that come before them in favor of the plaintiff (the injured person). On the contrary, judges appointed by Democratic Governors tend to be more plaintiff friendly. There are always judgment calls that come up in a case, where the trial judge will be right no matter where they come down. There is no doubt that a sympathetic judge can help the plaintiff achieve full compensation, and by the same token a hostile judge can result in a very poor outcome.The above list should not be considered comprehensive. There are always other issues which seem to come up in cases that have an impact on the ultimate worth of that case. And cases have different values at different times in the process. Some cases are worth more in the beginning then at the end, whereas others are worth more at trial than at the beginning of the case. It just depends on the strength of the case, the underlying facts, and the skill and experience of the plaintiff's attorney and the skill and experience of the insurance defense lawyer.