Establishing the value of your claim is more art than science. There are obvious economic factors that make up part of the value. These are easy to identify for the purposes of submitting a claim. For instance, the cost of your treatment for injuries sustained would be a major factor. Any property damage, such as the damage to a car in an auto accident case would be another. Another would be income lost because of the inability to work during recovery.
One mistake people make is failing to include in income calculation any sick leave or vacation time taken as compensation during recovery time. Sick leave and vacation time taken are treated as lost income, just as though the person injured had not even been paid sick leave or vacation time for time lost to an injury.
Other economic factors would be tuition lost because of a forced withdrawal from school, or non-reimbursable travel expenses associated with a planned vacation that had to be abandoned because of an injury. Injured persons are generally also entitled to recover the reasonable value of services provided by others that the injured person wasn’t able to do during the period of recovery, such as yard work or house cleaning. The reasonable value of such services is often recoverable even though the injured person has not had to pay money in advance to friends and relatives who have volunteered these services. However, the time for these services must be accounted for by date and time data.
Other economic factors that are not quite as easy to calculate are future treatment expense or impaired earning capacity. That is primarily because those elements are yet to be incurred. In fact they might not ever be incurred, and insurance companies are aware of that. Therefore the calculation of these amounts is subject to estimates based on doctor’s opinions, and doctors often have differing opinion on these matters.
There are less obvious non-economic factors for which recovery can be had. In general, an injury victim is entitled to recover for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Establishing a value for these non-economic factors is more an exercise of judgment than anything else. Contrary to popular belief, there are no formulas.
Sometimes clients tell me that they have been told or have read that the non-economic portion of their recovery of damages is three or four times the amount of their medical bills, or some variation of that. In fact, some web sites make erroneous statements of that type. However, the noneconomic component can be worth either less than the value associated with treatment expense, or many times the cost of the treatment.
For instance, if the treatment consists entirely of a lot of physical therapy and massage for a soft-tissue injury, the recovery for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life will sometimes not bring an amount separately that is equal in amount to the cost of the treatment. On the other hand, if an injury victim lost their eye sight or a limb, the cost of treatment might be very modest whereas the non-economic recovery for loss of enjoyment of life would be worth many, many, many times the cost of the treatment.
The best advice you can receive regarding the value of your claim is from a competent, experienced attorney who primarily does plaintiffs’ personal injury representation, who has reviewed all of the information on your claim, gotten to know you, and who has analyzed the case.
There is generally no charge for meeting with such an attorney regarding your claim to see what is involved. In my office, there is no charge for any initial consultant unless, after meeting with me, you elect to retain me and sign a retainer agreement. If I represent you to the conclusion of your claim, there is no fee for attorneys time that is paid until there is a recovery on the claim and money has been generated from the recovery to pay the fee.
Other factors affecting claim value are discussed in the section on “Jury Claim Value”.
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If you need an accident attorney in Washington or Oregon, you can hardly find anyone as experienced and knowledgeable as Mr. James Sellers, with more than 40 years of experience. If you've been in a motor vehicle accident and you are uncertain what you next step should be to file a claim for damages, please fill out our free case consultation or call us to speak with Mr. Sellers for an informal discussion regarding your options.