Evaluating your accident or injury claim — How to determine what a reasonable settlement would be for your car accident or other personal injury case
If you have been injured in an accident or by negligence, you may be wondering how much your personal injury case is worth. The answer to that question is determined by what “damages” the incident caused you. Money damages is a legal term that defines what harms and losses you are specifically able to recover money for under West Virginia law. Another way to look at money damages is what the accident has cost you monetarily, physically, and mentally. And just as important to consider is how much the accident will cost you in the future.
In a personal injury case, the person, corporation, government or other entity who is legally responsible for the accident is called the defendant. The person who is injured by the defendant’s negligence or other misconduct is called the plaintiff. Typically, the defendant’s insurance company pays for the plaintiff’s damages either in a personal injury settlement or after a court trial.
West Virginia Personal Injury Settlement Formula
Many factors can affect the value of your personal injury case regardless if your case involves a car accident, medical malpractice, work injury, or a slip and fall. However, the basic formula below will provide a reasonable estimate of how much many personal injury cases are worth.
Warning: Some personal injury case values cannot be fairly estimated with the formula below. For example, if your accident was caused by a drunk driver, punitive damages are justified and should have a significant impact on how much your personal injury case is worth. There are also many other factors not discussed in this article that may greatly affect the value of your case.
The Personal Injury Settlement Formula
Past Medical Bills
Future Medical Bills
Past Lost Wages
Future Lost Wages
Pain and Suffering
= Approximate Value of a West Virginia Personal Injury Claim
Past Medical Bills Related to Accident
Under West Virginia law, past medical bills is the total amount you were charged for all the medical treatment you received up to the present date related to your personal injury claim. Sometimes, however, the defendant’s insurance company may argue that some or all of your medical treatment wasn’t related to your accident. If that’s the case, the defendant’s insurance company may refuse to pay for some or all of your medical bills.
If the defendant’s insurance adjuster disputes some of your medical bills and argues that your treatment was not related to the accident, then the insurance adjuster will also likely offer to pay you less than fair value for your pain and suffering. For example, sometimes insurance adjusters will try to argue a personal injury victim’s medical treatment was related to a pre-existing condition, not the underlying accident.
Another tactic insurance adjusters sometimes use is to exaggerate any gaps or delays in your medical treatment to try and argue you weren’t really hurt or you suffered an unrelated injury during your gap in treatment that required you to seek additional treatment. In either event, the insurance company may try to deny paying for any of your medical bills that were incurred after your delay in medical treatment.
If you believe the defendant’s insurance company is using any of these tactics unfairly against you, we strongly urge you to call an experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Past Lost Wages Related to Accident
Your past lost wage claim is generally determined by how much income you lost because of the accident. Often, personal injury victims will use sick and/or vacation days if they need to miss work for medical treatment or because their doctor took them off work. However, under West Virginia law, you may still have a lost wage claim even if you used sick or vacation days and you technically didn’t lose income. This is because you lost your sick and/or vacation days, which have real value.
Some tactics insurance companies use to deny lost wage claims include the same as mentioned above. Specifically, insurance companies may try to argue that you missed work for some reason other than the accident. For example, if an insurance company tries to argue that some or all of your medical treatment was related to a pre-existing medical condition instead of the underlying accident, then they may also argue that any work you missed because of the treatment was not related to the accident.
Future Medical Bills
Proving the cost and need for future medical care related to your accident almost always requires the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. In fact, under West Virginia law, your injury lawyer may even need to hire an expert to help prove your need for future medical treatment and how much it will cost. For example, West Law Firm works with forensic economists, physicians and other experts to ensure our clients recover full and fair compensation for any future medical bills they may need to incur because of the defendant’s negligence.
For example, if a person has suffered a back injury and needs facet joint injections, epidural steroid injections or other treatment well into the future, that person’s future medical bills will likely be more than their past medical bills. Therefore, if you have suffered a permanent or chronic injury, proving your need for future medical treatment is essential for helping you recover full and fair compensation.
Future Lost Wages
Proving future lost wages involves similar issues and difficulties that proving future medical bills does. An experienced attorney is usually needed as well as hired experts like economists and sometimes accountants. Moreover, proving future damages involves meeting a higher burden of proof that proving past damages, and is therefore more difficult to prove under West Virginia personal injury law.
Past and Future Pain & Suffering
Pain and suffering damages are considered general damages under West Virginia law and are often the largest category of money damages in a personal injury case. Pain and suffering damages include the physical pain, emotional distress, anxiety, discomfort and loss of enjoyment life the incident has caused you. Medical bills and lost wages are considered special damages and are much easier to calculate and quantify than general damages like pain and suffering. However, an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to help you quantify your pain and suffering.
If you were injured by the defendant and can prove he acted with actual malice against you or that he acted with reckless disregard for the health, safety and welfare of others, then you may also be able to recover punitive damages in West Virginia. Punitive damages go above and beyond the damages above which are intended to directly compensate you for your injuries and other losses.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are intended to benefit the community by deterring and preventing future reckless conduct like that of the defendants thereby providing your community safety and freedom from harm.
Ask an Experienced West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer How Much Your Case is Worth
We hope this article helps you get an idea about how much your personal injury case is worth. However, there are many more factors that may affect the value of your cases besides the ones discussed above. Also, pain and suffering damages are especially difficult to quantify in terms of dollars and cents.
Therefore, if you have been injured in an accident or because of another’s negligence, we invite you to call one of our experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyers for a confidential and Free Consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-943-9378 (WEST), and there’s No Fee unless and until you recover compensation.