"How Much Is My Case Worth?" cont'd » BMORE Attorney
“How Much Is My Case Worth?” – Part Two of Two – Please see last week’s post for Part One, as well as the Disclaimer indicating that this post is not to be construed as legal advice, that no two cases are the same, and that you should contact an attorney regarding the specifics of your case immediately if you have any questions or concerns.
the defendant – Is the at-fault party, who may eventually become a defendant if suit is necessary, an individual or a company? Is that individual/company insured such that there’s a viable means of recovery and, if not, are there assets that could be attached in the event of a recovery? A named insurance company or corporate entity is typically a better target than an individual; it is widely held that jurors are less inclined to award significant sums against individuals (as opposed to companies) because jurors aren’t sure if insurance is involved, and the rules of evidence prevent the parties from divulging such information to juries, with limited exceptions. People assume that named insurance companies and companies are “deeper pockets” and better suit to compensate others injured by their negligence or the mistakes of their insureds.
the insurance policy, or policies, in play – In many cases, injuries are not properly compensated because the resources available are insufficient to provide the amount that would adequate under the circumstances. Imagine a scenario where a person has a terrible accident, through no fault of their own, and suffers an injury that leads to medical bills in excess of $50,000 and the inability to work for months, leading to lost wages of $25,000. It’s not hard to imagine, aside from our human instinct to ignore such catastrophic possibilities, the strain this injury would cause on one’s life, even aside from the injury itself. But if the at-fault party has a $30,000 policy, which is the only policy required in Maryland, it’s obvious that amount will not cover even the out-of-pocket losses to the injured party, let alone the amount of pain and suffering that a person is entitled to beyond the out of pocket expenses. The at-fault driver with the $30,000 policy is unlikely to have any appreciable assets to go after post-judgment. And even if the injured party has uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $100,000 (which would provide for $70,000 after the $30,000 is tendered by the at-fault driver’s insurance company), that is only compensating the injured party $25,000 for the pain and suffering attendant with a catastrophic injury. And this says nothing of the likely ongoing or future care that may be required. Long story short, a case’s value is often dictated by the policy limits in play. Much of what attorneys in this field do (or should be doing) is geared towards trying to find the most amounts of applicable coverage to protect their clients. Even more modest injuries run the risk of not being adequately compensated due to the minimal amounts of coverage required under Maryland law.
the property damage – Virtually every insurance adjuster, some judges, and most juries will look at the photos of the vehicles involved in the accident in question and draw a direct correlation between that damage, or lack thereof, and the claimed injuries of the person bringing the claim. If the amount of injury or treatment claimed seems out of proportion, subjectively, to the injury/treatment, there is a significant likelihood that an adjuster/judge/jury will take that into account when rendering his/her/its offer/judgment/verdict. And this is oftentimes regardless of the strength of the medical reports detailing the presence of injury and medical necessity of the treatment. This is simply one of the many hurdles that an attorney in this field of law must know exists and prepare to pass.
the costs of medical care – I’ve heard that there was a time that people could expect to settle the “standard” personal injury case (if there is such a thing) for “three times specials.” Under this vestige of times long gone, if one had $5,000 in medical treatment, they could expect a gross settlement of $15,000. I can say with much confidence that this is no longer par for the course. While it is possible, depending on the facts of the case, to have a case settle for “three times specials,” there is certainly no hard-and-fast equation that I’ve been able to discern being applied by adjusters, judges or juries. More often than not, the other factors listed on this page are weighted heavily and seem to have a better predictive quality than simply “what are the total medical bills?”
the attorney – Having an attorney who understands these factors and how they apply to distinct and varied sets of facts, and who’s handled countless personal injury matters, trying hundreds to judgment and verdict, certainly can have a positive impact on your case. The adjusters and the attorneys they deploy to keep verdicts and judgments low know the plaintiffs’ attorneys who are prepared to try cases versus those who simply sign clients up to settle their cases. If I were a person looking for an attorney, I’d want an attorney who had ample extensive courtroom experience in that particular field and who was preparing for trial from Day One. It’s the only way to put yourself in the best position to resolve the case the way you want to- on your terms, not those of the insurance company or the person who put you in this situation to begin with.
Thanks for reading. If you have a case you’d like me to evaluate, whether you’re an injured person or an attorney with an injured client, please feel free to contact me at your convenience at 410-793-7040 or email@example.com. I’d be happy to discuss your case.