When embarking on a personal injury case, there is much doubt and uncertainty. First, there are fears about your chance of winning. Even when you are confident in the validity of your claim, there are still questions about how much you could gain from pursuing the case. It is even worth your time and energy?
Personal injury cases are not about getting rich, despite what you hear in the media. They are about paying you back for your injury. That’s why compensation is often called “damages.” You were damaged by someone else’s negligence, and you deserve recompense. When you think of your case that way, you can begin estimating what you can gain in a lawsuit.
There are no direct, foolproof ways to determine the outcome of a personal injury case. Since a personal injury case is about paying you back, you can start by calculating how much you’ve lost.From there,you can deduct expenses associated with the case, giving you a general idea of how much you stand to win.
Financial Compensation for Your Expenses
A personal injury case is not going to give you vast sums of money with no strings attached. By its very nature, a lawsuit implies that you’ve already lost money, and you need restitution.
Therefore, think about what your car accident injury has already cost you. You can then add those amounts together, giving you an idea of what the courts could award you.
Reimbursement for Medical Bills
Any treatment you receive as a direct result of your car wreck can be compensated. This includes initial visits, ongoing treatment, surgeries, prescriptions, and so on.
Treatment gets quite expensive, especially if you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury. In the U.S., the cost to treat a spinal injury can exceed one million dollars in the first year alone. For each subsequent year, that amount decreases, but it can stay within the tens or even hundreds of thousands each year for the rest of your life.
The cost of future treatment can be included in your claim. If you suffer a lifelong injury, you need the ability to continue paying for your treatment.
Go through your medical bills and total how much you’ve already spent on your injury. Then consider how much money you stand to spend for continued treatment. This is the first total to add to your final calculation.
Reimbursement for Property Damage
When you’ve been in a car accident, your property was likely damaged. Your car is the first asset to suffer. Repairs can be costly, and they can be continuous. In that way, they are like medical bills. Sometimes your mechanic misdiagnoses the problem, missing deep, internal damage. After already spending a good deal of money on repairs, you may find that you must bring the car back to the shop for a third or fourth time.
If the car is totaled, the insurance company won’t repair it at all. They will simply pay for its value, buying it from you. If you are still under a lease, you could potentially owe money on a car that is undrivable and no longer yours. From there, you have the added expense of buying a new car. You can fold these expenses into a lawsuit.
Property damage does not stop at your car. Perhaps your laptop flew across the car, shattering against the dashboard. Maybe your dog was hurt, and you’ve had steep veterinary bills. (Technically, pets are considered property.) Anything that was damaged, destroyed, or replaced from the wreck can be added to your claim.
Add up the amount of money you’ve spent on repairs, including what you still need to spend. This is your second total.
Reimbursement for Lost Income
Recovering from an injury typically means losing time from work. You could use vacation time for a while, but those days can dry up quickly. Eventually, you could be forced to take unpaid days off. Depending on your position, you may have to quit altogether. This is considered money you lost, and it can be part of your lawsuit.
The loss of future or potential income counts as well. Maybe you lost that big promotion due to your recovery. Perhaps you were a professional dancer, and your injury ended your career. If you lost your ability to stay employed or earn more money, those sums can be included in your claim.
Consider how much income you’ve lost because of your injuries, including potential future income. Add it together, and it becomes your third total.
Other Forms of Compensation
In a lawsuit, you also could be entitled to other forms of compensation such as “pain and suffering” damages. Essentially, your legal team can claim that you endured unnecessary suffering from your accident, and you deserve extra money as a result. Calculating this amount is complicated, and it requires the help of an attorney. Even when requested, it goes through a negotiation process before approval.
In very rare cases, you could also be given “punitive damages.” These are designed strictly to punish the defendant. In Arizona, this means that the person harmed you intentionally, with an "evil hand and evil mind." For example, the other driver targeted you, specifically attempting to harm you.
Since you cannot come up with these figures on your own, you can leave them out of your totals. However, if you feel you are eligible for them, speak with your attorney.
Arizona personal injury law operates within a comparative negligence model. Put simply, more than one person can be responsible for the accident. Perhaps you were hit by an out-of-control speeder, but you also ran a stop sign.
After reviewing the fact of the case, the court gives each side a percentage of blame. The speeder, for example, is 80% responsible, making you 20% liable for running the stop sign. Because of comparative negligence, the plaintiff can receive only an amount equal to the defendant’s percentage of liability.
It sounds complicated, but this is how it works. Let’s say you are suing for $100,000. Because the defendant is only 80% responsible for your injury, they will pay only 80% of the total damages. Therefore, you could walk away from this lawsuit with $80,000. We will factor comparative negligence into your calculations later.
Many personal injury attorneys advertise the fact that they won’t receive any money unless they win your case. This is great for consumers, and it motivates lawyers to work hard. However, it also means that your attorney is working for free throughout the case. If you win, you will need to pay them back.
Every attorney is different, and each is free to determine the price of their services. Typically, however, attorneys ask for half the overall reward if you win.
Add It Up
If you’ve been following along, you should have some numbers in front of you. To get a general idea of what you might gain in a lawsuit, start with this formula:
Medical Expenses + Property Expenses + Lost Wages = Total Reimbursement
Now, think about your responsibility in the car accident. Were you 20% at fault? Maybe it was closer to 35%. Give yourself a Percent of Liability, and move on to this formula:
Total Reimbursement x Percent of Liability (This number will be a decimal. Twenty-five percent, for example, should be .25) = Comparative Negligence Amount
Now, make this subtraction:
Total Reimbursement – Comparative Negligence Amount = Total Damages
Finally, factor in your legal fees:
Total Damages ÷ 2 = Amount of Money You Keep
The “Amount of Money You Keep” will give you a good starting place to consider. Of course, this is only a very, very rough estimate, and it should not be taken as an absolute. The purpose of this formula is to give you an estimate, helping you decide whether pursuing a lawsuit is right for you.
If you’ve been hurt in an auto accident, we can help. Show us your calculations, and we can let you know if you’re on the right track. We may also be able to advise you on adding pain and suffering or punitive damages to your figures. For a free consultation, call (602) 483-6114, or contact us online.