How Much Is My Dallas Personal Injury Case Worth?
Realistically speaking, it is impossible to accurately assess the value of your claim without knowing something about the underlying facts. Any lawyer who says otherwise is someone you should run away from.
With an understanding of the components of a typical personal injury claim, however, you might be able to come up with a ballpark estimate of your own. Following is a list of some of the factors that you might need to consider.
The Seriousness of Your Injuries
Obviously, a personal injury claim based on the amputation of a limb will be more valuable than a claim based on a sprained ankle. The seriousness of an injury drives up the value of your claim by increasing your medical bills, your out-of-pocket expenses, and the number of days you are unable to work.
In the event of a catastrophic injury, such as one suffered in a car accident, the diminishment of your earning capacity can drastically increase the value of your claim. Likewise, the need for future medical treatment can increase the value of your claim.
Diminished Earning Capacity
The term “diminished earning capacity” refers to the extent to which your injuries limit your ability to work in the medium to long term. If your injuries force you to work part-time for six months after the accident, for example, you will lose a lot of money unless you demand compensation based on diminished earning capacity.
In a worst-case scenario, your accident might force you into an early retirement. If this happens, the value of your claim for diminished earning capacity will depend largely on your age on the date of the accident.
Pain and Suffering
“Pain and suffering” is perhaps the most well-known of all of the components of non-economic damages. In many cases, pain and suffering damages add up to more than the value of the entire remaining value of a claim, including both economic damages and non-economic damages.
Was the accident that injured you partly your fault? If it was, then comparative negligence applies. Comparative negligence limits rather than enhances the value of a Texas personal injury claim. If you were 20% at fault, for example, then you will lose 20% of the value of your claim. Further, under state law, you cannot recover damages if you were 51% or more at fault.
Insurance Payout Limits
Insurance companies pay most personal injury claims. However, if you are relying solely on an insurance policy to compensate you, you’ll face a built-in limitation. No insurance company will pay you a dime more than the policy limits that appear in the text of the insurance contract.
- Texas law requires drivers to purchase at least “30/60/25” insurance. This amount covers liability up to $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident in bodily injury liability. It also covers $25,000 per accident in property damage liability.
- Homeowners’ insurance usually covers dog bite claims against the policyholder. Typical limits range from $100,000 to $300,000.
If you reach insurance policy limits, you can seek the remainder of your compensation against the at-fault party. The problem is that, much of the time, such parties cannot afford to pay.
Mistakes That Could Damage Your Claim
Beware of the following errors that could damage or even destroy your claim:
- Accepting a quick settlement. Even if you need money fast, do NOT accept the opposing party’s first offer. The first offer is inevitably a “lowball” offer that is utterly inadequate. If you’re having problems paying your medical bills, try to arrange a medical lien on your potential personal injury settlement.
- Talking about your case on social media. This is a potentially huge error that many people commit. It’s best to suspend your social media accounts while your claim is pending.
- Delaying medical treatment. This could allow the opposing party to question causation, one of the key elements you need to prove a personal injury claim.
- Participating in a recorded statement for the insurance company. Never, ever do this unless your lawyer says it’s okay. You don’t have to do it, and the insurance company will probably find a way to use it against you.
- Ignoring your doctor’s orders. Faithfully follow your doctor’s orders. If you don’t do so, your injuries might get worse. If they do, the opposing party can raise the defense of “failure to mitigate damages.” This is a partial defense that will reduce the value of your claim but not totally eliminate it.
- Missing the statute of limitations deadline to file a lawsuit (generally two years after the accident). If you miss this deadline, your claim’s value will drop to zero immediately. Even a lawyer won’t be able to help you.
- Failure to hire a lawyer for a substantial claim. This is the most important mistake of all; a good lawyer can advise you against all of the other mistakes you might commit.
Keep in mind that this list is very abbreviated. Your lawyer can advise you of any error not listed above that you might be about to make.
Like it or not, soft skills like negotiation can greatly impact the practical value of your claim. If you are filing an insurance claim, you will be negotiating against a professional negotiator.
Almost anyone with a substantial claim will benefit by asking their attorney to handle negotiations for them. Keep in mind that your attorney cannot accept a settlement without your permission.
Your lawyer will deduct legal fees from your compensation before your settlement ever gets to you. Typically, this amount is 30% to 40% of your total compensation. To avoid any misunderstandings, read your fee agreement carefully before you sign it.
Case expenses come in many forms. They might include expert witness fees, investigation expenses, and more. If your lawyer fronted these fees for you, they will deduct them from your compensation.
Courts award punitive damages, if at all, in addition to economic damages and (if applicable) non-economic damages. Defendants rarely agree to pay punitive damages. Moreover, courts are reluctant to award punitive damages even to victorious parties.
How Much Is a Dallas Personal Injury Lawyer Worth to Your Claim?
In many cases, a qualified Dallas personal injury lawyer can triple or even quadruple the practical value of a claim. If this happens, the lawyer will be worth far more to you than any amount you pay in legal fees and case expenses. You can schedule a free initial consultation to find out if a lawyer you select finds your claim attractive.