Personal Injury FAQ: What Is My Case Worth?
Many of you want to know how to get compensation if you’ve been injured through no fault of your own. This blog will lay out the most basic elements of any negligence lawsuit and look in a more detailed fashion at what everybody really wants to know: the bottom line value of his or her personal injury or workers compensation case.
Most personal injury cases are a result of someone’s negligence. Negligence basically relates to a person’s conduct. Definitions abound, but always come down to some expression of the following idea: a person has acted or failed to act in a way that was reasonable under the circumstances. We are talking about tort law, or tortious conduct. Tortious conduct can be either intentional (an assault or battery) or it can be unintentional, in which case the tortious conduct is referred to as ‘negligence’. Negligence can be the basis of many personal injury claims: examples include dog bites,premises liability, slip and fall cases, truck accidents, auto accidents, dangerous products, dangerous drugs,nursing home abuse, negligent supervision, catastrophic injury, dram shop cases and many others.
Tort law is a theory of law that arose in the common law. It is really a bastardized quasi contract. The law of tort holds, in its most basic sense, that each member of society has a duty to each and every other member of society to behave reasonably toward one another. In other words, we are quasi-contractually obligated to behave reasonably and when we fail to do so, the unreasonable conduct is a breach of the quasi contract that binds us all – ie: a breach of the duty we have to all other people.
The catch-all of tort law is that you can sue somebody that injures you if you can show that his conduct was unreasonable under the circumstances. This is why the world hates trial lawyers and tort lawyers: because in a sense we are cops going around making sure members of society behave reasonably because we all have a legal duty to do so and if we fail to do so, and somebody is injured as a result of that conduct, a lawyer is very likely to sue you.
So, stripped all the way down, the elements of a claim for negligence are as follows:
- The tortfeasor (defendant) had a duty (to act reasonably) with respect to the plaintiff (injured party);
- Tthe tortfeasor did not behave reasonably under the circumstances thereby breaching his duty with respect to the plaintiff; and
- As a result of the breach of the duty to behave reasonably, the plaintiff suffered injury.
Now that last part is the real trick – showing an injury. There are all sorts of injuries that can be recovered in tort law. But in order to be compensated, you must establish your damages. Damages determine what your case is worth. Ultimately, of course, your case is worth what a jury says your case is worth, and so in theory, your damages are unlimited. In practice, however, when valuing your case, a jury is going to take a hard look at the following categories.
Special damages attempt to compensate the claimant or person who suffered the personal injury for quantifiable monetary losses suffered by the plaintiff. Some examples of special damages available for personal injury compensation in successful cases include:
- repair or replacement of damaged property
- repair or replacement of damaged body parts
- lost past earnings
- lost future earnings
- loss of priceless objects
- increased domestic costs
- price of necessary future care for medical costs
- medical bills
- costs of going to and from doctors offices
- costs of prescription medications
- costs of medical equipment
Damages in tort are designed to put the injured party back to the position that party would have been in but for the accident or negligent conduct that resulted in an injury.
The second category of damages are really general damages. They are the category that conservatives and especially the chamber of commerce absolutely despise because they are totally subjective. When we are talking general damages, we are talking about the non-monetary aspects of the specific harm suffered by the personal injury claimant. Although the subject of general damages is a hotly contested area of law, and, in fact, a huge amount of litigation and argumentation is centered on this particular category of compensation available through the courts and frequently awarded by juries, the category often represents the real thrust of any personal injury claim for damages.
Consider the following: What is the worst part about getting into a car wreck and having your knee cap broken because some moron decided not to look both ways before crossing an intersection and slammed into you? I can tell you what the worst part is, going to the doctor, having him hand you a leg brace and saying: “Put this on, go home, and deal with the pain. There is no treatment for a broken knee cap.”
You have to sleep wearing some ridiculous full leg soft brace, use the bathroom wearing it, you cannot drive, you can’t really do house chores BECAUSE YOU CAN’T USE YOUR LEG. That might be an interesting challenge for about 4 hours, but when you realize you have to wear the stupid thing for 6 weeks and can’t do anything except sit up in your house while your knee cap heals, it starts to really affect you psychologically.
That type of damage is what we are talking about when we talk about Pain and Suffering. Pain and Suffering is not just physical pain. The boredom and frustration sets in when you don’t control your life. It plays on your psyche. Your frustration grows. It turns into rage. Your emotional stability becomes affected because your interaction with other human beings drops to a fraction of normal. You have to call friends and family in order to get a ride to the grocery store. You start to feel like a burden on others, worse, you start to feel like a nuisance. You start to feel helpless and worthless. And you simply CANT do anything to change the fact that you can’t get around on your own. All because some driver decided it would be a great idea to speed across three lanes of traffic without bothering to make sure it was clear. Your house becomes filthy because you can’t move around in order to clean very effectively. In short, your entire life is turned upside down.
And we haven’t even gotten to the physical pain: pain severe enough for the doctors to prescribe narcotics. Class II controlled substances that would get you thrown in jail if caught using them without a prescription. Narcotics that make the user choose often between dealing with intense pain or taking a pill that makes them feel like they need to throw up, or puts them right to sleep during the middle of the day.
Then there is the pain when you make a sudden move and a bolt of lighting shoots into your knee cap just because you shifted your weight on the couch – or the worst kind, the kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night because you rolled over in a way that caused your knee to catch fire that burns so bad you literally wake up.
And this goes on for literally 6 weeks.
That is the kind of pain and suffering one client went through, and is going through. And the insurance adjuster offered my client 3000 dollars. 3000 dollars for all of that. They paid her 4700 dollars for her 1997 Geo Prism. In their view, the Geo Prism is worth more than my client’s broken knee cap, all the trips to the doctor that she had to bumb from friends and family. All the boredom, frustration, loss of enjoyment of life, psychological and emotional strain and physical pain associated with being an essential shut-in for six straight weeks.
Nobody should have to go that long without being free to take a stroll in the sunlight at the beach or the park. And for all that, 3000 dollars. OUTRAGEOUS.
Don’t let them sell you short. Don’t let them grind you down. If you’ve had a broken bone, laceration, stitches, treatment, an injured back or an injured neck, whiplash, concussion, brain damage, a fracture, or any type of injury at all and you think it might have been someone else’s fault, or you think that party might have been negligent in some way – you might have a case. A consultation is free. Estimating a value of your case is what we do at Traywick & Traywick. The personal injury attorney will always talk to you in detail free of charge and there is never a fee unless we win your case. Contact us today for a free consultation and let’s work together to get you the compensation you deserve.