After an accident, you may be left with many questions and worries. With medical expenses and lost wages mounting, one of your first questions may be, how much is my personal injury case worth?
There is no simple way to answer this question, as every personal injury case is different.
Many factors can indirectly influence the value of your case, however, such as the severity of your injuries and how clear liability is in your case.
The best way to determine the value of your personal injury case is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. After investigating your accident and reviewing your medical records, your lawyer will be able to estimate your claim’s value.
Types of Damages You Can Recover in a Personal Injury Case
A personal injury claim can allow you to recover a broad range of damages that are designed to make you as whole as possible. Of course, this usually isn’t possible. Financial compensation can’t erase the physical and psychological pain you have endured and it can’t restore your quality of life.
There are two broad types of damages available in a personal injury case: economic and non-economic damages. You may also be entitled to punitive damages in rare cases that go to trial.
What Are Economic Damages?
Economic damages are the most common type of damages you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit.
These damages have a clear financial value, even if it is difficult to calculate in some cases. Your economic damages may include:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses for treatment you have already received
- Future medical bills that are anticipated to treat or manage your ongoing symptoms
- Lost income for time you took off work to recover
- Reduced earning capacity if you are left disabled
Economic damages may or may not account for the largest share of your case’s value. There is no cap on the amount of economic damages you are entitled to recover.
What Are Non-Economic Damages?
Non-economic damages are those that can’t be measured with a financial value. While these damages have no intrinsic financial value, money is the only practical way to compensate for a loss.
Non-economic damages can refer to any harm you have suffered as a result of your accident without a clear financial cost.
This can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life when you are unable to enjoy activities, hobbies, or exercise as you did before your accident
- Emotional distress such as anxiety or fear you suffered
- Loss of consortium if your injuries impact your marital relationship
The value of your non-economic damages will be based on your life before the accident, how your life has changed, whether you can work, whether your injuries were disfiguring, and whether you are left with limitations or pain.
These damages are highly subjective and left up to a jury.
To determine your non-economic damages, your total economic damages may be multiplied by 1 to 5 based on the severity of your injuries and the impact on your life.
Oklahoma once capped non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit at $350,000. This law was struck down as unconstitutional in 2019. New legislation was introduced in 2020 that would put the damage cap in the Oklahoma Constitution to bypass this ruling, although it has not been passed.
What Are Punitive Damages?
While uncommon, some personal injury cases that go to trial qualify for punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish the negligent person for behavior that is criminal or particularly careless or displays a reckless disregard for others. A common example is drunk driving.
What Factors Affect How Much Your Personal Injury Case Is Worth?
After understanding the types of damages you can qualify for, the next step is understanding the factors that influence how much your case will be worth. These factors mostly affect the value of your non-economic damages, but some factors also influence how much you can recover for your economic damages.
How Severe Were Your Injuries?
Your medical expenses are one of the primary types of damages you are entitled to recover. However, outside of the cost of your medical bills, the severity of your injuries also affects the value of your claim by impacting your non-economic damages.
Severe injuries can result in long-term medical expenses as well as disfigurement, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. When your injuries are very painful, disfiguring, or disabling, they increase the value of your claim compared to less serious injuries.
For example, a personal injury case that results in a spinal cord injury or brain injury will be worth more than a case that involves a fracture due to long-term care and a large impact on your daily life and ability to work.
How Clear is Liability?
The easier it is to prove liability in your claim, the more your claim may be worth. One of the key elements you must prove to recover compensation is liability, or showing the other party was at fault.
When the other party is 100% at fault for the accident, they will be held responsible for 100% of the damages you incurred. However, if you are found partially at fault, you will be responsible for a share of your damages equal to your share of fault.
Oklahoma uses a modified comparative negligence rule with a 51% bar to recovery. Under this rule, you can only recover damages if you are not more than 50% at fault. For every share of fault that is assigned to you, the value of your claim will be reduced.
It isn’t just the accident that will be considered. If you do not seek immediate medical attention, do not follow your doctor’s orders, or were not wearing a seatbelt, you may be found partially liable for your injuries.
What Insurance Coverage Is Available?
One very important factor will limit what you can recover, no matter what the jury’s damages award: the at-fault party’s insurance coverage. Your personal injury lawyers will check the policy limits and explain how this affects your claim.
In a case that involves a commercial insurance policy, you are more likely to have enough coverage to pay for the damages you sustained thanks to higher policy limits. In a car accident case, the at-fault party may only have the minimum coverage required by Oklahoma law, which is rarely enough for even a fairly minor accident.
Consulting with personal injury lawyers is the best way to determine the value of your personal injury claim. Because so many factors can affect your case’s value, it’s important to consult with an expert to understand what you should expect.