In my 20 years of practicing personal injury law, inevitably in my first meeting with a potential client the question will come up “What is my car accident case worth?” Some injured victims find it strange if their lawyer does not have an exact or close answer as to the value of the case.
However, it is fairly normal not to have an exact value of a case until the California car accident attorney can determine issues of fault and damages. Often times these issues take time to investigate and an injured victims total damages might not be ascertainable until they are done treating or get a final diagnosis from their medical provider.
California used to be a contributory negligence state. That meant that if a person was at any way at fault during an accident i.e. speeding, they would not be entitled to any compensation for their injuries under California Law. However, many years ago California became a comparative law state benefiting victims of accidents.
Under comparative law, an injured party who is at fault in some way will still be entitled to compensation but it will be reduced by the percentage of fault determined by the parties in trying to resolve a case or if necessary by a jury. For instance, if a person suffers catastrophic injuries as a result of car accident and the value of the case is $1,000,000.00, if the injured party is 50% at fault their claim will be worth $500,000.00. When injured in an accident where you believe you may be at fault, you still should consult with an experienced car accident attorney to determine if you are entitled to compensation under California comparative fault law.
Insurance companies have done a good job of convincing person injured in accidents that the value of their case is based on some multiplier of their medical bills. For example, I had a client who had approximately $10,000.00 in medical bills after suffering a broken arm in a car accident. Prior to our office getting involved, the insurance company offered them $15,000.00 claiming that most of the bills were paid for by insurance and that they were getting actually two times the medical bills which covered the bills and their pain and suffering.
Under California law, when a person is injured in an accident, whether the accident occurred in Los Angeles, West Covina, Burbank, Lancaster, Anaheim or any other City in California, they are entitled to specific damages. Such damages include past and future medical care, past and future lost wages and earning capacity, past and future pain and suffering and damages for any damage to a person’s property or vehicle.
Often times insurance companies will take advantage of person’s not represented by an experienced personal injury lawyer and argue that despite the severity of the injuries their medical bills were low or paid for by insurance so the actual value of their case is not as high. This is simply not the case.
A good car accident attorney will base the value of the case among other things on the severity of the injury and how long a person will have to endure things such as pain and discomfort as a result of the injury. For example, a person can have a back surgery that is covered by insurance. A jury will not be allowed to know that insurance covered the past medical bills under the “collateral source” rule but an injured party will only be able to claim damages for past medical bills for the actual amounts paid by insurance not what was billed as set forth in California Supreme Court case of Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc. (2011) 52 Cal.4th 541, 548).
However, an insurance company won’t tell you that you are entitled to monies for future care of an injured which often times may include physical therapy and a future surgery depending on a person’s age. More importantly, California law provides that a person is entitled to damages for any pain, discomfort, inconveniences and related damages for as long as that pain will last which often time can be over 20 years depending on the injury. If this is the case, then a person injury lawyer will value the case often times in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of the dollars.
As such, if a person’s is not at fault as a result of a car accident, the first thing an accident lawyer will look to in valuing your case is the severity of the injury and how that injury has caused pain and how long the pain and disability will last as a result of the accident.
A large amount of car accidents are what insurance carriers like to deem MIST cases. MIST stands for minor impact soft tissue cases. Often times people will value cases where a person suffers soft tissue neck and back injuries at a low amount. However, sometimes these impacts can cause significant nagging injuries that seem to never get completely resolved. If a person suffers a soft tissue injury that resolves with conservative treatment over a few months. Such cases may have less value but a person will still be entitled to their medical expense, past and future pain and suffering, lost wages and of course monies for their property damages. These cases can range in value but a seasoned car accident attorney can give you a good idea of the value after reviewing the case.
In some instances, what starts out to be a soft tissue injury ends up more serious if pain does not resolve and an MRI or other test reveals damage such as protruding discs in a person’s cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine. If such injuries require surgical relief including injections to relieve the pain, the value of the case will be significantly higher. One must know though that if the injury was caused by a minor impact the insurance company will argue than any significant injury could not be caused by the impact. To fight the insurance company’s bogus defenses an injured person should retain a California car accident lawyer who has the experience to review the case and hire any necessary experts to determine whether the impact could have caused the significant injuries endured by the accident victim.
If you or someone you know is injured in a vehicle accident, you should always contact a car accident attorney to determine your rights to compensation under California Law.
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