How Much Money Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Recover?
If you were injured in an accident that was caused by another person or entity, you might consider filing a personal injury claim. Some people who have been injured because of another's recklessness wonder whether they should retain a lawyer or pursue a claim on their own. However, working with a competent attorney can greatly increase your chances of recovering compensation. Lawyers also typically help people recover far more compensation than they might otherwise be able to recover on their own. Here is some information about what you might expect to recover when you are represented by an experienced injury lawyer.Compensation in Personal Injury Claims
Every personal injury case is unique. This means that an attorney can't provide a single quote that will apply to a personal injury case for its value. How much compensation you might expect to receive will depend on a variety of case-specific factors, including the nature and severity of your injuries, your likelihood of fully recovering, how long it might take you to recover, your wage losses, medical bills, and others. When you meet with your attorney, they will analyze the facts and evidence and will use them to calculate a value for your claim. Your attorney will provide you with a range of values within which you might expect a fair settlement to fall. This can provide you with a general idea of what your claim might be worth. Your lawyer will also explain the types of damages that might be recoverable in your case.What Types of Damages Might Be Available?
Damages in a personal injury claim generally fall into two main categories, including compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are monetary amounts that are designed to compensate victims for their economic and non-economic losses to make them financially whole following an accident. By contrast, punitive damages are monetary amounts that might be ordered above and beyond a victim's compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish defendants whose actions were particularly egregious, willful, wanton, or reckless. Because of this, punitive damages are rare and are only ordered in certain cases. Your attorney can explain the various damages that might be available to you and whether punitive damages might be awarded.Compensatory Damages
Compensatory damages can be further divided into economic or special damages and non-economic or general damages. Special damages are monetary awards that are meant to compensate victims for their out-of-pocket or pecuniary losses caused by their accidents and injuries. General damages are monetary awards for your non-economic losses, which are generally more difficult to value because of their intangible nature. Here is a brief look at both the economic and non-economic damages that you might recover in your case.Special Damages
Some of the types of special damages that might be awarded in a personal injury claim include the following:
- Medical expenses - In a personal injury case, you can recover compensation for your medical expenses. This includes both the medical costs you have already incurred as well as the anticipated future costs of treatment you might need. Your past and future medical expenses are determinative of the total compensation you might expect to recover in your claim. If your injuries were relatively minor, your medical expenses will likely be lower. If you suffered severe injuries that will require you to undergo an extended recovery period or that leave you with disabilities, your recoverable medical expenses will likely be much higher.
- Wage losses - If your injuries prevented you from returning to work during your recovery or permanently, you might also recover compensation for your wage losses. Your attorney will want you to bring in documentation showing your wage losses, including your paystubs, W-2s, income tax statements, and other documentation of your lost wages. If your injuries permanently prevent you from returning to work, your lawyer will use your past earnings record to calculate the value of your future lost wages. These are also potentially recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit.
- Property damage - Some personal injury cases involve property damage. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, you will likely have both a personal injury and a property damage claim. The value of your property damages is also a recoverable economic loss.
If you lost your loved one in an accident caused by someone else, you can file a wrongful death claim. The types of economic damages that you might recover in a wrongful death claim include the following:
- Medical expenses incurred to treat your loved one until their death
- Loss of the financial contributions your loved one would have made over their life if they had lived
- Lost rights to an inheritance
- Funeral and burial expenses
The general or non-economic damages that might be recoverable in your tort claim will also depend on the facts and circumstances. Some of the common types of general damages are detailed below.
- Physical pain and suffering - Physical pain and suffering damages are amounts meant to compensate you for the physical pain and suffering you experienced because of your accident and injuries.
- Psychological/emotional trauma - You might also be eligible to recover compensation for any psychological distress you suffered as a result of your accident. For example, if you suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or other emotional problems because of what happened, you might be eligible for damages for your emotional trauma.
- Reduction in your quality of life - Damages for the reduction in your quality of life might be available if your severe injuries left you unable to participate in activities you previously enjoyed. For example, if you previously enjoyed participating in sports that you can no longer enjoy because of being confined to a wheelchair, you might be entitled to these types of damages.
- Scarring or disfigurement - If your injuries left you with significant scars or disfigurement, you might be entitled to recover compensation for scarring and disfigurement.
There are other types of non-economic losses that might be recoverable. Your attorney can help you understand what might be available in your case.
In a wrongful death claim, you might be eligible to recover compensation for your loss of consortium as a surviving spouse of the victim or loss of guidance as a child of the victim.Factors Affecting the Value of Your Claim
The severity of your injuries has a significant impact on the value of your claim. If your injuries are serious, you will have more medical expenses and pain and suffering damages, which should lead to a higher recovery amount. Another factor that can affect how much money your attorney might be able to recover for you is the defendant's insurance policy.
For example, California requires all drivers to carry minimum liability insurance in the amounts of $15,000/$30,000/$5,000. If your accident caused serious injuries, these amounts might not be enough to cover your losses. While you can try to recover damages beyond the policy limits directly from the defendant, most people who only carry minimal liability auto insurance also do not have significant assets from which to recover compensation. Your attorney will look for additional sources of recovery to try to help you recover what you should receive.
If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your UM/UIM policy to recover compensation beyond the at-fault driver's policy limits. You can also file a UM/UIM claim if you were injured by an uninsured or hit-and-run motorist. Your lawyer will carefully review the evidence to identify other potentially liable parties to name in your lawsuit, which can help you maximize your recovery amount.
A final factor that can affect how much your lawyer might be able to recover is your comparative negligence. Under California law, each party is responsible for its own negligence. For example, if you were determined to be 25% at fault for an accident, you would also be 25% responsible for your losses. If a jury awarded you $100,000 but found you to be 25% at fault, your award would be reduced to $75,000. Sharing a percentage of fault will not prevent you from recovering damages. It will simply reduce how much you can recover. However, insurance companies commonly try to argue that accident victims are at fault for their accidents to try to reduce how much they might have to pay. An experienced lawyer can gather evidence to show the at-fault party's liability and demonstrate that you were not at fault.Contact the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC
If you were injured in an accident and believe that another party was at fault, you should speak to an experienced injury attorney at the law firm of the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 866-966-5240.