How can you determine if your injury is worth $1 million or more? First, there is a difference between how much your injury is worth and how much your accident case is worth.
The Difference between the Value of an Injury and the Value of an Accident Case
You may have a $1 million injury but your accident case may only be worth $100,000 if the insurance policy has a limit of $100,000 and the defendant doesn’t have enough money or assets to go after.
In the last few years, we have seen many more defendants with large insurance policies of $1 million or more than we used to. This is probably due to political cries for tort reform resulting in insurance salespeople talking people into larger insurance policies.
Other factors will also make your accident case worth less than the value of your injury. For instance, you could have a $1 million injury but if you caused the accident, you may not be able to get any money. The state where your accident occurred also has a lot to do with that. In New York, if you can prove that the other person was 10% at fault for causing your injury, you would be entitled to receive $100,000.
Many accident cases get settled for $1 million or more but how much your case is worth depends on dozens of factors.
Some Important Factors Determining How Much Your Accident Case Is Worth
- The type and severity of your injury or injuries.
- The amount of treatment you had by the time your case is settled or goes to trial and the amount of treatment you will need in the future.
- Your age. The younger you are, the longer your life expectancy and amount of compensation over your lifetime.
- The cost of your past and future medical treatment.
- Whether your injury is permanent or temporary.
- The percentage of fault of the other person or company.
- The amount of insurance and assets available.
- The county where your case will go to trial. Juries in one county may award more money than juries in another county.
- Whether the defendant is a sympathetic defendant.
- Whether you will make a good appearance and testify well.
- Whether you have lost wages and how your injury will affect your future ability to earn a living.
What to Look for in a Lawyer Who Can Get You $1 Million for Your Injury
Of course, your lawyer also makes a difference. As a general rule, you should look for several aspects concerning a lawyer you want to hire for your accident.
- Look for a lawyer who only does personal injury cases.
- Look for lawyers who have settled cases for $1 million or more.
- Hire a lawyer who really wants your case.
- Look for a lawyer who you feel you can get along with.
- Look for a lawyer who is willing to take the time to speak with you for a few minutes when you need to.
- Hire a lawyer that will not charge you a legal fee unless they get money for you.
- Hire a lawyer that will advance all case expenses for you.
Injuries Which Can Be Worth $1 Million or More
- Brain Injury
- Broken Bones
- Spine Injuries
All of these injuries can be worth $1 million or more but can easily be worth a lot less depending upon the severity of the injury and the number of injuries.
A second-degree burn on your arm is definitely not worth anywhere near $1 million. However, a third-degree burn on your face can easily be worth $1 million or more.
Some Examples of Injury Values
Following are some settlements and jury verdicts my partner and I received:
$1.25 million settlement for a concussion
$1 million jury verdict after trial for a small brain bleed
$750,000 settlement for lower back surgery where the client had a pre-existing lower back injury
$567,000 jury verdict for a TMJ injury with surgery
$465,000 jury verdict for a torn meniscus with arthroscopic surgery
$300,000 settlement for an Achilles tendon tear with surgery
$150,000 settlement for a scar on a forearm
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You’ll usually see personal injury lawyers post million-dollar verdicts, awards and settlements on their website. Many lawyers display badges on their websites like the Million Dollar Trial Lawyers Award™ or the Multi Million Dollar Trial Lawyers™ Award. But what does the Million-Dollar Trial Lawyers logo badge mean and what’s the difference between a verdict, award or settlement?
What is a Verdict?
A verdict is the decision of a jury in a trial or a judge in a bench trial. A verdict in a civil case is the amount of money awarded to the plaintiff either by a jury at trial or by a judge at a bench trial. A trial is only held after a lawsuit has been started.
If the plaintiff and defendant go to trial but elect not to have a trial by jury, the trial will be held by a judge. This is called a bench trial. The most common type of case decided by a bench trial are commercial lawsuits, while almost all personal injury trials are jury trials.
After a jury trial, the defense will often file an appeal or threaten to file an appeal in an effort to negotiate a settlement for less than the verdict amount. In my law practice, we do not negotiate settlements after a trial and will let it go to appeal. On appeal, the verdict will not be issued by another jury but will be reviewed, usually, by three judges.
Appellate courts are known for reducing jury verdicts. Consequently, the plaintiff may not get the verdict amount but may get a smaller amount. If the case goes through the appeal process, it usually ends there.
What is an Award?
An award is the amount of money issued to the injured plaintiff by an arbitrator after an arbitration.
An arbitration is like a bench trial but is a more informal, shorter (usually 1-2 hours) and less expensive proceeding. Arbitrations are sometimes held a year or two before the case would ever get to trial. Arbitrations are conducted by an arbitrator who is either a lawyer, retired judge, or court referee.
Arbitrations may be conducted by the court or a private arbitration company. Arbitrations conducted by the court are usually not binding while arbitrations conducted by private companies are usually binding.
Arbitrations may be either binding or nonbinding. The amount of money issued at a binding arbitration is final and usually not appealable. Thus, there is no settlement of a binding arbitration decision.
The amount of money awarded at a non-binding arbitration is merely a recommendation. This is similar to a mediation. The purpose of non-binding arbitration or mediation is to hopefully lead to a settlement of the case by focusing the demands of the parties closer to a particular amount.
What is a Settlement?
A settlement is a negotiated agreement between the parties to settle the case. A settlement is final.
What Is Included in a Trial Verdict or Arbitration Award?
The amount of money included in a trial verdict or arbitration award to compensate the plaintiff in a personal injury case includes the following:
- Past pain and suffering
- Future pain and suffering
- Past lost wages
- Future lost wages
- Past medical bills
- Future medical bills
Why Is Money Given to an Injured Plaintiff for Pain and Suffering
The only way an injured plaintiff can be compensated for pain-and-suffering is with money. While pain can be treated, it cannot be removed and the plaintiff cannot medically be made whole again. The only way to compensate someone for an injury is with money.
Money is also given to the injured plaintiff to compensate for the actual cost of medical bills and lost wages.
What Does the Million Dollar Trial Lawyer Logo Badge Mean?
The Million-Dollar Trial Lawyer logo badge displayed on a personal injury attorney’s website means that the lawyer was the lawyer or one of the lawyers involved in the verdict, arbitration award or settlement of a case where the amount to the plaintiff is $1 million or more. Generally, this is an indication that the attorney is experienced and a skilled negotiator.
Philip L. Franckel, Esq.
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To determine the value of an injury in an accident case, there are three main questions which have to be answered first
- What is the defendant’s liability?
- How much insurance is available?
- How serious is the injury?
What is the defendant’s liability?
This refers to negligence. Ask yourself the question, “Was the negligence of a person or company responsible for causing your injury?”
For instance, if your car was hit in the rear by another car, the driver of the car which struck yours was likely 100% negligent and therefore 100% liable for your injury.
In another example, assume that while visiting someone’s home, you walk up the walkway to the front door and simply lose your balance; fall; and break your hip. If there was nothing wrong with the walkway, the homeowner would not be negligent in causing your injury and would not be liable to compensate you for your injury.
However, if you tripped on a cement walkway that was broken so that one slab was higher than another, the homeowner may be liable for their negligence in failing to repair the walkway. If the homeowner left a garden hose across the front steps leading to the front door, that would also be a negligent act that would cause the homeowner to be liable to compensate you for your injury.
How much insurance is available?
Usually, personal injury lawyers don’t take cases unless there is insurance available to compensate you for your injury. This is because people and companies who do not have insurance usually do not have assets to go after.
If there is no insurance, there may be no opportunity to get money to compensate you for your injuries. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee which means they only get paid if they get money for you.
It is possible to go after a person’s or company’s personal assets where the amount of insurance available is not sufficient to compensate you for your injuries. However, usually people and companies protect themselves with enough insurance and it may be very difficult to obtain money from their assets.
Consequently, as a general rule you could conclude that the value of your case is limited by the amount of available insurance coverage. This is only a general rule and must be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
How serious is your injury?
A value range can be determined for a particular injury or a group of injuries. If your injury is permanent, it’s worth more than an injury which will go away. Some injuries may be permanent and will not get worse such as a scar but most permanent injuries will get worse over time because of arthritis and/or cause additional injuries to other parts of the body.
Lawyers can search one of the legal research websites such as LexisNexis or Westlaw to easily find verdicts for similar injuries.
One way for someone who is not an attorney to look up the value of an injury is to do a search on Google for your injury and the word settlement or verdict. For instance, search for “fractured femur settlement” or “fractured femur verdict”.
Once a value range is determined for your injury, it may need to be modified based upon the defendant’s liability (negligence) and many, many other factors such as your age and even the county of the court where your case is.
If you believe that the defendant was only 75% at fault and that your injury is worth $1 million at full value, then your case is worth $750,000 after reducing 25% because the defendant was only 75% negligent.
A fractured femur may be worth $500,000-$1 million in one county and $350,000-$700,000 in another. This is because juries are known to award more money in some counties and less in others. Typically, jurors award less money in wealthier counties.
See more information and research about personal injury at HURT911.org
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How Much Do You Really Want?
I focus my thoughts on how much I would want if I had to suffer with my client’s injury and I never lose sight of that.
Settling Cases Should Be a Game
Make settling a case a game. School was always a game to me. All throughout high school, college and law school I tried to see how well I could do without studying. If you lose sight of the game and focus on the money, you’ll blink and you just lost.
When I started my law practice, settling cases became a game. I would call a couple of friends and ask them how much they thought my case was worth. My goal was to settle the case for double that number. I always demanded either the entire policy or 3-4 times more than my friend said the case was worth. On the rare occasion that I couldn’t get what I wanted, I took the case to trial.
Don’t focus on the problems you have with your case. My cases don’t have problems, they only have solutions. I focus on the problems that the insurance company has and I let them know what they are.
Insurance companies really don’t want to try cases. It not only costs them a lot of money to manage the case from start to finish and to hire experts for trial but they have a lot more to lose. Not only could they lose their entire policy in addition to the cost of managing the case but they are terrified of an excess verdict against their insured. To me, an excess verdict is like free advertising.
Why Is Your Case Worth so Much Money?
Insurance companies really want to pay you. You just have to show the value and most importantly why it’s worth what you want. Lawyers often forget the word WHY.
I just watched two shows about trials, 48 Hours and Dateline. On both of these shows the defense lawyer strongly believed in their client’s innocence while it appeared to me that they were obviously guilty. What I found striking was that in the clips of closing arguments for both trials and the interviews of both defense lawyers, they continually blamed the police and prosecutors and said they couldn’t be trusted but never said why.
Close to the Claims Representative
When closing to the jury, don’t be afraid to ask for a lot of money. It’s not a lot of money, it’s just a lot more than you think it’s worth based on what you think you know. You just can’t ask for a lot of money without explaining why. The easiest way to figure out how to explain the amount you’re asking for is to start thinking about how much you would want if you are injured with that injury.
When trying to settle your case with the insurance company claims representative, just pretend you’re closing to the jury.
Substituting a Previous Lawyer Who Demanded Too Little
I don’t care if a previous lawyer demanded too little from the insurance company or what he/she told the insurance company about the case. It has no relevance to anything except that the previous lawyer didn’t know what they were doing.
My first case was one where my client’s previous lawyer demanded $75,000 although the insurance policy was $300,000. All my friends thought I was crazy to take the case and said that I’ll never get more than $75,000. I took the case and the insurance company tried to settle for $75,000.
I told the claims representative that they missed their opportunity and I was now demanding the entire policy. I said just because some other idiot thought the case was worth $75,000 doesn’t mean that I have to be an idiot. That’s why the client came to me. I asked the insurance company why they were so stupid as to not to take the offer. The claims representative was silent for a long time. After several seconds, he said, “I’ll be honest, we screwed up”. I settled the case several months later for $300,000 and found two more policies of $10,000 each that the first lawyer didn’t know about.
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