Accidents can be incredibly expensive and stressful affairs, and many Virginia residents end up wondering just how much their personal injury case is worth.
However, calculating the value of a personal injury claim can be tricky.
For this reason, there’s no set calculator where you can plug your case details in and get an accurate number for how much your case is worth.
Instead, personal injury cases are valued based on a number of interconnecting factors that combine into an estimated worth that you and the insurance company must agree to.
In this article, we’ll cover the absolute basics of calculating the value of your personal injury claim in Virginia.
However, please remember that only an attorney who has reviewed your entire case can give you an accurate estimate for your case’s true value.
- What Determines the Value of My Personal Injury Claim?
- How Do I Calculate the Value of My Claim?
- 3 Quick Tips that May Help Your Case
What Determines the Value of My Personal Injury Claim?
As we mentioned above, the value of your claim will depend on a number of interconnecting factors such as the amount of property damage, medical bills, and even the specific county or region you choose to file your claim in.
After all, no two injuries are exactly the same, and figuring out exactly how much a case is worth is incredibly difficult.
For this reason, insurance companies (and attorneys) generally tend to estimate the value of a case based on three separate sequential factors:
- Liability — Specifically, whether or not you were in any way at fault for the accident.
- Amount of Damages — The type and severity of your damages, both personal and to your property.
- Insurance Coverage — How much money you’re entitled to from your insurance company or another comparable source.
Each of these factors plays an essential part in determining the value of your personal injury claim, as they determine the baseline from which your award is calculated.
1. Liability: Contributory Negligence
Virginia is a contributory negligence state, meaning that any negligence on your part that contributed to the accident could result in an insurance company denying your claim entirely.
For this reason, any evidence of liability on your part could sink your case altogether.
If you think that you may have been at fault in any way, you must consult with an attorney to protect your interests in your case.
2. Type and Severity of Damages
The nature and extent of the damages to your person or property will also affect the total calculation for your personal injury claim.
After all, the whole point of such a claim is to make you “whole” by paying for any medical or repair bills you may have as a result of the accident.
In general, the worse your injuries are, the higher your claim should be.
For the most part, damages can be broken down into three distinct categories:
- Material, such as repair bills for your car.
- Physical, such as broken bones or other medical expenses.
- Hardship, also known as “pain and suffering.”
Calculating the value of the first two categories is rather simple.
After all, a bill from the hospital for $50,000 is very clear evidence that you have damages of at least that amount.
However, the third category (“hardship”) is a bit more difficult to estimate, as it’s extremely subjective and dependent on how likely a jury is to award you additional damages on top of your medical or repair bills.
If you believe that you are entitled to additional compensation as a result of pain and suffering, you should speak with an attorney who’s experienced in personal injury litigation.
3. Presence and Amount of Insurance
Finally, all personal injury cases hinge on the insurance company (or another source) paying for your damages.
For this reason, the actual value of your case will depend on the presence of insurance (i.e. whether both you and the other party are insured) as well as the amount of insurance you can make a claim to.
For example, if you estimate that your case is worth $150,000, but the other party is only insured for $50,000, you’ll likely have a hard time recovering the additional $100,000 not covered by their insurance.
While there are certainly ways to ensure you receive the money you deserve, it’s still wise to double check how much insurance money is on the table before you file your claim.
A Quick Example of Valuation in Practice
As a quick example of the explanation from above, let’s assume you were in a traffic accident with another individual and want to file a claim with their insurance to recoup your damages.
To begin, you should look at whether or not an argument could be made about you being at fault for the accident.
Were you speeding or texting at the time of the collision? Did your dog jump into your lap, causing you to veer into another lane? Did you hit someone from behind, even though the accident was their fault?
Once you’ve established that the chance of the insurance company claiming contributory negligence is slim, you can start adding up the relative value of all your damages.
- Car Repairs — $3,500
- Medical Bills — $60,000
- Lost Wages — $1,500
- Total — $65,000
Keeping this number in mind, you should file a claim with the other party’s insurance.
The insurance company, however, returns to you with a settlement offer of only $50,000.
In this situation, your calculated damages may be $65,000, but the actual value of your case would likely only be $50,000, as that’s how much money is on the table.
In this situation, the only way to increase the value of your claim would be to hire an attorney or otherwise negotiate a higher settlement with the insurance company.
Or, put another way, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.
How Do I Calculate the Value of My Claim?
Speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer is really the only way to accurately figure out the value of your case.
However, there are a few shorthand ways of estimating how much you’re entitled to for your accident.
The most basic one that you’ll see employed in online personal injury calculators is to take a multiplier (usually a number between 1.5 and 5) and apply it to your medical expenses to estimate the total non-economic damages (pain and suffering) you should include in your claim.
Your multiplier will depend on the severity of your injuries, as well as the likelihood these injuries will affect you for the rest of your life:
- Multiplier of 1.5 to 2.5 — An accident that results in painful short-term injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, minor broken or fractured bones, minor concussions, etc. Most minor personal injury cases fall into this category.
- Multiplier of 2.5 to 3.5 — An accident that results in a more serious injury, usually one that requires surgery or ongoing medical treatment (of less than six months).
- Multiplier of 3.5 to 5 — Dramatic, painful, long-term injuries that result in permanent issues such as pain, weakness, immobility, or scarring.
For example, if you have $10,000 in medical expenses from a fractured wrist (that will not result in lasting damage), you could multiply this number by two to get a pain and suffering amount of $20,000.
After adding this number to your economic losses (such as medical bills, repair costs, and lost wages) you’d have a general idea of how much your claim is worth (in this case, $30,000).
You can then negotiate down from this number with the insurance company to reach your final acceptable settlement.
Types of Damages You Can Claim
The best way of calculating the value of your claim is to break everything down into the different types of damages so you can assign a specific value to each portion of your claim.
These damages can include, but are not limited to:
- Medical Expenses — These can include past and predicted future medical expenses, prescription costs, care costs, rehabilitation services, and other similar costs.
- Property Damage and Repair Costs — This can include costs associated with damage to your personal property, such as repair bills for your car or costs associated with a broken laptop or other personal property.
- Lost Income and Wages — This category can include lost wages for the time while you were injured, as well as any predicted wages you’ll lose in the future (such as if you have to go to a doctor’s appointment or if you have a permanent injury that affects your ability to find a job).
- Pain and Suffering — As based on the multiplier discussion we had above.
- Other Factors — You may also be able to include some other costs, such as childcare, in your claim, provided these costs are significant and easy to prove.
Make a Spreadsheet!
Lawyers love spreadsheets.
Not only are they a great way to keep track of your ongoing expenses, but they’re also helpful in estimating how much you should expect from your personal injury award.
One of the best way of calculating how much your personal injury case is worth is to simply list everything in a spreadsheet, apply the appropriate pain and suffering multiplier, and then check the result.
However, please remember that no two cases are exactly the same, and no online calculator or spreadsheet can give you a totally accurate number for how much your case is worth.
Insurance companies factor in hundreds if not thousands of data points in their calculations, using professional software designed to help them pay out the smallest amount possible in your case.
While a spreadsheet is a good way of estimating the value of your case, you must speak with an attorney if you want a true valuation of what you should expect from your personal injury award.
3 Quick Tips that May Help Your Case
Different factors can increase or decrease the value of your claim in a significant way.
For example, simply hiring an attorney will often increase the value of your claim just because insurance companies know that lawyers know enough about the personal injury process to catch any tricks they use to devalue your claim.
In a similar fashion, certain actions could decrease the value of your claim, or invalidate your claim entirely, depending on the specifics of your situation.
Never Accept Blame Until You’re Ready to Resolve Your Case
One common mistake personal injury claimants make is to accept blame for the accident without first consulting with their lawyer.
For example, a video of you saying “sorry I was on my phone and didn’t see you” will almost certainly have a negative effect on any potential personal injury claim.
Remember, Virginia is a contributory negligence state, so any fault on your part could sink your claim altogether.
Never Publicize Your Recovery
Another common mistake people make is to publicize their recovery or current health on social media in ways that may harm their claim.
For example, if you’re claiming prolonged back pain but your Twitter has a video of you waterskiing last weekend, the insurance company may use this evidence to deny your claim.
While this is a rather egregious example, even something as simple as you standing up at a birthday party could be used as evidence against you in the insurance company’s settlement, so it’s smart to just avoid social media altogether if at all possible.
Never Talk to the Other Party
Finally, remember that anything you say to the other party can and will be used against you in your personal injury case.
For example, in some cases the other party’s insurance company may call you to ask you questions about your case.
In most cases, it’s highly advised that you do not answer these questions without an attorney present.
Anything you say on these recordings could (and probably will) be used against you to decrease the overall value of your case.
Only communicate with the other party and their insurance company through your own attorney or legal service.
The single-most helpful thing you can do for your personal injury claims case is to hire an attorney.
Make sure that they are an experienced personal injury lawyer, and that they are sympathetic to your case – but also honest with you about your situation.
Additionally, you should keep track of all paperwork, images, and other pieces of evidence in any way related to your case.
It may seem like a lot, but your lawyer will help you sort them out and calculate your claim’s value.
Finally, keep your life and the case private.
Don’t proclaim your healing process and don’t speak to the other side.
Each of these steps will not only help with calculating the value of your case, but they will also keep that value high and protect your interests.