How much is my case worth?
This is a difficult question to answer at the beginning of your case, but the value of your claim will become clearer once we have completed our investigation and gathered all your medical records and bills and lost wages information. Generally, the value of your personal injury case depends on the severity of your injuries, the facts of your case, the total amount of your medical bills and lost wages, the amount of insurance coverage available, and the strength of our claim that the other driver was at fault.
The value of your case comes down to what “damages” you have suffered as a result of the wreck. Damages include:
- Past medical bills
- Future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanency of your injuries
- Pain and suffering
- Compensation for scarring, disfigurement, loss of limb
- Mental anguish and mental health impact
- Personal property damage in car (such as replacement of glasses or injuries to a pet)
- Cost of prescriptions and medical devices
After we have completed our investigation of your case and collected all the necessary medical bills and records, as well as lost wages information, we will discuss our estimate of the case value with you, and start negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company.
Helpful Questions to Determine Value
To get an accurate estimate of the value of your case, below are several important questions that greatly affect the valuation of a personal injury claim:
- What is the total amount of your medical bills?
- What is the total amount of your lost wages?
- What is the total of your other financial losses?
- Did you go in an ambulance to the hospital after the crash?
- Did the vehicles involved in the crash suffer heavy damage?
- Were there eyewitnesses to the crash?
- Was the other driver given a ticket?
- Was the other driver charged with drunk driving or hit-and-run?
- Do you or the defendant have a criminal record?
- Do you have pre-existing medical problems related to the injuries suffered in the wreck?
- Do you have major gaps in treatment?
- What’s on your social media?
- Do you have good photos and video?
- Have you been in a second car wreck?
- Have you been truthful?
- Is it clear that the defendant caused your injury?
The total amount of your medical bills is often the most important number in determining the value of your case. Insurance companies evaluate the seriousness of your injuries based on your medical bill total. Because of the importance of this number, insurance companies are increasingly hiring experts to claim that an injury victim’s bills are not reasonable, or are too high, based on the typical cost of similar treatment in the area. At a minimum, our goal is to obtain compensation that is at least 2 X your total medical bills and lost wages, but of course, we strive to achieve a higher result based on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Time missed from work due to an injury can be financially devastating to you and your family. You are entitled to recover all of the wages you have lost because of the negligence of another person. Your total amount of lost wages and medical bills form the key number that insurance companies, judges, and juries use to evaluate your case.
In addition to your medical bills and lost wages, you may have suffered more financial losses that can be established through receipts and other documentation. Examples include eye glasses or other personal property damaged in a wreck, medical care expenses for a pet hurt in a wreck (pets are considered personal property under the law), loss of expenses for a vacation canceled due to injury, and membership fees to a gym that you couldn’t use as a result of your medical condition.
Insurance companies look for any argument to weaken your claim. If your adrenaline was pumping right after the wreck and you declined a ride in the ambulance, the insurance adjuster will argue that you weren’t really hurt that badly. You still have a case, even if you didn’t go straight to the emergency room, so don’t worry. However, it is one fact that is considered in valuation.
You’re a fragile human being in a 2,000-pound metal car. Cars are designed to absorb impacts, and often the speed and force of a crash don’t cause massive property damage. But even though you may have been flung about like a rag doll when hit by another car, the absence of major property damage to your car can decrease the value of your case. In many cases, jurors (and judges) expect to see big damage to your car if you’re claiming significant injuries. We can explain why this isn’t always the case, but a low visible property damage case can be challenging.
If the defendant claims he had a green light or that you cut into his lane and caused the wreck, are there eyewitnesses to testify about what really happened? A passenger in your car or a bystander by the side of the road can be critical to your case.
If the at-fault driver was issued a ticket and either pre-pays the ticket or pleads guilty in court, we can use his pre-payment (essentially a guilty plea) or guilty plea as evidence that the defendant accepted responsibility for causing the crash.
Aggravating factors, such as a defendant who was driving drunk, or one who fled the scene of the crash, can drive up the value of a case. Insurance companies know that juries hate dangerous drunk drivers and will often award much higher amounts of compensation to plaintiffs who were the victim of a drunk driver, or who were the victim of a driver who didn’t have the decency to stop and check on you after the crash. In some cases, a drunk driver’s breath test result is so high or his conduct is so egregious that an injury victim is entitled to pursue punitive damages from the drunk driver through his insurance company.
Under Virginia law, evidence that a party or a witness has been convicted of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude (involving lying, cheating, or stealing), may be introduced as evidence of the party or witness’s credibility. The criminal record or lack thereof of the plaintiff and defendant absolutely affects the overall value of a claim.
Evidence of a pre-existing medical condition is considered a gold mine by the defense. Even if your shoulder injury from playing tennis 10 years ago was treated, and you re-gained the full function and strength of your shoulder, the insurance company will do its best to argue that you didn’t injure your shoulder in the crash, but instead you simply have a nagging shoulder injury from playing tennis.
Unfortunately, the defense will also hire a doctor to make this argument, and this often achieves their goal of confusing a jury who is trying to sort out often complex medical testimony.
Having pre-existing medical conditions related to your car crash injuries is a key hurdle that we must overcome.
Most people want to get on with their lives and hate to spend their time sitting in doctor’s offices and getting treatment. The tendency after several months of treatment is to slack off and try to tough it out in the vain hope that your injuries will heal on their own. Unfortunately, injuries often continue to linger without consistent treatment and when a person can’t take the pain any long, back to the doctor they go to get help.
Insurance companies take advantage of delays or “gaps” in your treatment to claim that if you’re not going to the doctor, you’re not in pain. The lesson for you is to maintain consistent treatment until you reach maximum medical improvement.
One ill-advised photo or post on Facebook or another social media site can destroy your personal injury case. Whatever you post is going out onto the Internet, and insurance companies hire investigators to scour the Web to dig up whatever information they can find to damage your case.
So, you should greatly reduce your use of social media, or stay off of it all together while your case is pending. Do not post any photos or words about your accident. Even photos or posts that seem harmless to you could be used to suggest to a jury that you were not injured or that you are exaggerating your injuries.
A picture really is worth 1,000 words. Photos and videos are powerful exhibits that we can use on your behalf in negotiations and at trial. Please take photos of your injuries, if they’re still visible, such as bruises, abrasions, stitches, and casts.
With the sophistication of mobile phones, it’s also easy to document the struggles you’re facing in your daily life through video. Take videos of the challenges you have in completing household tasks, going up and down stairs, and doing other physical activities.
Photos of the accident scene and the vehicles damaged in the accident are also critical pieces of evidence that enhance the value of your case.
Some people have the worst luck. You would think one car wreck would be enough, but sadly, some people get hit from behind one month. Then, a few months later, they are “T-boned” at an intersection by a driver running a red light.
The defense will argue that all treatment for the first wreck ends on the date of the second wreck. The defense in the second wreck will say that all of your injuries were caused by the first wreck.
The value of both cases is unfortunately lowered when an injury victim is hurt in two car wrecks.
At all stages of your case, you must absolutely, positively tell the truth. Insurance fraud is a crime. Lying under oath is a crime called perjury. You must be truthful.
If the defense presents evidence to a judge or jury that you have been untruthful about how you were injured or your medical treatment, your credibility will be destroyed, and you will likely lose your case.
To effectively represent you, we must know all the facts of your case and your background – good and bad. We can always explain “bad facts” and give them context. In many cases, facts that clients are worried about are often inadmissible under the rules of evidence, or simply not relevant to your case. For example, the fact that you smoked marijuana in college has no bearing on a car wreck 15 years later in which you were completely sober. The fact that you have a bad driving record is inadmissible in almost every case.
Insurance companies will scour your medical records, your social media accounts, and in some cases, hire an investigator to conduct surveillance to see if you are truly not working, or to determine if you are engaging in activities that would not be possible with injuries you are claiming.
Always. Tell. The. Truth.
In other words, is there any question about whether the defendant is at fault? Was the defendant clearly negligent?
For example, a case in which a defendant crashes into the back of your car, admits that he was texting, and pleads guilty to a “Following Too Closely” traffic ticket, is a case with clear liability. There’s no doubt that the defendant driver is responsible for your injuries.
A clear liability case is generally a higher-value case because it is more likely that a judge or jury will find in favor of the plaintiff (you). Then, the only issue to decide is the amount of damages or compensation you will receive.
On the other hand, if there’s a dispute about who is at fault, the value of a case diminishes because there’s a greater risk that a judge or jury will find that the plaintiff (you) caused the wreck, or that you are at least partially at fault for causing the car wreck.
In Virginia, we are a “contributory negligence” state, meaning that if the defense can prove that you, the plaintiff, were negligent in any way, you lose. This is a powerful weapon for the defense and one that greatly affects the value of a case.
At GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, we will give you our best estimate of the value of your case up-front, and then keep you informed as we learn more about your case and how the value is affected.
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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.
- Safety Education
GibsonSingleton launches “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
- Annual Coat Drive
During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
- Hands-on Service
John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
- Supporting Local Schools
The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.