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What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

Jury Verdicts

Legal Fees Explained, Tax Issues For Settlements, Loans To Clients & Ethics

Mediation & Arbitration

Before You Settle Or Go To Trial

determine settlement value of your personal injury case HURT911® Accident & Injury Research


"What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?"

You may be asking, "What is my injury case worth?"  There are thousands of variables which determine the value of a personal injury case and most of these variables become known long after a lawyer is retained.  Asking "What is my case worth" is like asking a car dealer what a car is worth when s/he hasn't seen the car or even know what kind of car.  Thus, it is impossible to for a lawyer to know the true value of a case in the beginning of the case.  It is also impossible to for another lawyer to know the true value of a case without seeing the entire file.  Some of the factors that affect the value of a case are:  Liability: Is someone responsible for causing your injury and how much did you contribute to the accident;  How good are the police report and/or witnesses;  Injury: how serious the injury is, if you have permanent scars then how large, raised, noticeable and the location of the scar, whether the injury is permanent, how often and for how long you were treated by a doctor, what the doctor did to treat you, whether all of your doctors have stated in written reports that your injuries were caused by the accident and are permanent;  Whether you were working, had lost wages, and whether you can continue to work in the future;  Insurance:  Is there insurance covering the people or companies who caused your injuries, which insurance companies insure the persons and companies responsible for your injuries, which branch office of those insurance companies will handle the claim and which insurance company claim representatives will handle the claim.  Venue (the state and county where the case is in court);  Your age, race, sex, social status (wealthy people usually will not do as well);  The age, race, sex of the jury;  How will the injured client and the defendant appear in court, how well will they testify and how credible they are;  The time remaining until your case will come to trial;  Your desire to settle quickly or wait possible years for more money at trial, and whether you are willing to go to trial or would rather not.  There are also many more factors I haven't listed here.

To determine the value of a case for settlement, the lawyers for both sides and the insurance claim representatives will first try to determine what the case would get at verdict after a trial.  Thus, a lawyer should work backwards, first determining what a case is worth at verdict.  Once the verdict amount is determined, then the estimated amount of trial expenses (cost of expert witnesses such as doctors and engineers, court reporter fees, etc.) is deducted and the present net value (the discounted value of a dollar that is paid today, rather than a date in the future) is deducted (Two present net value calculators are below).  This amount is the gross settlement amount.  To arrive at a "net" settlement amount, you must consider the disruption of everyone's life for the week or two that it takes to do a trial and the risk of losing.  The amount of legal fees should not be considered when determining if a case is worth settling, since the legal fees have nothing to do with the value of the case, are a percentage of the amount and are payable whether settled or at trial.

How much is your case worth?  

Find a Jury Verdict Reporter for your state at NASJVP The National Association of State Jury Verdict Publishers.

Verdict Search.com - National Law Journal

Jury Verdict Research - Jury verdict reports for lawyers and makes software to evaluate a personal injury case.

Present Value Calculator - Determine what a verdict amount in the future is worth in a settlement today.

This calculator will compute the Present Value or Future Value of a specific dollar amount.

Estimating economic loss in personal injury cases

Using Creative Alimony, Child Support and Property Settlements to Maximize SSI, Medicaid and Create Funding for Assistive Technology

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Jury Verdicts

Jurors determine your injury value when they render a verdict

Think juries are out of control?  Think again!  US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) for Tort Trials and Verdicts in Large Counties show that punitive damages were awarded by a judge in 7.9% of cases tried by the judge without a jury, compared to only 3.2% of cases tried by juries. The median punitive damages award from judges was $75,000 compared to $27,000 from juries.  According to BJS Civil Justice Statistics, in 49% of jury trial cases, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff awarding a median total award of only $35,000, while plaintiffs won in 62% of bench trials (tried by the judge without a jury) with a median total award of only $28,000.  Think that's a lot of money?  Let me know after you suffer an injury such as a back injury, due to someone else's negligence that will change your life and cause untold expense for the rest of your life.  For instance, having to pay a gardener to mow and fertilize your lawn because you can't do it yourself anymore.  But juries are important to a free society. Thomas Jefferson, when he spoke at his first inaugural address on March 4, 1801 of the nation's guiding principles stated, "Freedom of religion; freedom of the press; freedom of person under the protection of habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected.  These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation."

And Think again!  Another Example of Juries Awarding Less Than An Experienced Judge.  Insurance companies are increasingly appealing accident claims in court--and coming out ahead.

On the Rare Occasions When A Jury Does Award Too Much - the "checks and balances" of the court system work to correct ultra high verdicts.  What the media never prints is that high verdicts are almost always reduced by the trial judge and if not by the trial judge, then by several judges in an appellate court.  The trial judge in Leona's Helmsley's bias case reduced the award against her from $11.7 million to $554,000.  He ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to $1.1 million in economic damages, and the $10 million in punitive damages was excessive.  Unfortunately, verdicts awarding ridiculously low amounts or nothing at all are rarely, if ever, increased.

Judges May Apportion Award to Minimize Effect of Damages Cap, Third Circuit Rules - Trial Magazine, ATLA

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Legal Fees, Tax Issues, Loans To Clients & Ethics

Contingent Legal Fees Explained by Georgia Civil Justice Foundation  by FindLaw.com

Client Rights-Attorney Responsibilities & the Rules of Engagement in NYS as of 03-04-02 - By Bertholon-Rowland Corp., the leading Professional Malpractice Liability insurance agent.

Computation of Expenses in Contingent Fee Agreements - Note that lawyers in some states like NY, must deduct expenses from the gross settlement and compute the fee percentage from the net settlement amount.

Is your settlement taxable or tax exempt?  What's in your release?  Settlements and jury verdict awards for emotional distress may be taxable and for lost income is surely taxable.  I have always stated in my client's release that the settlement is for physical personal injuries and non-economic losses only.  If your release is silent on these issue, the IRS will make the decisions. Before taking your case to verdict, be aware that the jury will allocate your award.

Tax Issues and Contingent Fee Awards - Were you awarded legal fees?

Loans to Clients and Repayment of Expenses - (NYS Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics) Question:  May a lawyer refer a client to a financial institution that will lend the client money for living expenses, where the repayment of the loan is contingent on the successful resolution of the client’s claim for personal injuries?  This answer also has a good explanation why a client must repay litigation expenses to his/her lawyer.

Ethics Opinions Regarding Non-Recourse Funding - A list of opinions in most states concerning money provided to plaintiffs in personal injury cases.

Legal Ethics.com


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mediation and arbitration    Mediation & Arbitration

All about Mediation

All You Need To Know About Mediation But...

NAM - National Arbitration & Mediation - NAM is a global dispute resolution provider offering a cost-effective alternative to expensive and time-consuming litigation. The Company has a network of more than 1,500 retired judges and practicing specialists to provide arbitration and mediation services in every major city around the world.

Mediate.com is a meeting place for people dealing with conflict. You will find over 700 Articles and Discussions to increase your knowledge about mediation and conflict resolution. 

American Arbitration Association (AAA) 

American Arbitration Association (AAA) SUM/UM and No-Fault Arbitration Demand forms for all states.


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Before You Settle Or Go To Trial:

MedLegal Research Group  - Do you have a case where the value of the injuries exceed the policy limit?  FIND UNKNOWN EXCESS LIABILITY INSURANCE POLICES!  The MedLegal Research Group specializes in tracing defendant's liability insurance policies. Their specialized investigative service is provided on a no-find no-fee basis to plaintiff's attorneys nationwide.  This is probably the most important service for your practice.  In fact, once their service becomes widely known, it could be malpractice not to use it.  Call Justin Clapick at 1-800-253-9022 and tell him you were referred by HURT911®.


SmartJURY  - To help litigators assess each potential juror's fit with a case, SmartJURY provides public record background information on potential jurors. Available through your Accurint account at a cost of $10 per report, for each juror including:  Criminal records, Bankruptcies, Business affiliations, Political party affiliation, Professional licenses, Property ownership, Vehicle, boat, and airplane ownership, Driver's license information, Internet domains, UCC filings, AKAs, & Neighborhood information (including median income, average age and years of education, and median home value)

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