One of the first questions many people have after an accident is, how much is my personal injury case worth? Unfortunately, there is no easy way to answer this question.
Every personal injury case is unique with a value based on both economic damages (such as medical bills) and non-economic damages (like pain and suffering).
However, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you better understand the value of your personal injury case. Your lawyer will investigate your accident, build evidence, and review your damages to estimate the value of your claim.
Types of Damages Available in a Personal Injury Case
If your personal injury case is successful, you may be entitled to recover compensation for a wide range of damages you have suffered. The goal of a personal injury claim is to make you as whole as you were before the other party caused your injuries. The following are the most common types of damages in a personal injury case in Texas.
These are damages that have an intrinsic financial value. They are the easiest types of damages to calculate in your case. Common economic damages include:
- Medical treatment you have received related to your accident
- Future medical care you will need for your injuries
- Lost income
- Reduced earning capacity or disability
- Property damage
Depending on the severity of your injuries, your economic damages may account for most of the value of your personal injury claim – or a fairly small share.
There is no limit on the amount of economic damages you can recover.
These damages do not have a clear financial value. They are also hard to define and consider your quality of life after the accident, how your life has changed, whether you can return to work, and whether you are left with chronic pain or limitations.
Common non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress or the psychological impact of your injury such as anxiety and fear
- Loss of enjoyment of life if you are unable to enjoy the hobbies, exercise, and activities you once did
- Loss of consortium if the injuries have an impact on your relationship with your spouse
These damages may be calculated by multiplying your economic damages by a factor of 1 to 5, depending on the severity of your injuries.
While there is usually no limit on non-economic damages, there is a $250,000 cap in Texas on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The cap is increased to $500,000 only when multiple health care institutions are involved.
If your case goes to trial, you may be entitled to punitive damages. These damages are uncommon but may be awarded to punish the negligent party for particularly careless, egregious, or criminal behavior.
These damages, called exemplary damages in Texas, are capped at the larger of $200,000 or 2x the economic damages plus an equal amount of non-economic damages up to $750,000.
Factors That Affect the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim
There are many factors that must be considered to estimate the value of your case. These factors range from the severity of your injuries and the actual medical costs you face to the insurance limits of the negligent party.
Severity of Your Injuries
Outside of the actual monetary cost to treat your injuries, the severity and type of injuries you suffer can also affect the value of your personal injury case. This is because you can seek damages for anticipated future medical expenses and non-economic damages like pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
As a general rule, injuries that are disabling, disfiguring, or very painful are worth more than injuries that are not. This means a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury will generally require more compensation than a fracture because it impacts your daily life and requires long-term treatment.
A crucial element of winning a personal injury case is establishing who was at fault for your injury and liable for your damages. If you were in a car accident and the other party was fully liable, they will be responsible for all of the damages you suffered as a result.
However, if you played some part in causing your accident or injuries, the value of your claim may be affected.
This is because Texas uses a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, you can recover compensation as long as you are not more than 50% at fault for the accident. Your damages will be directly reduced by your share of fault in the accident.
If you suffer $15,000 in damages but you are found 25% at fault, your claim will be reduced by 25% ($3,750) to $11,250.The court or insurance company will consider not only the accident itself but the steps you took after the accident to mitigate your damages.
If you were not wearing a seat belt when you were injured in a car accident, you may be found partially at fault for the severity of your injuries. This is because Texas law requires wearing a seat belt and studies have conclusively shown they reduce the rate of serious injuries.
Does the at-fault party have insurance to cover your damages? What are their policy limits? The answers to these questions can limit how much you can recover in your personal injury lawsuit.
If you are injured in a commercial truck accident or a premises liability case and the negligent party has a large commercial insurance policy, there is likely enough coverage to pay for all of your damages. However, if the at-fault party has no insurance or a low liability limit, it may not be enough to fully compensate you. You still have recourse, such as pursuing the negligent party’s personal assets, but this may not be a viable option.
If the at-fault party has a $100,000 policy limit but a jury awards you $175,000, the insurance company will still pay no more than $100,000. You have the right to pursue the at-fault party for the remaining amount, but most people will not have that much in assets you can collect. This may mean placing a lien on property or garnishing wages, both challenging steps that may still not fully compensate you.