How to calculate personal injury damages

Category: Slip and Fall

More Info: Premises Liability

How much can you get if your leg is broken in a car accident and you miss 12 weeks of work? What amount will a jury award if you fall and permanently injure your back at a grocery store?

There is no set answer. And don’t believe an attorney who promises you will walk away with a set amount of money.

Many factors go into determining how much money to seek in a personal injury lawsuit. Some amounts are easy to calculate based on facts and others are much harder to determine. Even when an overall financial value is placed on the damages one suffers from a car accident, slip-and-fall injury or other occurrence, many other circumstances determine what the victim takes away.

Two categories of damages, most commonly known as special and general, come into play.

  • Special damages are the financial losses the injured individual has suffered. These include medical bills, damage to a vehicle and loss of paycheck.
  • There are also future special damages. These include the ongoing cost of medical treatment. There can also be future loss of income because an injury prevents the individual from earning what they used to earn before the accident even if they do return to work in another job.
  • General damages are the amount of money to cover the less tangible impacts of an injury. These can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, missing out on special family events.

What’s the cost of pain?

“People (on a jury) are more inclined to give special damages than general damages,” said Joseph Saunders, a board certified civil trial lawyer who practices in California and Florida. “If (a plaintiff) says ‘I can’t sleep. I hurt every day,’ well how much is that worth? There are no guidelines. What’s the value of pain? A jury sees the evidence and sometimes they may come back in favor of $10 million and sometimes it’s $10.”

A longtime rule of thumb cited on many personal injury legal websites is to derive general damages by multiplying the special damages by 1.5 to 5, depending on the severity of the injuries.

One outdated formula used by insurance adjusters and lawyers is to multiply the special damages by 3, Saunders said. “That way the client gets a third, the lawyer gets a third and the (medical) bills get paid,” he added.

To reach a settlement before trial, as is the outcome of about 99 percent of personal injury cases, Saunders usually sues for the full amount of the insurance policy covering the person or entity that caused the accident. If the coverage is $1 million, for example, and special damages total $200,000, he will ask for $800,000 in general damages.

Both parties, the plaintiff and the insurance company covering the other party, take into consideration the cost of taking the case to trial. Insurance companies would rather pay a settlement of damages alone, than face the risk of paying court costs and awarding the plaintiff damages. But then they know the plaintiff and their own attorney will have to pay as well to bring a case to court and hire expert witnesses, so they have money to lose if they refuse to settle.

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About TriMark Legal Funding

TriMark Legal Funding was founded in 2003 and is one of America's leading national lawsuit funding companies. TriMark provides pre-settlement funding and post-settlement funding, sometimes called 'lawsuit loans', to injured plaintiffs throughout the United States. We offer funding on hundreds of different types of legal claims including personal injury loans, employment litigation funding, work injury accident loans, workers compensation loans, mass tort litigation funding, and multidistrict litigation funding.

We also provide immediate inheritance advance funding for heirs and beneficiaries, as well as attorney funding and law firm financing for legal practices.

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