When another person or party causes an injury, they can be held liable for damages under Alabama’s personal injury laws.
Personal injury laws hold parties accountable for damages caused by:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Construction accidents
- Defective products
- Medical malpractice
- Dangerous property conditions
- Nursing home abuse
- Wrongful death
- And many other instances and accidents
A personal injury lawyer helps victims seek compensation for their injuries, financial losses, and other damages. The value of an injury claim depends on numerous factors.
Factors That Impact the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
Each injury claim is unique. The parties involved, the victim’s injuries, the type of claim, and the facts of the case are just some of the factors that could impact the value of your personal injury claim. Your lawyer analyzes each factor to determine how it could affect how much money you might receive for your injuries.
Common factors that affect the value of injury claims include:
The Severity of Your Injuries
Generally, the more severe the injuries, the higher the value of a personal injury claim. The severity of the injuries directly impacts the financial losses sustained by the victim.
However, it also affects the noneconomic damages awarded in the case.
Noneconomic damages include the physical pain, mental trauma, and emotional distress suffered by the victim because of the accident and the injuries.
Therefore, if the victim sustained catastrophic or traumatic injuries, it is assumed that the person suffered more than someone who sustained a minor sprain that healed within a few weeks.
Traumatic injuries often require surgery and weeks or months of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or vocational therapy. Because the victim had to endure months of painful recovery, the value of non-economic damages increases.
However, non-economic damages are extremely difficult to value. It is not easy to place a value on someone’s pain and suffering. Each person’s tolerance for pain is different, so it is impossible to compare one victim to another victim.
A multiplier or per diem is generally used to calculate the value of pain and suffering damages. The multiplier or per diem is based on the severity of the injuries. The more severe the injury, the higher the multiplier or per diem.
With a multiplier, noneconomic damages are valued by multiplying the financial damages by the multiplier. Per diem values are calculated by multiplying the number of days between the accident and when the person is released from medical care by the per diem.
The Amount of Your Financial Damages
Financial damages include all expenses and costs related to the accident. Common financial damages include, but are not limited to:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Loss of income
- Travel expenses
- Medications and medical equipment
- Cost of personal care
- Help with household chores
- Physical and emotional therapy
- Damage to property
The value of financial damages is the total of the actual losses. Keeping receipts and evidence of financial damages increases your chance of receiving reimbursement for all losses.
Whether You Sustained a Permanent Impairment
When you sustain a permanent impairment or disability because of an accident, you could be entitled to additional compensation. The compensation includes noneconomic damages and financial damages.
Examples of damages related to permanent impairments and disabilities include:
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional and mental suffering
- Physical pain
- Loss of enjoyment or quality of life
- Future loss of income
- Decreased earning potential
- Modifications to the home and vehicles to accommodate the disability
- Ongoing medical and personal care
The value of the financial damages for a permanent impairment is generally based on expert testimony. Financial and medical experts estimate the cost of future damages based on a person’s disability, age, life expectancy, career, education, skills, and other factors.
Non-economic damages for an impairment are based on the severity of the impairment, disruption to the person’s life, and other factors. Paralysis, amputations, blindness, and loss of bodily function generally increase the value of these damages.
The Amount of Insurance Available
In many personal injury cases, the at-fault party’s liability insurance carrier compensates the victim for damages. However, the insurance company is only liable up to the policy limits. There might not be enough insurance money to pay the full value of your personal injury claim.
You can file a personal injury lawsuit before the deadline set by the statute of limitations against the party who caused your injury. The lawsuit seeks a personal judgment against the party.
However, if the party does not have sufficient resources and income to pay the judgment, it could be tough to actually get a check in your hands. Your personal injury lawyer can investigate the person’s assets and advise you whether a lawsuit is worth the time and cost. Additionally, your attorney can determine if other parties – perhaps some with deep pockets – might have played a role in your accident.
Whether You are Partially to Blame for the Cause of Your Injuries
Alabama is one of just four states that uses the harshest standard for contributory negligence in a personal injury case. Allegations of contributory negligence could result in the value of your claim being zero.
Alabama’s contributory negligence law bars you from receiving any money for an injury claim if you contributed to the cause of your injury. For example, if you were texting while driving when another driver failed to yield the right of way, a jury could determine that your actions contributed to the cause of the accident.
Even though the other driver was mostly responsible for causing the accident, you cannot recover any money for your injuries or damages because your negligent actions contributed to the cause of the crash.
Other states have set a 50 or 51 percent bar for contributory negligence. Victims can be partially at fault for the cause of their injuries and still recover some money from the other party.
Under Alabama law, if you are even one percent at fault for the cause of an accident, you receive nothing for your injury claim.
If an insurance company even suggests that you could be partially at fault, call a personal injury lawyer immediately. Insurance claims adjusters are skilled at getting victims to say things that they might not mean. It is in your best interest to avoid talking to an insurance company until after speaking with a personal injury attorney.
Calculating the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim
Most people are not familiar with how to calculate the value of a personal injury claim. In addition to the above factors, there could be other things that affect the value of your injury claim.
If you did not sustain serious injuries or significant financial losses, you might not need a lawyer to help you with your injury claim. However, if you are unsure about your claim, do not hesitate to talk with a lawyer before making decisions or accepting a settlement.
It is best to seek legal advice even if the lawyer tells you that you can handle the claim without an attorney. Once you sign a settlement agreement, you cannot demand more money. Check with a lawyer before you sign the agreement to ensure you receive a fair settlement for your personal injury claim.