What is My Injury Case Worth?
Ask any Illinois injury lawyer what your case is worth, and they will tell you “it depends.” It can be frustrating to hear, but it’s true. There are so many details in every case, and each one can affect the value. Not only are these details specific to each person and each injury, but they often change as your case goes along.
However, there are some specific factors that will give you an idea of how Illinois lawyers, juries and insurance companies put a value on your injury. Here are ten things to consider:
1. The injury. Generally speaking, a more severe injury is worth more. However, it also depends on how permanent your injury is, what the recovery is like and how it will affect your lifestyle. Will it prevent you from doing things you enjoy, such as a sport? Or, will it prevent you from doing basic things like driving? How does it affect your job, or your relationships with your family?
2. The defendant. Your case may be worth more if the defendant has more money or a better insurance policy. The value of your case may depend on whether the defendant is an individual, the government or a corporation. If the defendant has no money at all, an otherwise high-value case may be worth nothing in reality.
3. Financial loss. It’s typical to ask for reimbursement for lost wages (if you missed work because of your injury and recovery) and medical bills. Reimbursement for other things, such as property damage, is also possible. For example, you can ask for additional money if your car is damaged or totaled. How much you lost financially will affect the value of your case. This is perhaps the easiest category to put a dollar amount on, because it’s fairly straightforward.
4. Occupation. If your injury affects your ability to do your job, you can ask to be compensated for this. If you have to work at a lesser-paying job in the future because of your injury, or if you cannot work at all anymore, you may be able to recover the difference. So the value of the case depends on how much you earn and how much your earning potential is affected by your injury.
5. Pain and suffering. This can be one of the biggest mysteries in terms of putting a value on your case. Your pain and suffering may be very different from the next person’s, even if your injuries are identical. It can involve age, occupation, lifestyle and even your tolerance for pain. All of these things differ from one person to the next.
6. Punitive damages. In some Illinois cases, you can get what is called “punitive damages.” If the injury was caused by the malicious behavior of the defendant – not just negligence – then the value of your case may include punitive damages. This is an amount above and beyond your financial loss or pain and suffering. Punitive damages can be added on to punish the defendant for their actions.
7. Location. Generally, cases are worth more in big cities. The same exact case may be worth a lot in Chicago and much less in a small town downstate. So location matters.
8. Attorney. Different attorneys and firms have different strategies, as well as different levels of success in negotiating with insurance companies or convincing juries. There are many, many personal injury attorneys in Illinois, and the attorney you choose may affect the value of your case.
9. Evidence. If you have clear evidence that the defendant caused your injury, and clear evidence about the type of injury and how it affects your life, you have a stronger case. Expert witnesses may be used to prove how much you have lost by not being able to work, or how much you will lose – in terms of income – in the future. Experts also may be used to determine pain and suffering. The quality of these witnesses can affect how much your case is worth.
10. Who gets to decide. A case may be worth one amount if it goes before a jury and an entirely different amount if it’s settled out of court. Sometimes, people settle for a smaller amount than they may be able to get at trial because it’s guaranteed. Letting the jury decide is a gamble – it might result in a much larger award, or much smaller. If you go to trial, it will depend on how the jury feels about you and the other side. If they sympathize with you, your case may be worth more. The strategy of a case – as well as its value – can change at any time.