How much is my injury claim really worth?

Before filing a personal injury claim for any type of injury including a car accident, slip and fall, or medical error you should ask yourself if it is really worth the hassle. The main consideration should be how much your injuries are really worth and how much they have cost you physically, mentally, emotionally and monetarily.

If you have been injured due to the negligent actions of another person or entity and you can prove the elements of an injury case, if you win your injury claim, damages or compensation will be paid by the defendant, who is the person legally responsible for the injuries, or their insurance company.

Most injury awards are settlements, with an injury case never actually going to court. The settlement award is generally decided by the plaintiff and defendant, their attorneys and the insurance company. If the case does go to court, the damages are decided by a judge or jury following the injury trial.

What types of damages can you expect?

If you win your personal injury case the main type of damages you will receive are compensatory damages. Calculating some compensatory costs will be relatively easy. For example, you can total the amount of medical bills, lost wages and property replacement costs and generally come to a concrete number. But what about calculating pain and suffering or estimating future medical expenses? This type of calculation becomes more difficult and subjective.

So how do you determine compensation?

Unfortunately, the amount of damages will vary for different types of injuries, but talking to an injury lawyer may be a good idea, especially if you have severe injuries which are expected to keep you from working for at least a year or if you have permanent injuries.

Injury lawyers can also help you calculate losses which are subjective such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium (loss of companionship or sexual abilities), loss of enjoyment of life (pursuing hobbies, exercise, and other recreational activities) and emotional distress (fear, anxiety and sleep loss).

Many personal injury claims can be negotiated with an insurance company without getting an attorney involved. If the insurance company gives you a fair settlement, take it; don’t clog up the legal system with frivolous lawsuits. But if the insurance company is not negotiating in good faith, if they are not offering you enough to cover your injuries, if the defendant does not have insurance or if you are not sure about the settlement offer, talk to a personal injury lawyer.

Consider also, in some states punitive damages may be allowed if the actions of the defendant were especially egregious. Some states have established caps on punitive damages; others have not. Keep in mind, punitive damages are used to punish the defendant, not make the plaintiff "whole."

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