I wish I could wave a magic wand, or create a “case value” calculator, to give you a quick and accurate answer to this question.
Your case is worth one of two things:
- It is worth what a jury composed of people we have never met will say it is worth, after hearing all the evidence, or,
- It is worth what a particular insurance company or defendant is willing to pay after consulting with their attorney. In other words, to some extent, we are just guessing.
On the other hand, motorcycle accident cases do seem to settle most of the time for amounts that do not surprise us. Similarly, jury verdicts tend to fall mostly into the area of value that seems reasonable for the facts of the case.
Jurors have no more experience at case evaluation than you do.
So, what do they consider?
For one thing, jurors always want to know what the “special damages” are. In other words, “How much were the medical bills?” “How much was the wage loss?” “Did the plaintiff lose anything else in the motorcycle accident that they had to pay for out of pocket?”
Another critical point seems to be, “How bad was the collision?” Jurors correlate injuries with damage to the vehicles and your riding gear. If your leathers were torn up sliding on the pavement, this is an important piece of evidence (even though it may really show that your safety gear protected you by taking the damage). A helmet with accident markings on it, or a badly bent up bike will have a similar effect. Doctors and lawyers who have seen the injured from many motorcycle accidents know that there isn’t always a correlation between the damage to property and the damage to the rider, but even these experienced professionals and the jury seems to be affected by visual evidence of a “bad accident”.
How injuries affect your case
The injuries themselves range from injuries that heal in a relatively short time, to injuries that will last a lifetime. The more permanent an injury is, the more value it has for settlement or trial. This is obvious. A cut that heals has nowhere near the value of a permanent scar.
Injuries increase in value as the injury interferes more with daily activity and particularly your work. An injury that prevents you from doing your occupation, or interferes with function on a daily basis, will be worth more.
Injuries must be documented before anyone will compensate you for them. You many live with pain every day, but an adjuster or a juror will pretty much feel that if your injury wasn’t worth getting treatment for, it didn’t bother you enough that they will pay you for having it.
When you see a doctor, or testify in your deposition, your description of your difficulty will make a huge difference in how your injury is valued. Compare: “My hand hurts”, to, “I can’t use a metal cutter at work, because my hand gets too painful when I try to squeeze the handles to make a cut.” The more specifics, the more value. The more that you (or someone else), can describe in detail how the injury affects you, the more value that injury has. Again, compare “my hand hurts when I work” to , “When I use my hand to operate equipment at work, I get a pain on the back of the hand between where the second and third fingers are, and it travels all the way back to my wrist. It gets worse very quickly if I try to continue using it”. Which has more value?
What costs will you incur in the future?
Medical bills? Will you need ongoing assistance at home? At one end of the spectrum are the spinal cord cases, where an accident may prevent the plaintiff even from breathing or moving without help. At the low end of the spectrum is the case of someone who will have pain and stiffness for only a few months.
Those cases that result in the multi-million dollar awards are the cases where there is a multi-million dollar injury. Believe me, the plaintiffs in those cases deserve every dollar.
Things to consider
A good exercise to do in evaluating your case, is to pretend you are a juror. Think about what the evidence will be at trial. Who will present it? What will they say? Will your doctors say that this is a severe and debilitating injury, or will they minimize it because they see this type of injury all the time? What will your co-workers and friends say? Will they be convincing in testifying that you will never be the same and your life is a horror? Or will they say you seem to be pretty normal again? Think about what YOU would award SOMEONE ELSE if you were on the jury. If you are truly honest in doing this, you will have a reasonable idea of what your case is worth. Remember, the jurors don’t know you, don’t really want to be there, and are very skeptical. They aren’t there for a giveaway – they know about the insurance company commercials depicting greedy plaintiffs, and they know that the President doesn’t like our system of compensating accident victims.
Now that you understand how your case is valued, you probably also understand why a good lawyer has a lot of work to do to present your case.