By: Attorney Alejandro R. Lopez
A few years ago I had a client who was involved in an automobile accident. He had already seen a few lawyers for his accident but, for some reason or another, no lawyer took his case. One of his first questions to me during the consultation (and through the case itself) was: How much is my accident case worth?. Actually, his actual words were: “Mr. Lopez, how much is my body worth after the accident?”.
It is understandable for many persons involved in any type of accident to wonder what is the value of their case, as my client did. Some clients have very difficult expectations to meet because, for instance, they see on the internet or on t.v. the lady who “won” five million dollars or so because she had hot coffee spilled on her, or their uncle’s case in New York which gave him $72,000.00. This is also worsened by many attorney and non-attorney commercials which we have also seen on television which make statements as: “You have $10,000.00 available for loss wages and medical bills”, “You can receive $25,000.00, $100,000.00, or more”. It is very unfair to the specific victim of an accident to hear and/or believe that these cases or statements would apply to him/her since they create many times an unreasonable hope and expectation that all cases are very similar in nature when that may not be their specific situation or case.
The answer to my client, and the analysis I proceed with each of my clients after an accident is as follows:
1. A thorough study of the accident, who was at fault, who was not at fault, evidence, photographs, medical records, wages records, and many other,
2. After fault for the accident is established, then
3. A thorough analysis of any and all insurance policies which provide and/or may provide funds and/or monies for the accident in question, and the ability of the person or entity which was at fault for the accident to pay for the damages created, and
4. Try as best as possible to provide numbers to each and every damage my client suffered as a result of the accident.
So, to value the worth of my client’s accident, several factors have to be analyzed:
a. What are the medical bills (ambulance, doctors, emergency room, anesthesiologist, chiropractor, pain medicine specialist, etc.) have accrued and are outstanding as a result of the accident? All the medical bills have to be gathered, analyzed in detail, and added,
b. What are the future medical bills the client will more likely than not incur in the future because of the accident? (the health care providers can give, at times, an estimate of future medical bills which could be incurred by the specific person in question, for instance, will the client require immediate surgery?),
c. What are the wages, salaries, monies and/or funds which the client has missed or lost since the date of the accident and as a result of the accident? (This requires looking at paystubs, I.R.S. returns, W-2’s, 1099’s, work schedules, dates and times missed, hourly rates, etc.),
d. What could be an estimate of future wages, salaries, monies and/or funds which the client will more likely than not miss in the future due to the accident?,
e. What out of pocket expenses the client has had due to the accident? (For instance, monies spent due to purchases of prescription medications, arm slings, etc.),
f. Was the person at fault drunk at the time of the accident? (Something under the law called “punitive damages” could apply),
g. Is my client married? (If so, there is a type of damage called “loss of consortium” which exists in the case and belongs to the client’s husband or wife, even if the husband and/or wife was not involved directly in the accident (For instance, the husband/or wife was not inside the car in an automobile accident when the accident took place)),
h. What has been the “loss of enjoyment of life” to the client as a result of the accident? (For instance, what physical activities the client cannot do (or can do but with much difficulty) which the client was able to complete before. Ex.: playing sports, going to the movie theaters, driving, etc. This is what folks usually call on the street, and used to be called, “pain and suffering”, and
i. What type of physical damage has the client sustained? (broken bones?, broken ligaments?, herniated cervical or thoracic disks in his/her vertebral column?, other?).
Some of those “damage items” I mention can be added up. For instance, I know if I receive a bill from the chiropractor, as a result of my car accident, for $1,000.00, and another bill from the hospital for $20,000.00, my past medical bills are $21,000.00.
However, some of those damages are very difficult to value. Those damages are called under the law “non-economic damages”. Among them are the loss of enjoyment of life or “pain and suffering”. How can you measure in dollars someone’s pain after an accident? or the anguish and nervousness the client feels if he/she has to be subjected to a surgery? or if there are complications from a surgery and there is more pain and suffering? or pain which may last for years to come? This factor creates much controversy and litigation in the Courts. I remember many years ago, when I was a young and naïve law school student, that one of my professors taught us to let our clients know to keep a diary and mark in it the times, dates, and amount of time, when they suffered pain and to give each minute of pain an equivalent of $2.00 per minute of pain. A bit crazy right?
Please make sure to speak, after your accident, with a lawyer of your choice (if possible, directly with the lawyer you see on television and not with a paralegal or case analyst) to have an adequate and realistic advise of your accident case’s worth, possibilities of winning or losing your case, pro’s and cons in your case, and much more. Do not be deceived by advertising which offers you thousands of dollars in your pocket after your accident. Remember what your parents and elders used to tell you: “not all that shines is gold”.
Should you have been the victim of an accident, I will be fully available to personally meet with you to analyze your case and provide you with a realistic and down-to-earth analysis of your case or claim and to process your case should you so choose. Call us at: (407) 649-1404 or contact us through: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or through email@example.com