Your Case Value
The answer to this question has a ring of Zen to it. How much is your case
worth? Your case is worth what you can get, that's how much it's
worth. So what can you get? The answer depends on a variety of things.
A good place to start out is a general understanding of the legal concept
of damages. Simply put, there are different types of damages that correspond
to a particular claim. For instance, punitive damages (or damages to punish
rather than compensate) are generally available only when a claim that
entails intentional or malicious conduct is proved. Therefore, punitive
damages are not available in negligence cases because negligence cases
do not involve intentional conduct. Punitive damages are, however, available
in fraud cases because it is a claim that necessitates a showing of intent.
The value of a case depends on the type of damages available upon the proof
of your claims and the actual amount of such damages (for instance, the
amount of your past and future medical bills). The difficulty of proving
certain claims and the chance that the defense may be able to prevail
with certain defenses, such as comparative negligence, must be factored
into any analysis of how much a case is worth. An assessment of damages,
though, is a useful first step toward an understanding "what you
A useful second step is understanding and accepting that no person alive
on the face of this planet can tell you exactly what you might get if
your case proceeds to a contested hearing. In the end, you roll the dice.
This is the nature of our system and the uncertainty of the outcome of
your case is based upon the fact that there are so many variables that
go into any contested hearing. Questions to consider:
- Is the case in arbitration?
- If so, who is the arbitrator?
- Is he or she biased toward the victims of injuries or is he or she someone
who suspects that most victims are frauds out to cheat the system?
- Is the case before a judge?
- Who is the judge?
- What are his or her leanings when it comes to compensating injury victims?
- Is the case before a jury?
- Who is on the jury?
- Who are the attorneys?
- How will the parties, the attorneys, and the jury interact?
The most effective way to understand the value of your case is by retaining
skilled legal counsel. You can speak with us about your legal matter by
complimentary case evaluation
Need more information? Call our Reno personal injury lawyer at (775) 573-0229.
If you're not satisfied with the above guide to case value, it's
hard to blame you. Here are some general guidelines for understanding
the value of injury cases that may help. Insurance companies (and juries)
often look at medical bills before placing a value on a case. The idea
(even though in many cases it's a bad idea) is that the higher the
medical bills, the greater the damages. In Nevada, insurance companies
tend to offer two to three times the medical bills as compensation for
victims of car accidents with soft tissue injuries. Although insurance
companies often deny it, they do, in fact, use arbitrary formulas such
as this to evaluate claims.
Remember, the higher the costs, the less you get and the longer a case
goes on, the higher the costs tend to be. Costs are lowest before a case
is filed and becomes litigation. After litigation starts, the parties
pay court costs, they pay for depositions, and they often pay expert witness
fees. The best point to resolve an injury case may be after medical damages
are clear but before litigation. This, of course, depends on whether reasonable
offers are advanced at that time.
Figuring out when to settle a case is difficult. Nevertheless, factors
such as increasing costs, attorney's fees that may escalate close
to trial, and eliminating the risk of a contested hearing must be carefully
considered. Sometimes settlements are limited to available insurance.
Minimum liability limits in Nevada are $15,000.00. People who have minimal
insurance often have minimal assets. If policy limits are all there is
(and no uninsured / underinsured coverage is available), policy limits
are all there is and attention should be directed at minimizing costs
and maximizing net settlement.
- Cases that involve clear injuries such as scars and broken bones are generally
worth more than cases that involve soft tissue injuries that can be objectively
difficult to prove.
- Cases that involve permanent injury and wage loss to young people are worth
more than cases that involve permanent injury and wage loss to older people.
Attorneys argue permanent damages based upon life expectancy.
More About Damages
There are numerous components to any damage claim and, as indicated above,
different kinds of damages are available in different cases. One basic
type of damages is out-of-pocket loss. This is money that has actually
been spent because of an injury: hospital and doctor bills; physical therapy;
medical devices; lost earnings; specific property damage (a wrecked auto,
for example). A second type of damages is what lawyers call "general
damages." These consist of pain and suffering, and the intangible
harm that results from any injury. Examples include physical pain that
disrupts a person's normal life; inability to participate in sports,
hobbies, and other common lifestyle activities; physical difficulties
encountered in earning a living; psychological harm (emotional trauma);
loss of consortium, love, and support.
Punitive damages are assessed against parties who act willfully, with
malice, oppression, or fraud. Egregious conduct that somehow shocks or
offends is generally necessary to support an award of punitive damages.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer. In cases where
punitive damages are assessed, the court looks in part to the wealth of
the defendant to determine the propriety of a punitive damages finding.
A fine of $10,000 may mean nothing to a billionaire, and may bankrupt
a modest wage earner.
Keep copies of all medical records and bills. These are the essential
evidence of out-of-pocket medical damages. Wage loss can be documented
with pay stubs and related business records. Tax returns are often requested.
Usually, you make a claim against the insurance company that provides
coverage to the party at fault. This is called a "third-party claim"
because you are, in essence a "third party" in so far as the
other side's insurance policy is concerned. You may also make a claim
under your own (first party) medical insurance and property insurance
policies. This is a "first-party claim” because, under these
policies, you are the party insured and, therefore, you are the party
to be covered. If your own carrier pays expenses such as doctor / hospital
bills or auto repair bills, they probably have a right of reimbursement
against the third party who caused the damages.
In Nevada, individual defendants, not their insurance companies, are named
in litigation and juries seldom learn of the existence of insurance. Sometimes
insurance companies won't pay even if fault is established. For instance,
many insurance policies do not cover intentional acts.
To learn more,
call the Law Offices of Steven J. Klearman & Associates
at (775) 573-0229 today.