How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
After an accident that causes injuries, expenses immediately start to arise. Bills from the ambulance ride, hospital stay, and medical treatment, along with repairs for property damage, can add up before the first week is even over. Meanwhile, normal life doesn’t slow down after a personal injury. On top of the new expenses caused by the accident or illness, you still have to manage your usual cost of living like credit card bills, rent, daycare, and groceries. All of this will likely leave you wondering how much you’ll be able to recover for your accident so you can get your life back on track.Determining Liability for a Personal Injury
Whether you are receiving medical attention in a hospital or leasing a property from a landlord, they are responsible for taking reasonable measures to keep you safe. Likewise, drivers are also responsible for not causing car accidents; for example by following Arizona traffic laws or not driving under the influence. Any person or entity who falls short of these obligations—known as duty of care—may be considered liable for any injury or illness they cause another person. No matter who the at-fault party is, a Phoenix personal injury lawyer can help you to gather and evaluate evidence that demonstrates their actions led to your injury so you can recover the compensation you need to be made whole again.
When determining liability for a personal injury, the accident victim’s actions also have to be taken into consideration. For instance, if an employee is injured in a workplace accident in an area where he or she was explicitly not supposed to be, that can affect the determination of liability and ultimately what the injured worker is able to financially recover from the other party.
Liability and compensation are often determined in negotiations or in court, where all these factors will be taken into account.Compensatory Damages in Personal Injury Cases
Most personal injury damages are classified as compensatory, meaning that they are intended to compensate the injured plaintiff for what was lost due to the accident or injury. Compensatory damages are intended to make up for the financial losses from missing work, paying medical bills, spending money on transportation, and any other expenses related to your injury. The collectible amount can vary greatly depending on the severity of your injury and the facts of your case.Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases
As the name suggests, punitive damages are intended to be a type of punishment. They are meant to deter the same party and others from committing similar acts. The idea is that by costing a company a significant amount of money, they will be more mindful of laws and safety in the future, as will other similar companies.
The case of Stella Liebeck, the woman who was gravely injured due to McDonald’s negligence, is a good example of punitive damages. The jury awarded the plaintiff punitive damages in order to incentivize McDonalds into changing the way they operated their company for the safety of their customers.
At-fault parties who’ve intentionally caused harm are likely to have to pay punitive damages. Punitive damages are also awarded when a defendant has engaged in reckless behavior such as hiring an unlicensed child care employee or driving while intoxicated. In Arizona, there is no specific limitation on what you can recover in punitive damages.
It should be noted that punitive damages are only awarded in very specific cases and for specifically egregious circumstances. They are not awarded very often.What can Affect Damages Awarded?
Sometimes more than one person or entity is responsible for an accident. In those situations, multiple insurance policies with varying limits come into play. Additionally, how you manage your injuries after an accident can impact what you can collect.Comparative Negligence
Since Arizona is a comparative negligence state, more than one party can be held liable for accident-related injuries. For instance, say a restaurant patron is injured in a slip and fall accident on a wet floor from mopping and damages are $100,000. If the restaurant failed to mark the wet area with proper signage, chances are that establishment will be considered liable. However, if video footage showed the injured patron was acting recklessly, it’s possible that the restaurant and the customer would share fault.
Comparative negligence directly determines the amount of compensation someone will receive based on the percentage of liability.
If a jury determines that the restaurant is 50% at fault, the defendant would only be responsible for $50,000 of the $100,000 in damages. The higher your percentage of fault is, the less you will be able to collect from the other party.Failure to Mitigate Damages
In a personal injury case, if a defendant can successfully show that the injured plaintiff failed to act reasonably to minimize their losses after an accident, it can lead to a smaller payout for the plaintiff.
For example, an employee who breaks a leg in a car accident is entitled to damages. However, if that employee refuses to use crutches as instructed by a doctor, it can slow down healing and lead to further injury. This could be used by the defense attorneys to minimize compensation. However, a reasonable person is often able to avoid these types of pitfalls.Insurance Coverage and its Effect on Damages
Insurance coverage—or the lack of it—can play a significant role in the amount you can recover. The amount of liability insurance can also factor into how quickly the case settles.
For example, if a negligent driver only has the minimum required coverage, it’s possible that your damages will exceed that amount.
In Arizona, you must maintain two types of insurance coverage:
- Bodily Injury which pays for bodily injury to others, and
- Property Damage which pays for damage to another person’s vehicle.
The minimum required coverage limits are $25,000 per person in Bodily Injury coverage and $15,000 per accident for Property Damage coverage.
If you have ever been in the hospital, you can imagine how fast $25,000 in coverage can be used up.
If a liable person or business is not insured at all, you can pursue a case against your own insurance company if you have the protection of uninsured motorist coverage. The coverage is designed to protect yourself in the event another motorist who doesn't have insurance injures you. This can be instrumental in getting the compensation you need to recover.
Further, if an at-fault party has an auto policy, but they do not have enough insurance to cover your losses, your attorney will look into pursuing an underinsured motorist claim (UIM) with your own insurance carrier.
For example, let’s say the defendant has $25,000 in coverage and your case is worth $35,000. In this scenario, your attorney would collect the first $25,000 from the defendant and the next $10,000 from your own policy.
Finally, when there is substantial liability or UM/UIM coverage, there is greater potential for a higher payout for your physical injuries as well as your pain and suffering. Insurance companies prefer to negotiate before you learn about these larger policies. That way they can get you to settle for as little as possible. A personal injury attorney can help to bring those numbers to light before you agree to a settlement.Schedule a Free Consultation With a Personal Injury Attorney
Most people do not realize how costly an injury can be. When you consider medical bills, lost wages, the cost of childcare while you visit a physical therapist, and even things like lost earning capacity in the future, it can become apparent just how much an injury affects you financially.
From premises liability injuries to car accidents, the skilled attorneys at Abels & Annes have overseen a great variety of personal injury cases. If you’ve been injured, we will carefully evaluate your case to make sure you recover the compensation you need to cover all your damages. For a free consultation, contact us online or by calling 602-819-5191.