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Personal Injury Cases: How Does A Lawyer Figure Out A Settlement Value?

A large part of our job is advising clients about settlement negotiations.  What should we ask for?  What is the value of the case?  Is this a good offer?  etc.

During those discussions, many injured persons ask how we know the answers to those questions.

It’s not a mathematical formula.  It’s not a simple calculation.  Instead, the settlement value of the case is based in large part what we think a jury would award in the case.

So first, we have to figure out what a jury would do.  (To fully understand this, you need to know how juries reach their verdicts.)  There isn’t a precise calculation that we can use to do this, but we can know a pretty good range of likely verdicts.  Sure, there are outliers.  Some verdicts may be higher than the likely range, and some may be lower.  But generally, we have a good idea of what the likely range of a case would be. 

Once we get that range, then we may need to adjust it for other factors that may increase or decrease the value of the claim.  For example, if you have liability questions — it’s a swearing match about what happened, then the case will be worth less than if all the witnesses supported your claim.  There may also be aggravating factors — Was the other driver drunk or texting at the time of the wreck? Did the company ignore a long history of problems that led to your injury? Is the other party simply unlikeable  (and how much the jury likes/dislikes you and the other party can have a huge affect on case value)?

This isn’t something you can figure out on your own.  You really need a lawyer’s experience to know the range and to know how that range might be affected by the particular factors in your case. 

But the value always goes back to the alternative — what would a jury do?

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