This is another post based on a search that someone used to reach our website. In this series of posts, I normally try to answer the question that the person asked. But I’m adamant that an attorney that tries to give you an early answer to this question is doing you a disservice. There are simply too many variables that affect the value of a case and aren’t known until the case develops.
First, it’s important to know that we settle cases based on what we think a jury would award in the case. Once the case develops, we have an idea of a likely range of the award for your injuries. Then that range is adjusted up or down for various facts. If the settlement offer is in that range, then it likely makes sense to accept the settlement. If we think the offer is below the range, then it typically makes sense to go forward with litigation.
What factors affect that range?
The first key variable is whether the other side was clearly at fault. If it’s clear that the defendant caused the injuries (perhaps he ran a red light while he was texting and he was drunk and there were ten witnesses to verify that) then the settlement will be much higher than if there is a question about fault (perhaps a swearing match between the parties about who ran a red light).
The second key variable is how bad you were hurt. In Texas, personal injury victims may recover damages for:
- medical expenses (past and future)
- lost wages or loss of earning capacity (past and future)
- pain and mental anguish (past and future)
- physical impairment (past and future)
- disfigurement (past and future)
Obviously, the more damages you have for each of these categories, the higher the potential settlement or verdict will be. However, attorneys can’t accurately give you a range on these issues without knowing specific facts about you and your case. There is no general rule of thumb to calculate the damages.
There are also a number of other variables that may affect the value of the claim. Does the defendant have a history of bad conduct that you might be able to use? Did you have pre-existing injuries similar to those you are now claiming in this case? Are you represented by a lawyer or does the insurance company think it can take advantage of you? What type of medical care have you received? Are your doctors or other medical providers likely to cooperate with you?
These factors and more all go in to knowing whether a settlement offer is reasonable. However, most of these factors aren’t known at the beginning of the case. These facts are learned and evolve as the case develops.
Having said all that, knowing whether a settlement offer is reasonable is one of the most important reasons to hire a lawyer who routinely represents injured persons in personal injury litigation. Most people, including attorneys who work in different practice areas, don’t have any idea what a jury might do with a claim. Thus, they can’t truly evaluate whether a settlement offer is reasonable.
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