Good cases are functions of damages and causation.
Tort = Duty + Breach + Damages
- Severity of injury
- Amount of reasonable medical special damages
- Other damages i.e. lost wages and suffering
- Aggravating factors like punitive conduct
- The extent you can prove liability
- Whether there is enough coverage for the injuries sustained
TYPICAL CASE VALUES
NON-SURGICAL/SOFT TISSUE CASES
These are cases where our client heals without any invasive intervention except maybe some injections. I've seen medical expenses cost anywhere from $500 all the way up to $150,000. Our client starts out with a chiropractor or orthopedist, has adjustments and/or physical therapy, might follow up with injections, and if that concludes the treatment, most lawyers see 1.5-2x special damages.
In a soft tissue case where a client walks into a clinic, has $10,000 of chiropractor, PT, and ortho visits, and treatment is consistent and non-excessive, I would expect to see a settlement anywhere from $15,000 - $20,000. At that point, we would provide additional value by negotiating the medical specials as low as possible to ensure our client's maximum net gain. In this scenario, maybe we can get everyone to agree on a 1/3 split – so $6,333.33 each for medical providers, the attorney, and the client in the event of a $20,000 settlement.
Some of these cases we cannot use a simple multiplier for their damages – it just isn't fair. We will have cases where the MRI's show disc herniations or bulges, the client is in immense pain, yet surgery is not recommended or the client does not want to take the risk even though it is recommended. If we have a client whose life has been devastated, we have high policy limits, and great before and after witnesses, we will litigate that case. My former partner Jason Ferguson, myself, and Attorney Hampton Eadon had a case just like this in June of 2018. Our client, Stacy, had four disc bulges that greatly impacted her life. She had been hit by a commercial truck and her car was a total loss. She had $40,000 in medical special damages and our highest offer pre-trial was $100,000. Our client had been out of work and could not find employment due to her constant schedule of doctor appointments, pain, therapy, etc. Surgery was recommended but she was delaying that as long as possible. We were able to obtain a $780,000 verdict for Stacy against the commercial truck driver that hit her.
SURGICAL SOFT TISSUE CASES
Sometimes these soft tissue cases take on a life of their own. We'll see a client go to the ER, follow up with a chiropractor, and fail to improve after a month or two, so the chiropractor refers them to an orthopedist. The ortho orders MRI's and notices various impressions like disc herniations that appear to be recent events and the client is ordered to do physical therapy. The client keeps following up with the ortho who refers the client out for spinal injections to manage the pain. Assuming that doesn't work, the doctor orders more PT and follows up in a month or two. If the client is still in intense pain, the ortho will refer that patient to a spinal surgeon for a recommendation. If the client has that surgery and we have either good policy limits OR a potential bad faith action against the liability carrier, we could have a case worth over $1,000,000.
JOINT OR LIGAMENT/TENDON SURGICAL CASES
"MILD" TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
I actually don't think any brain injury is mild but these might be the hardest cases to work up because there is no objective injury, and insurance companies will hardly ever put real money on them. There are certain clues where your lawyer should step in in direct treatment if they suspect MTBI. If I see any of the following, I owe it to my client to have them at least follow up with a neurologist:
- Any loss of consciousness during accident
- Concussion diagnoses
- CT scans of the clients head at the hospital
- If family members say anything about the client seeming different or not themselves
- Skull fracture
If we have a client that we suspect might have a MTBI, it must be worked up properly because it will most likely need to be litigated. In addition to a neurologist that understands our client and these type injuries, we'll need a treatment schedule that is consistent, a showing of life altering damages like job loss because or poor performance, and solid “before & after” witnesses that can attest to how different that person has been since their accident.
The value of a non-surgical fracture case totally depends on impairment after the injury and to what extent our client makes a full recovery. Any time I hear a client suffered a broken bone, I think at least $30,000-$50,000 in minimal value – sometimes much more depending on the recovery, limitations, and impairment.
I tend to see these cases valued anywhere from $100,000 all the way up to high 7 figures. Again, it depends on the case, the type of injury, the medical bills, future prognosis, lost wages, and impairment.
By catastrophic I mean complete loss of use, paralysis, blindness, amputation, TBI. If liability is not in question, any catastrophic injury should be worth at least $1,000,000 and as some incredible lawyers have proven, they can be worth close to $100,000,000.
If liability can easily be proven, wrongful death cases, just like catastrophic injury cases, can have immense value and closure to the family that is bringing the case. Many times where conduct is egregious enough, the family has no interest in settling a claim, and they only want a jury to give them justice in court. I've seen this with clients of mine when I bring them a settlement offer, and they mention they never had any intention of settling and the money is irrelevant. Where liability is not an issue I have seen juries award amounts as low as $250,000 all the way up to $100,000,000 for the loss of a life caused by a defendant. Typical pre-trial settlement values I see range from $500,000 up to $12,000,000.
We can enhance the value of a case if there are additional variables:
- A defendant arrested for DUI after causing the accident
- Prior similar wrongdoings
- Any conduct that might warrant punitive damages
- Statements made by defendant
- Social media posts making admissions
Our Goal as Your Lawyer: Maximize Value and Minimize Costs
The obvious objective in every case is to maximize the value, but almost as important is minimizing costs associated with a case. In my experience, there are various ways to maximize the amount our client walks away with:
- Evaluate client's collateral auto insurance coverages
- Utilize the client's uninsured motorist coverage (UM coverage), and whether they have resident relatives where we can stack coverages
- ALWAYS negotiate medical bills as low as possible
- Cut our attorney's fee if needed
- Analyze whether the insurance company has engaged in bad faith
We determine what a case is worth on a case-by-case basis. There are patterns and trends to it but each case is unique. For a FREE, no-obligation case evaluation with a qualified Atlanta attorney, contact us or call (404) 618-0960.