We are often asked “how much is my accident case worth?” In fact, it’s probably the most frequently asked question. It’s easy to understand why this question gets asked so frequently because when you’ve been injured you’ve got medical bills piling up, you may have missed work, and in certain circumstances you have to miss work for an extended period of time because of your injuries. All of these factors can take a serious financial toll on a person’s life and family, so it’s only natural that an injured person would want assurance of their financial well-being after they’ve been hurt.
4 Factors That Determine How Much Your Texas Injury Case is Worth
There are essentially four factors that determine the value of your injury claim. Keep in mind that these are just factors – there is no scientific formula that you can apply to get a precise value for your particular claim. Every case is different, and will therefore be valued differently. However, these factors can help educate you on what to expect, and how to estimate the value of your case:
- Venue (the jury)
Liability simply refers to who was at fault. Unfortunately, this isn’t always as straight forward as what most people think it is. While in some cases, it’s very clear, the other driver’s insurance company will almost always try to put a portion of the blame on you. We have had cases where the evidence was very clear, where in fact the police report came right out and said who was at fault, yet the insurance company refused to accept liability. Even in rear-end collisions, the other driver’s insurance company may try to apportion some percentage of the blame on the person who was hit from behind – welcome to dealing with insurance companies.
If liability isn’t clear, this can affect the value of your claim and make it more likely that the other driver’s insurance company will refuse to pay anything on your claim, making it more likely you’ll need to file a lawsuit.
If you are at fault for the accident, you have no claim for damages unless you have PIP coverage (personal injury protection) through your own insurance company.
In Texas the laws favor the insurance companies, and in many cases, even if you have PIP coverage through your own insurance company, they will often refuse to pay, or pay very little. We’ve noticed over the last year or two that insurance companies have become very brazen, and unreasonably deny paying PIP benefits that quite obviously should be paid. If you have PIP coverage, and your insurance company is refusing to pay PIP benefits, or stops paying them unreasonably, you would be well served by contacting an injury attorney. We have had great success compelling insurance companies to pay PIP benefits that they were trying to deny paying – after all, you pay for these benefits every month, and you should be able to rely on the benefits if you need them.
If the other driver’s insurance company is denying that their driver is at fault, or is refusing to take responsibility for the crash, you will probably need to contact an experienced injury lawyer. Having a good injury lawyer on your side will often compel the insurance company to do what is right, and pay the claim. If not, your attorney can file a lawsuit to hold the at-fault driver (and their insurance company) responsible.
Insurance Coverage Also Affects the Value of Your Injury Claim
The amount of insurance coverage also affects the value of your injury claim. It’s not uncommon for drivers in San Antonio and south Texas to either have no insurance coverage (uninsured drivers), or have too little insurance coverage.
If you are hit by someone who has no insurance coverage, unless you have uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy, there will be no insurance available to pay you anything at all. But isn’t driving without liability insurance illegal? Yes, but Texas has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the country, and it’s particularly bad in San Antonio and southward. Unfortunately, the penalties for driving without insurance are very minimal, and usually result in only a small fine. The other driver receiving a citation does absolutely nothing to pay for your vehicle repairs, or medical bills. If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy, you’ll be out of luck – period. I suppose you could sue the uninsured driver, but if he or she had the money to pay you, they would probably have been able to afford insurance coverage.
We get calls every month from people who have been hit by an uninsured driver and have no uninsured motorist coverage on their own policy, and they want to know what they can do. Unfortunately, we have to deliver the bad news that there is nothing that they can do except pay for the damage and medical bills from their own pockets. Not having uninsured motorist coverage simply is not worth the few dollars you save each month by not having it – it’s not expensive when you consider the alternative. If you don’t have it, you should get it sooner than later. If you would like one of our attorneys to review your insurance policy for you, we offer that as a free service, and are happy to advise you on how best to protect yourself. Just call us at (210) 910-4357 – there is no obligation whatsoever.
In many cases, the other driver will have the minimum liability insurance required by the State of Texas, which is $30,000.00. With the cost of medical care today, it doesn’t take a catastrophic injury to incur $30,000 in medical bills. That’s why you should always have your own UM/UIM policy to cover you in case someone with very little coverage hits you.
When push comes to shove, the amount you’ll likely receive for your injuries, lost wages, and medical care after an accident comes down to how much insurance is available to cover you for all of your damages.
The term “damages” simply refers to the things you can be compensated for after an accident. In Texas, the most common damages for which you can be compensated are:
- Property Damage (the damage to your vehicle and its contents)
- Medical Bills (both past and future)
- Lost Wages (both past and future)
- Loss of Earning Capacity (if you were injured so badly that you cannot make as much money in the future)
- Pain, Suffering, and Mental Anguish (these are more difficult to recover in Texas)
- Scarring & Disfigurement (if you have lasting scars, or lost a limb, etc.)
The above list doesn’t cover every type of damage that you can be compensated for, but these are by far the most common damages that you can recover in an injury claim.
When trying to figure out how much an injury case is worth, the factor that most influences the value of your claim is the “damages” aspect. The more serious and long-lasting the injuries, the more the case is worth. Obviously, the value of a case where a person was paralyzed is going to be much higher than the value of a case where a person had a minor neck sprain.
In most cases, damages are most easily measured in terms of “past medical expenses,” and “future medical expenses.” These are the two damage types that are easiest to quantify and measure. Damages like “pain and suffering” are very subjective, and difficult to measure and quantify, which is why pain and suffering damages are usually tied to past and future medical expenses. Insurance companies figure that the higher the past and future medical expenses are, the more serious the injuries, and thus the greater the pain and suffering the injured person was forced to endure.
Venue (the jury)
Where your injury occurred also has a tremendous impact on the value of your case. Why? Because if you have to file a lawsuit, your case will go before a jury, who will decide what your damages are, and how much to compensate you for your injuries. This is a factor in determining the value of an injury case because juries vary greatly from state to state, and even county to county. Texas tends to be one of the more difficult states to get fair damages for injury cases. This is true, in part, because the laws of the state of Texas greatly favor insurance companies. For example, an injury case in California where the laws are more favorable to injured people will probably be worth twice as much as the exact same case here in Texas.
Within the state of Texas, the county where the injury occurred also has an affect on the value of the case. In more conservative counties, juries tend to be less sympathetic, and are less likely to award injured people money to compensate them for pain and suffering. In less conservative counties, juries tend to me more caring and sympathetic, and are more likely to award a person monetary damages for pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Insurance companies know which venues are favorable to injured people, and which venues are not, and they adjust the amount they will pay to settle a case accordingly.
As you can see, there are a lot of different components to valuing an injury claim, many of which are subjective – that is why there is no exact formula you can apply to know what your case is worth. However, the right injury attorney will know how to maximize the value of your injury claim, and will be able to gather the evidence needed to get you the most compensation possible. But, you should know that not all attorneys are created equally, and you need to carefully consider who you choose to represent you. You can read an article here that we wrote about choosing the right lawyer for your case (Hint: It’s usually not the guys you see on TV and billboards – click here to find out why).
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