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Back Injury Auto Accident Case Valuation

Most car accident victims suffer some type of back injury. The good news is that this type of injury is compensable under the law. Back injuries such as spinal cord damage, spondylolisthesis and compression fractures are expensive. It’s your attorney’s job to make sure that you are adequately compensated for the damage. A plaintiff’s attorney will value the damages for use in settlement negotiations. To do this they look at several factors surrounding the victim’s personal situation.

Economic Damages

Economic damages cover the amount of money expended in dealing with the injury. Some attorneys may refer to these as “special damages.” This category of damages covers both medical bills and lost income.

Clearly most accident victims will seek compensation for medical expenses. A plaintiff may seek monetary damages for both past and future medical expenses. To generate a settlement value the plaintiff’s attorney reviews the past medical bills. The attorney will also predict the length of treatment for future medical bills. In some cases, back injuries can cost millions of dollars in treatment over a lifetime. However, each case is different. The particular settlement value will depend on the unique circumstances.

Plaintiffs may also seek a recovery for lost income. As with medical expenses, lost income may be sought for past and future amounts. To determine the amount of past income lost your attorney will use your earning history. To determine a future amount the attorney factors in how the injury will affect the ability to perform work in the future. In some situations a plaintiff may have to take a lesser paying job due to the injury. The income lost by changing jobs (or not working at all) is compensable as a reduction in earning capacity.

Non-Economic Losses

A car accident victim can also demand non-economic damages. These include claims for emotional distress, and pain and suffering. Non-economic damages are difficult to assess. They are subjective in nature which makes them hard to value. Yet, there are a couple techniques lawyers use to find a settlement value.

Emotional Distress Damages

This class of damages compensate a victim for the psychological impact of an injury. Some common forms of emotional distress include fear, depression and anxiety. The type of distress can be different for each person. However, a plaintiff must be able to show that the distress is continuous, affects daily living and is related to the injury suffered.

Damages for emotional distress are not limitless. Many states have laws that limit the amount that can be awarded. Thus, it is important to come up with a reasonable demand amount before entering settlement negotiations.

Pain and Suffering

This type of damage is common in car accident cases. Attorneys reach a settlement value by using a multiplier to estimate an amount. Most lawyers used a number between 1.5 and five as a pain multiplier. This number is multiplied by the amount of medical damages awarded. The result is the amount that can be granted as part of a pain and suffering award.

How Damages Might be Reduced

There are other factors that can work against the proposed settlement value. If the plaintiff fails to mitigate damages by avoiding treatment he or she may not receive a full award. Similarly, if a plaintiff does not make a good faith effort to follow treatment guidelines he or she may receive a smaller settlement.

Certain jurisdictions have contributory negligence laws that can affect the potential compensation amount. In a pure contributory negligence state the plaintiff will not be entitled to any compensation if he or she contributed to the accident. Other states use comparative negligence theories to reduce compensation. With comparative negligence the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by the amount of fault he or she bears.

A Final Look at Back Injury Valuation

As you can see each case valuation differs depending on the type of injury and how fault is apportioned. An experienced attorney can give you a good idea of how much you can expect in a settlement or jury award. It is important to obtain prompt treatment and to document your medical issue. Accurate information will help the attorney create an appropriate settlement value for your needs.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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