It’s a frequent question. The answer takes in many factors. These factors include the nature of the injury and how it impacted the life of the injured person. The question of what a case is worth can’t even be approximated until thorough review of many factors.
Some, but by no means all of these factors include the dollar amount of medical bills, the length and extent disability, scarring, loss of function, residual symptoms and lost wages.
At one time, personal injury attorneys and insurance adjusters simply tallied up the medical bills and multiplied the total by a “magic number”. Sometimes lost wages were also lumped into the formula and the total was multiplied by 7 to 10 for a “demand” to the insurance company. This depended on the attorney’s strategy and experience with the particular insurance company or claims adjuster. Then, the insurance company would make an offer. In this less-than-accurate ball-park approach it was often a universally accepted truism that a final settlement of 3 times the total of the “specials” or medicals and lost wages, was a good day.
However, this approach has been for the most part largely rejected for many reasons. For example, the ever increasing cost of medical treatment, and the type of treatment, can skew the total of the medical bills out of proportion to the actual injury. The magic multiplier method also punishes those who go on with their lives more quickly or “mitigate their damages” as the law requires.
Another standard approach to putting a dollar amount on injuries draws a time line after the date of injury, assigning periods of total disability, partial disability and residuals. It would require dozens of pages to explain how insurers and attorneys arrived at various numerical quantifications for periods of total, partial and residual. But in this scheme, such numbers were cooked up based on factors such as whether an individual did heavy duty work, light duty, what their actual average weekly wages were and other considerations. However, this evaluation approach fails when the injured is for example an in home mother of children or a college student and there are no actual “wages” and a numerical equivalent must be fashioned.
The insurance industry has crafted various computer models to evaluate personal injury claims. Among the first such insurance claim evaluation programs was “Colossus” which used some or all of the above factors and more. As attorneys sent medical bills and other claim documents, insurance adjusters would key in various data. The program calculated an evaluation based on numerical weight assigned to coded criteria built into the system. This is the most arbitrary – but most widely used – claim evaluation approach. Among many problems, a subluxation injury diagnosed by a medical doctor is given value, while the identical subluxation diagnosed by a chiropractor is given no weight.
The attorneys at the Griffin Law Office have evaluated hundreds of personal injury claims and we have learned that no two injuries are the same. Injuries do not affect any two individuals the same. However, where hypothetical injuries are summarized it is uncanny how experienced attorneys will often arrive at a consensus as to the reasonable settlement range.