Every week clients ask for estimates on the final value of their case, and often we hear the same question: “I’ve heard my case is worth three times my medicals bills, is this correct?”
No. In reality, there is no overarching formula for valuing a personal injury claim. It is simply a common myth that a claim is worth three times the medical bills, because in reality each case is unique. The reality is that that the value of a personal injury case is based on hundreds, if not thousands, of individual factors that are specific to each claim. Some factors may make the case more valuable, such as, injury permanency, future medical expenses, the inability to return to work, and in some cases, the defendant’s conduct in causing the accident. Other factors can decrease value. The 3x formula has no basis in Virginia law, but for some reason it is persistent.
I recently spoke with a retired judge and raised this issue. Where does this myth come from? The judge said he had experienced frustration sometimes with juries who incorrectly believe this myth. For instance, some juries would award 100% of the medical bills. Then the jury would double that amount for pain and suffering. But, before leaving the jury deliberation room, one or more jurors would remember that the lawyer has to be paid somehow. Then, the jurors would triple the amount of the medical bills so that the attorney fee won’t somehow reduce the Plaintiff’s award. But, the judge mentioned there is no basis in case law or statute for this system. Sometimes, individual juries will invent their own system in awarding damages. The judge closed his comment by saying that juries are fickle and unpredictable. While some juries have awarded this three times the medical bills others award more or less. Each jury is different and each case is different. But, there is no system, rule, procedure, statute, or case law that obligates a jury to multiply the medical bills by three.
In this age of data mining and increasing reliance on computerized analysis, insurance companies often use algorithmic software to value a claim. Some programs have over 10,000 value drivers that assess the overall worth of the claim. Obviously this assessment of a claim is far more comprehensive and complex than simply multiplying the medical bills, but it is skewed to the insurance company’s benefit. On the other side of the table, it is the job of the plaintiff’s attorney to present the claim favorably for the client, and make all of the unique issues apparent to the insurance carrier, opposing counsel, or to the court. That is the bulk of the work we do every day at Burnett & Williams – we look carefully at the details of every case and explore every aspect of the laws that govern it to make sure that a simple formulation doesn’t determine the outcome. If every personal injury matter was simply valued at three times the medical bills, there would be no need to hire an attorney. For our clients, we make sure that every case is individualized and all factors are considered to arrive at a fair calculation of the recovery value. If you have questions about an insurance carrier’s settlement offer on a difficult injury case, we’d be happy to take a look. Call us anytime for a no-fee consultation: 800-969-1650.