A personal injury calculator may seem like a useful tool, but our best advice is to stay away from using one!
If you type “personal injury calculator” into Google, you’re going to find websites that purport to be able to calculate the value of your personal injury claim — stay away! These sites are a common nuisance for personal injury lawyers for a number of reasons. First, while it is true that most insurance companies use sophisticated computer programs, such as Colossus, to help them evaluate the “value” of your claim, because of variations in state law, it is virtually impossible to create a calculator that can factor in the nuances of each claim. For example, Virginia adheres to the Collateral Source Rule, which allows a personal injury victim to present the “face value” of their medical bills to the judge or jury, without regard to what health insurance might pay, or whether the treatment provider “writes off” a certain portion of the bill. Other states may allow introduction of amounts the injured person actually paid after health insurance payments, instead of the face value amount — this can make a big difference when inputting “medical bills” into a “personal injury calculator.”
Quite often, these “calculators” also multiply your quantifiable damages (things like medical bills, lost wages) by a certain number (for example 3x) to calculate your claim “value.” The problem with that approach is that it is not how judges or juries reach verdicts in court. Instead, judges or juries are generally asked to consider a range of “damages” that may include, but not be limited to, your medical bills (subject to the state’s Collateral Source Rule), lost wages, future earning capacity, and “pain and suffering.” The issue of “pain and suffering” is where calculators truly do no justice.
In court, evidence of “pain and suffering” often comes from live testimony of the victim — and, in appropriate cases, their family, friends, and/or co-workers — as to how their injuries impact their daily life. Depending on the nature of the injury, “pain and suffering” may differ greatly from case to case. Compare, for example, Client A, who breaks their arm badly but undergoes successful surgery that essentially returns them to normal, albeit with a surgical scar on their arm, versus Client B whose face is lacerated in a crash, requiring stitches only, but leaving a scar from forehead to jaw. Client A almost certainly incurred significantly more medical bills than Client B because of the surgery, but isn’t Client B’s life more dramatically impacted by the presence of the facial scarring versus arm scarring? There is no calculator that can properly account for those sorts of nuances in a given case.
Finally, with few exceptions, personal injury cases are rarely ready to be settled until someone has completely finished treatment and reached “maximum medical improvement.” So, unless you’re at that point, it will be very difficult — if not impossible — for a lawyer to speculate on the “value” of your case. Unlike calculators, experienced personal injury attorneys will weigh the nature and scope of the evidence they will be able to present in court, knowing that juries are unpredictable, and that it can be hard to place “value” on such abstract, fact-dependent variables like “pain and suffering.” And for the reasons discussed above, you simply can’t rely on a “personal injury calculator” to do the job for you. It makes a personal injury lawyer’s job tough when a potential client comes to them with a preconceived notion of “what the claim is worth.” The last thing most experienced personal injury lawyers want to hear is: “I calculated what my claim is worth online and it said $X.” The convenience of modern technology has made many aspects of life easier this day in age, but “personal injury calculators” do not fit that bill.
If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury and need consultation on how to proceed with your claim, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Burnett & Williams at: 703-777-1650. But stay away from “personal injury calculators!”