How much is my case worth?


An injured plaintiff could ask 10 lawyers, “What is my case worth?” and get back 10 different responses. Why is that? Do personal injury attorneys really know the value? Do insurance companies? No, they do not! However, there are factors that can be analyzed to reach informed, yet imprecise, conclusions. In general, there are six factors that contribute to the case’s value.


One time-tested measuring stick for valuing an injury case is the amount of “special” damages, or those that are incurred directly as a result of the injury. These include charges for past and projected future medical treatment. Lost wages (past or future) are also recognized as special damages. “General” damages, (or “pain and suffering”), are damages that are recoverable for pain. This is one of the most frequently litigated issues in injury cases because either the Judge or the jury decides what value to place on a plaintiff’s pain and suffering. If liability insurers had their way, pain and suffering damages would never be awarded. Therefore, it is important for an injured plaintiff to preserve information about the pain they suffered over the course of their treatment for injuries. This may be done by telling the story of a painful recovery from surgery through documents, evidence such as photos and video, and testimony of the plaintiff and those closest to them.


Can the defense show the plaintiff as someone who is looking for a huge recovery rather than what is fair? Is the defendant sympathetic or are they apathetic in regard to their acts of negligence? How a court or a jury sees the parties can weigh heavily on what is awarded to an injured plaintiff.


Juries may favor an attorney that they perceive is doing a better job in the trial presentation. In the minds of the jurors, the Attorneys are weighed just as importantly as the parties they represent. The jurors’ perception of the attorneys may affect the eventual outcome.


The location, or “venue”, of a case can be critical. In Georgia, rural jurisdictions are often regarded as more conservative in the awards of pain and suffering damages. There are certainly exceptions to this general rule; however, venue is always a very important consideration for both sides when evaluating a case.


Different Courts and Judges may reach a different result in a case even though the same case is presented. For instance, is the plaintiff’s slip and fall case within a Court that regularly grants summary judgment to defendants? Does the Court usually grant motions for sanctions if the defendant destroys evidence? It is not possible to always predict the decision of a trial judge on the various issues in litigation; however, taking note of the patterns of prior rulings by the Court can be instructive.


The composition of a jury is unknown until the time of jury selection; therefore, it is not possible to intelligently predict what a jury will think of a plaintiff’s case. While jury selection is critical to ensure a fair outcome for a plaintiff, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant is in control of the pool of potential jurors who will ultimately comprise the jury in a plaintiff’s trial following jury selection.


It is impossible to guarantee the value of an injured plaintiff’s case. While “three times the special damages” is often relied upon for valuing a case, this is all but invalidated by the fact that certain locations in Georgia awarded far greater than three times the special damages to Plaintiffs. The best result for a plaintiff is achieved by hiring an attorney who will prepare the case for trial, not settlement. One thing that is clear is that insurance companies can tell the difference when they place a value on a case.

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