It never surprises me when a client or potential client tells me they believe the value of their claim is 3 times the amount of the medical bills they’ve incurred. I hear this more often than not and it never seems to vary. Indeed, this is a common misconception many people outside of the personal injury legal field have. For example, a client has $4,000 in medical bills, so they feel they should not receive a penny under $12,000 to settle their claim. Undeniably, it would be great to have a “minimum” value pre-determined in every personal injury claim by the amount of medical bills incurred by the victim, but this simply isn’t the case. The truth of the matter is that no two personal injury claims (or victims) are identical. As such, there can never be a set formula for determining the value of one’s claim. The value of your claim depends on many factors. Nature of injury, pre-existing conditions, nature of treatment, thoroughness and consistency of treatment, future prognosis, lost wages, loss of consortium, etc. The extent of medical bills you have incurred is a factor, but not the only/most important one, in the big scheme of things. Think of it this way, in a very simplistic example: Claim “A” – Let’s assume you are severely injured in an accident which resulted in two spine surgeries, extensive physical therapy and a year of recovery. You also suffered permanent injuries which no longer allow you to participate in certain sporting activities or participate in daily routines for extended periods of time without pain or weakness. You are also a Medicare recipient. The amount of your medical bills (that were actually paid) was only $26,450. Alternatively, Claim “B” – let’s assume you had Cigna or Blue Cross health insurance and the medical bills paid were $107,600. Does this mean that the value of claim “A” is approximately 1/4 the value of the Claim “B” because the medical bills in Claim “A” were approximately 1/4 of the medical bills in Claim “B”? Absolutely not. This is a prime example of why a set “formula” for determining personal injury damages does not work, nor is it used. Claim “A” and Claim “B” would be valued at approximately the same amount, because the value of the claims would be based off of “general damages” (i.e., pain and suffering) and not “special damages” (i.e., medical bills). This hypothetical consisted of extensive treatment and permanent injuries, but the same rationale and logic applies to “smaller” claims where the treatments and bills are substantially less. In the end, our personal injury claim lawyer will identify all the factors which make up your claim and will negotiate the largest settlement possible for you to cover not only your medical bills, but also to put enough money in your pocket for your pain and suffering and future care, should you need it.
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