Your neighbor got $500,000 for her injuries. You were injured in an accident, and your lawyer tells you your injuries, even though similar to your neighbor, are worth only $250,000. Why the difference? There are many factors that go into evaluating a personal injury case. Here are the top 10 things lawyers use to evaluate the value of a case: 1. Venue Where your case is pending will have a great impact on the potential value of your injury case. Believe it or not, the same injury in Westchester will not have the same value as in Brooklyn. Although attorneys would like to pick where their client's case is held, we can't always choose. The choice of venue is often determined by where the injured victim lives, or where the person who caused the accident lived. 2. Members of the jury When the law says that an injured person has a right to a jury of one's peers, it doesn't mean that you're entitled to a jury of all women between the age of 30-35, similar to you. Members of the jury pool come from all over the county where your case is pending. Their ages, ethnicity, and race will vary greatly. A "jury of one's peers" is a misnomer. If you have sued a doctor, do you think they're entitled to a jury of all doctors? The law doesn't think so. Different venues have different jurors who make up the jury pool. A jury in the Bronx is often different than in Rockland. 3. Age Your age is very important is determining the value of your injuries. A younger person may be affected differently than an older person. A younger person may have to live longer with their disabling injuries than an older person. 4. Disability How has your injury disabled you? As with any injury, it affects each person differently. It's important for your attorney to learn how exactly your injury has disabled you and how it affects you. That leads to the next tip. 5. Daily activity Does your injury affect your daily activity? If it does, your case will have a greater value than one where your injuries do not affect your daily activities. Can you tie your shoes? Can you lift your children into their car seats? Can you shower without assistance? Can you eat without help? Are you still able to drive? 6. How your injuries affect you This is the opportunity for you to distinguish your specific case from anyone else's. Do you take pain medicine? Do you use a cane to walk? Are you prevented from going to the gym to work out? Is your child developmentally disabled? Are they in physical therapy? Occupational therapy? This is one of the most significant aspects of your case. 7. Medical care Do you need medical care and treatment because of your injuries? Will you need to recuperate? Will you be out of work because of ongoing medical treatment? What will that medical care cost? Will you need surgery in the future? 8. Future medical needs What expenses will you need to pay for in the future? Surgery? Medicine? Therapy? Prosthetic appliances? How will you pay for your health insurance when you can't work? These are economic losses that can be calculated. 9. Lost earnings How much money did you lose because you've been injured and out of work? How much were you earning? What perks did you lose because you couldn't return to work? What raises did you lose out on because of your disability? Again, this is an economic loss that can be calculated. 10. Future lost earnings This is an economic loss that an economist (an expert who evaluates what the value of a dollar is today, and compares it with what it's likely to be in the future) will be able to calculate. Is your fractured arm worth the same as a pro-baseball Yankees player who fractured their arm? What about a concert pianist who breaks their arm? Is your arm worth the same as theirs? Does your injury involve your non-dominant hand, whereas your neighbors' involved her dominant hand? Did your neighbor have major surgery to correct her fracture, yet you didn't need any surgery? Does your medical condition require a follow-up with your orthopedist every year, but your neighbor has to see her doctor every month? Does your neighbor have an ongoing, permanent disability, yet your injuries have healed without problem? These factors will help you understand why your case is worth a certain amount of money, and your neighbor's case is worth more.
Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer