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You are injured by the negligence of someone else and you wonder what is a fair settlement. How do you find out? If you have an attorney representing you, how can you know if he or she is correct in their assessment of the value of your case?

First let us look at what you can recover in an injury case. First, you can recover for your out of pocket losses: lost wages, medical expenses, property damage and other expenses that come from your injury. These are called “Special damages”.You can also collect money to pay you for the pain, suffering, frustration, stress and inconvenience that you have experienced because of your injury. In the law, these amounts are called “General Damages. In exceptional cases you may also be able to recover punitive damages. We’ll discuss each category.

1. Special Damages. They are called “Special” because they can be proven with specific evidence, usually cancelled checks or pay stubs. You can make a list of them and show that they are real losses that can be computed to the penny. If you are injured, keep an accurate list of all expenses that you have incurred.

2. General Damages. They are called “General” because these are losses that you can’t prove with a cancelled check or a tax return. They are things like pain and no one can measure pain; it is subjective. You feel your own pain and no one else can feel it or measure pain. Being unable to work is frustrating and causes a great deal of stress. The law allows an injured person who proves that the injury was caused by the negligence of another person, to collect money to compensate for the pain and suffering and mental anguish. You may ask how do you measure the dollar value of pain? That is a subject that has befuddled attorneys forever. The answer: the value of your pain and suffering claim is whatever amount the jury in your case will specify for your pain and suffering. But since every jury is composed of different people, it is impossible to exactly figure out what they will do. Since over 90% of all cases filed, settle before trial, then how do the attorneys and clients figure out what is fair? First, attorneys can review verdicts in other cases and see what is the highest award and the lowest award for an injury. Usually that is aa very wide range. An experienced attorney who has tried cases like your before a jury where your case will be tried is very important. If you are injured and thinking about filing a claim it is important to keep track of all of things you experience so that you can describe it later. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 years to resolve an injury case and memories fade.

3. Punitive Damages. They are called “Punitive” because they are not meant to compensate an injured person for a loss, but to punish a wrongdoer for outrageous conduct. Punitive damages are almost never assessed because jurors are very reluctant to punish anyone unless the behavior was almost criminal in nature.

Some attorneys believe that general damages are a multiple of special damages. So if you have $10,000 in medical bills and $5,000 in wage loss, they would multiply that total by 4 and tell you that you have $60,000 in general damages. There is no scientific support for that proposition.

In cases where a person suffers a back injury that does not require surgery and that does not cause a wage loss, to have a value under $80,000 and most likely is worth between $15,000 and $40,000. Of course the injured party must prove that the defendant was negligent and caused the injury before any payment is warranted. When the defendant denies negligence and has a good defense, the value of the case goes down. Just because you are hurt does not mean someone else has to pay you for your injuries. If you bring a claim, you have to prove everything and the defendant doesn’t have to prove anything. So realize that you must do your part to help your lawyer prove your case.

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