The value of a personal injury case is affected by many factors. These factors include the amount of medical bills and wage loss, the nature and duration of medical treatment, how your injuries have affected your day-to-day activities, and what the future holds. These factors, or “damages”, contribute to the potential value of your case.
Types of Damages
Oregon law permits an injured person to recover two categories of losses or damages: economic and noneconomic.
Economic Damages Are Mostly Objective
Economic damages are hard costs that can be objectively verified. They are relatively easy to determine and include:
- past, present and future medical bills;
- wage loss;
- loss of future earning potential; and
- other out-of-pocket expenses.
Noneconomic Damages Are Subjective
Noneconomic damages are much more subjective and subject to interpretation. The law says that noneconomic damages consist of pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, humiliation, any inconvenience and interference with your normal and usual activities, injury to reputation, and any other subjective, nonmonetary losses.
Among the factors to be considered in an award of noneconomic damage are:
- the nature and extent of your injuries;
- whether you had a full recovery or sustained a permanent injury;
- the nature and duration of your medical treatment; and
- how the injuries have affected, and will continue to affect, your day-to-day activities.
Jury Perception is Critically Important
Appearance of the Plaintiff
One of the most important factors in jury trials is what impression the plaintiff (the injured person) makes on the jury. If the jury sees the plaintiff as a credible, responsible person who has done everything possible to get better, it can help the case and the final settlement. If the jury sees the plaintiff as someone who has not tried diligently to get better and/or exaggerated their symptoms, it can have a devastating impact on an otherwise solid case.
Appearance of the Defendant
Another important factor is the impression that the defendant makes on the jury. Consider a car accident in which the defendant is a wealthy businessman who is late for a meeting and runs a red light. At trial, he is dressed in an expensive Italian suit, gives evasive answers, and comes across as an arrogant jerk.
Contrast that defendant with a little old lady on a fixed income that is on her way to church. Perhaps she is momentarily confused by traffic and inadvertently goes through a red light. Same plaintiff; legally it should not matter, but the impression of the defendant can make a big difference.
Every Case is Unique
The value of your case is based on weighing all of the above factors. Every case is unique. To get an estimate of the value of your specific case, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.