Personal Injury FAQ
- How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
- What Is classified as life-changing injuries?
- What Compensation Will I Be Able to Recover in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
- How Much is a Typical Back Injury Settlement?
- How Much is a Herniated Disc Worth in a Personal Injury Case?
- How Much is My Personal Injury Claim Worth?
- How Much is Negligence Worth in a Personal Injury Case?
- What Is a Release in a Settlement Agreement?
- What Is Considered a Severe Injury?
- What is The Value of My Personal Injury Claim?
- What Is Considered a Long-Term Injury?
- Do All Personal Injury Claims Go to Trial?
- Do You Have to Pay Your Medical Bills From a Personal Injury Settlement?
- Does Medical Treatment Increase the Settlement Value of My Personal Injury Claim?
- When are Punitive Damages Awarded in Personal Injury Cases?
- Who Is Responsible for School Injuries?
How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
Some questions defy simple answers. This is certainly true when it comes to asking how long your personal injury case will require. In this post. we’ll give you the basics you need to make an informed decision after a meeting with a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer.
Why proper timing is essential to your personal injury case
It’s only natural to want quick resolution when you’re suffering due to someone else’s negligence. But, while a quick settlement may give you short-term satisfaction, it can also lead to long-term negative consequences. Here’s why:
- At-fault parties count on accident victims becoming impatient: They know that worry and fear can compel you to act hastily, sacrificing your own best interests in exchange for a paltry settlement. That’s how they get away with acting irresponsibly.
- Knowing how much compensation you’ll need takes time: That’s why personal injury lawyers typically wait until their client has reached his or her level of maximum medical improvement (MMI) before talking figures with the other side.
- Judges, juries, and mediators need facts before they can make a decision: The idea of a smooth-talking attorney beguiling his or her way into winning an outrageous sum of money is pure myth. In the real world, facts and arithmetic determine settlement amounts, not sleazy courtroom antics.
Now that we’ve discussed why achieving a fair settlement can take time, let’s take a closer look at MMI and the pivotal role it plays in most personal injury cases.
Sometimes the healing process can only go so far
The best way to illustrate how MMI works is with a hypothetical case. For example, there’s a guy named Joe who works as a carpenter. One day he falls from a ladder and suffers severe trauma to his lower back
A later investigation reveals that Joe’s supervisor failed to properly secure the ladder, an act of negligence which played a key role in causing his injuries. Joe demands full compensation for his medical bills, lost income, and related expenses.
He is well within his rights to do so. But this leads to an important question: Exactly how much will these costs total over a course of time?
The commonly accepted method for arriving at this figure is to wait until Joe has achieved his MMI. Only then will his law firm have the data it needs to present a dollar amount to the other side.
For example, let’s say that Joe is able to walk with a cane after undergoing six months of surgeries and physical therapy. He enjoys a reasonable degree of personal mobility, but will never again be able to work as a carpenter.
The total bill for his medical care during the past 12 months is $350,000. Future therapy will cost an average of $500 per month for the rest of Joe’s life.
Joe’s attorney now has a figure to work with when negotiating the final settlement amount. After going back and forth with opposing counsel, the matter is settled for $750,000.
Joe is now able to pay past due bills, pursue vocational retraining, and afford the services of a maid and a dog sitter to help with running his household. This gives him a solid foundation for making the most of his post-accident life.
Every case is unique, so the dollar amounts used in this post may or may not reflect the amount of compensation you can ultimately expect. Still, this imaginary scenario helps illustrate how these matters are decided in the real world.
It also shows why getting the compensation you deserve can sometimes take several months or, on occasion, even longer. Simply put, there’s no way to rush justice without short-changing accident victims.
What Is Considered a Severe Injury?
Under U.S. law, serious injury has a strict definition. A serious personal injury refers to one resulting in death or dismemberment, loss of a fetus, significant disfigurement, fracture, and permanent loss of use of a bodily organ, system or function.
Other severe injuries may involve those with “permanent consequential limitation” or “significant limitation” of use of a bodily organ or member, function or system.
If the person suffered a non-permanent injury that kept them from performing their daily activities for more than 90 days during the 180 days following the accident, this is also considered a severe injury.
Whatever the circumstances, whoever caused your severe injury changed your life irrevocably. You may have lost the ability to hold a job, or can no longer perform the work you did prior to the accident. Your medical bills are soaring and ongoing. You may feel desperate, but do not despair.
A Los Angeles personal injury lawyer at Ellis Injury Law will hold the party responsible for your injuries accountable so that you may receive the compensation you deserve. Our dedicated attorneys have recovered more than $350 million for clients in settlements and verdicts.
What are common causes of personal injuries?
Personal injury claims originate from all sorts of accidents or incidents, but what each one has in common is that another person or entity’s negligent or reckless actions were the cause. Many personal injury claims arise from motor vehicle crashes, but that is just one area of this field. Other frequent sources of severe personal injury include:
- Chemical or drug poisoning
- Construction accidents
- Dog bites
- Premises liability – slip and fall
Under California’s statute of limitations, plaintiffs typically have two years from the date of the injury in which to file a personal injury lawsuit. After that, the claim is not considered by the court. However, it is imperative to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible, as a personal injury lawsuit requires a great deal of evidence. Waiting too long to discuss the consequences of your severe injury with a lawyer means that precious evidence may get lost.
How much is my PI case worth?
In California, personal injury compensation falls into the categories of economic and non-economic. Economic compensation is determined by the provable losses incurred, such as medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and property damage. You have receipts for your bills and out-of-pocket expenses, and documentation from your employer about your wage loss. A mechanic or repair shop, in the case of a car accident, can give you an amount for repairing your car, or the insurance company may determine it is totaled.
While economic compensation is relatively easy to figure out, non-economic compensation is based on subjective factors. It may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional anguish
With the exception of medical malpractice, California does not place a cap on damages for a severe personal injury.
Wrongful death lawsuit
As noted, a serious injury includes one ending in death. Under California law, the family members of the deceased person may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Money cannot bring back a beloved family member, but it is the only way to compensate for the loss of a loved one.
The family may recover financial support the late person would have provided. Even if the person did not work outside the home, the family might recover the economic benefits the individual provided, such as childcare. Compensation may also include loss of companionship, sexual relations, and the guidance a parent gives to a child.
What Is a Release in a Settlement Agreement?
When you accept a settlement offer, you must sign a release before receiving the agreed-upon funds. The release, which is legally binding, contains the terms to which you must adhere before getting your compensation and means the claim is closed and you cannot pursue it further. You agree not to sue any other party involved in the accident.
When dealing with an insurance company, it is vital to understand exactly what you are signing when you put your signature on the release. Even though you may need the money to pay the various expenses connected with your injury, never sign such a document before obtaining legal counsel.
It is always wise to contact an attorney before agreeing to a settlement amount with an insurance company. Keep in mind that the insurance company wants to pay as little as possible, and once a release is signed, you are out of luck if it turns out you must receive further medical treatment for your injuries. Once you have signed the release, the insurance company is free of any further obligation.
A Los Angeles personal injury lawyer at Ellis Injury Law will protect your rights while negotiating a fair settlement for your injuries. We will answer any questions you have about the release and settlement so that you fully understand the process.
While the wording may vary, release agreements all include specific information. This will involve:
- Your name as the individual releasing the right to take further action against the party at-fault for your injuries
- The entity held responsible for the injury
- Date of the accident and injury
- Where the accident and injury took place
- The agreed-upon amount of money you will receive in exchange for the release
- Acknowledgement that you have read and understood the release
Often, the language in the release mandates that you do not reveal the settlement amount.
Many insurance companies use standard settlement release forms, and to the layperson, the document might sound like a lot of legal jargon. However, every release contains information pertinent to the individual claim. A personal injury lawyer will review every term in the release to ensure that it is acceptable. If there are issues, your lawyer will discuss them with the insurance representative.
For example, your lawyer might want to include a clause in the release preserving your right to bring a claim if you are later diagnosed with a medical issue relating to your injury. Perhaps those occasional headaches you experience after the accident are actually the result of neurological damage from the crash. Even if you think your injuries were not that serious and you have fully recovered, if you sign a release without such a clause, you must pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses and lost wages for any further injury.
Your lawyer will also review the settlement terms to make sure that all valid claims regarding your case are considered. Beyond medical bills and lost wages, that may include pain and suffering. As long as the release is still unsigned, there is room for negotiation.
However, if you try to negotiate these terms on your own without the aid of a lawyer, the odds of the insurance adjuster making such changes are low to non-existent. Expect the adjuster to simply tell you that there is no money without your signature on the release.
Personal Injury and Property Damage
Car accident settlements in which a person is injured and their vehicle is also damaged bear extra scrutiny. It is crucial to check the release to see if the property damage claim is included with the personal injury settlement. If it is not included, make sure you are not signing away your property damage claim when you sign the settlement release.
What is classified as life-changing injuries?
Life-changing injuries, also known as “catastrophic injuries,” impair the victim’s quality of life over the long term. Examples include spinal fractures, disfiguring burns, traumatic brain injury (TBI), loss of a limb, and extended oxygen deprivation.
The Los Angeles personal injury lawyers here at the Ellis Law Firm know how to build the strongest possible case. Contact us today if you or a loved one is suffering due to a serious injury of any kind.
When even time can’t heal your wounds
The human body has wondrous healing powers but some injuries are so devastating that they leave a lifelong impact on the victim.
In such cases, the sufferer may have no choice but to give up his or her career, say goodbye to favorite activities, use mobility aids, and learn how to cope with chronic pain.
Other times the injured person has difficulty with social interactions. Going out in public can cause fear or even panic. Some victims of life-changing accidents become recluses, withdrawing into themselves as the world passes them by.
Fortunately, not all injuries have such devastating consequences. Those that do have a lifelong impact generally fall under the following classifications:
- Head and brain injuries: Such as severe concussions. These can cause paralysis, cognitive impairment, personality changes, negative emotional states, and seizures. TBI falls under this category.
- Spinal injuries: The terrible forces unleashed in a serious accident can wreak havoc with the victim’s spine. Numbness, pain, constant tingling, limited mobility, or even total paralysis are common symptoms.
- Loss of a finger, toe, or major limb: Many of us rely on our physical dexterity in order to earn our living. Others enjoy an active lifestyle and participate in skiing, hiking, playing sports, and other vigorous activities. Imagine how losing the ability to do what you love would impact your quality of life. Even a missing finger or toe can force the victim to give up favorite activities.
- Severe burns: These can cause not only horrific pain but social isolation and emotional trauma as well. Burn victims sometimes spend their lives struggling to make it from one day to the next. They may lose their job, their social position, or even their life partner. Our job as a personal injury law firm is to help them get the funds they need for the care they deserve.
- Oxygen deprivation: Just a few seconds of air loss can cause permanent damage to the brain or nervous system. This type of injury almost always has devastating effects on the victim’s prospects for happiness and fulfillment.
- Loss of sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell: We rely on our five senses to navigate our way through the world. Any accident that impairs or destroys the senses is catastrophic to the victim.
- Organ damage: Trauma to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or other internal organs can fall under the category of life-changing injury, especially if it has a long-lasting impact on the victim’s health or quality of life. For example, some injuries can make it difficult for the person to control their bladder or bowel habits, causing shame, embarrassment, or even worse.
Victims of life-changing injuries deserve not only compassion but fair compensation as well. That’s where Ellis Injury Law comes into the picture.
Reach out to lawyers who want to help you
As leading personal injury attorneys, we know how to deal with insurance companies and at-fault parties who try to intimidate or harass accident victims. Our free consultations, contingency terms, and undeniable track record set us apart from run-of-the-mill law firms.
Over the years, our skilled attorneys have recovered more than $350 million for their clients, funds which have helped accident victims to pay past-due bills, afford medical care, and provide for themselves and their families.
Get in touch with our office today to schedule your free consultation. We collect no fees unless you win your case. A personal injury lawyer is available 24/7 for your convenience.
What Compensation Will I Be Able to Recover in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The compensation that you may be able to recover in a California personal injury lawsuit is not just a random number or a guess about the value of your losses. Rather, that compensation is an objective amount based on the dollar value of your property losses, expenses, and lost income that is the direct result of the accident that caused your injuries.
The Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law have represented California negligence victims for more than twenty-five years. We know how to present evidence of losses and expenses to insurance companies and juries in ways that improve our clients’ opportunities to recover maximum compensation in personal injury lawsuits.
What goes into the calculation of an accident victim’s compensation?
Most accident victims incur substantial medical expenses that are associated with the treatment of their injuries. Personal injury attorneys use invoices and bills from doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to show the extra medical expenses that their clients have incurred due to a car collision, a slip-and-fall mishap, and other types of accidents caused by someone else’s negligence.
An accident victim’s financial losses and the compensation that he or she is entitled to recover is rarely limited to just those medical expenses. In most cases, the victim can also recover compensation for:
- Future medical costs and expenses that will be needed for full recovery from injuries;
- The costs of physical, occupational, and psychotherapy that will be required to help the victim overcome chronic injuries;
- The value of any personal property that was lost or rendered unusable as a result of an accident;
- The dollar value of salary or wages that an injured party will be unable to earn while recuperating from injuries;
- Pain and suffering incurred by the accident victim
- The value of an injured party’s reduced ability to enjoy life and the companionship of family and friends as a result of his or her injuries;
- Incidental expenses, including the costs of commuting to and from medical appointments and therapy sessions;
- Wages paid to personal assistants that the accident victim hires to help with household chores during his or her recovery.
Can a car accident victim recover punitive damages as compensation from a negligent party?
An accident victim’s damages will compensate for the victim’s actual and prospective losses that are the result of an accident. By definition, punitive damages are not part of the injured party’s losses but are a penalty that will be assessed against a negligent party for intentional or grossly negligent conduct.
Only a very small number of accidents involve gross negligence or willful misconduct and very few injured parties will recover punitive damages as compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. This does not mean, however, that an accident victim’s compensation will be insignificant. Many injured parties might not appreciate the full scope of the actual damages they are experiencing for months or even years after an accident. A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney is best able to assess and estimate those damages and to fight for the total amount of compensation that an accident victim deserves to recover.
What evidence will a personal injury attorney use to recover compensation?
When you hire a personal injury lawyer to help you recover the full compensation that you deserve after your accident, that lawyer will demonstrate your losses and damages with:
- hospital bills and invoices from doctors, therapists, and other service providers;
- medical diagnoses and test reports that show the extent of your injuries and the course of recovery that will be required to get you back on your feet;
- your wage and earnings statements and tax returns;
- accident reports and testimony from witnesses about how the accident happened;
- statements from family members about how your injuries have impaired your lifestyle
- bills from car dealers, repair shops, and other service providers that show the costs of your property losses;
- your testimony about how your injuries have affected your life;
- expert witness testimony to describe the amount of time and any extra services you will require for a complete recovery from your injuries.
How Much is a Typical Back Injury Settlement?
A back injury can be devastating, leaving victims suffering from terrible pain and oftentimes bed ridden. While some back injuries happen because of normal events or even just old age, others are caused by traumatic accidents. If you or someone you love suffered a back injury by a negligent driver, unsafe workplace, or other dangerous conditions that were no fault of your own you may be entitled to compensation.
The typical back injury settlement amount depends on the case’s specifics of the extent of the injury, amount of medical bills, and level of negligence. The best way to ensure that you get the maximum possible settlement for your back injury case is to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you.
Ellis Injury Law is staffed with expert attorneys that have the knowledge and experience necessary to fight for your rights as a back injury victim and get you the justice you deserve.
What are common types of back injuries?
According to recent statistics, about 80% of all adults will experience some kind of back injury in their lifetime. Luckily, the vast majority of these injuries are minor and are the result of natural causes. However, there are other kinds of back injuries that are much more serious and are caused by dangerous incidents such as:
- Slips, falls, or trips
- Construction accidents
- Recalled or defective products
- Motorcycle accidents
- Car, truck or bus crashes
- Repetitive workplace motion
- Pedestrian accidents
These accidents can injure the nerves, vertebra, or ligaments in the back and cause back injuries like:
- Torn discs
- Pinched nerves
- Slipped or bulging discs
- Fractured vertebrae
- Compression fractures
- Herniated discs
- Lumbar ligament sprains
- Strained and/or sprained muscles
- Spinal cord damage
What are back injury symptoms?
Unfortunately, many back injuries seem mild at first with serious pain or symptoms not manifesting for days after the accident. However, these common back injury symptoms can serve as warning signs that something is seriously wrong:
- Localized dull, sharp or radiating pain
- Soreness and fever
- Difficulty straightening or standing
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle stiffness or tightness
- General lack of mobility
- Trouble urinating
- Pain that worsens with movement
It’s vital to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you experience any of these back injury symptoms. Ensure that you document all of your treatment as you might be able to get money for medical costs with a personal injury case.
How much is a back injury case worth?
You can file a personal injury case when your back injury is the result of another person or entity’s negligence. Personal injury lawyers can help you get the maximum possible payout for your injuries.
This payout amount depends on the specifics of your case. Every personal injury case is different, and there is no exact formula to calculate your compensation amount before a settlement or trial. Your case value depends on variables such as:
- Magnitude of injury
- Pain and suffering
- Mental trauma
- Permeance of injury
- Cost of medical care
- Recovery time
- Amount of lost income
- Lasting complications
- Age and medical history
- Any pre-existing conditions that may have affected or worsened the back injury
- The injury’s impact on your relationships
- How your actions contributed to the accident, if at all
Your lawyer will take all of these factors into consideration to help determine how much he or she should seek on your behalf. If the case is settled in negotiations, your lawyer will use these factors to argue for the maximum possible compensation. If the case goes to trial, the jury will consider these variables when determining your compensation award.
How do back injuries happen?
While some back injuries can happen simply because of old age, others can be caused by dangerous accidents including:
- Defective or recalled products
- Construction accidents
- Car crashes
- Truck or bus crashes
- Slips, trips or falls
- Pedestrian accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Repetitive workplace motion
There are two steps you need to take if you’ve been involved in any of these incidents. First, seek medical attention as soon as you can. Even though back injuries may not seem severe at first, they can get worse quickly. Be sure to thoroughly document all of your treatments.
Second, contact a personal injury lawyer as you may be entitled to compensation.
How much can back injuries in California settle for?
You can file a personal injury lawsuit if your back injury was the result of someone else’s negligence. Your lawyer will negotiate with the defendant in the case to help you get the maximum possible settlement for your injuries and losses.
Every back injury case is different, and there is no exact formula to calculate a settlement amount before negotiations begin. The exact amount of this settlement varies from case to case, as it depends on case specifics such as:
- The extent of the injury
- Age and medical history
- Permanence of the injury
- Pain and suffering
- Medical costs
- Mental and emotional trauma
- Length of recovery
- Lost income
- How your actions contributed to the accident
- Pre-existing conditions that may have worsened the injury
- Loss of consortium
Your lawyer will analyze all these factors to determine how much he will seek on your behalf in a settlement negotiation. If the negations fail, your lawyer will argue your case in court to get you the maximum possible award.
The Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law will work hard for you if you’ve suffered a back injury through little or fault of your own.
We have a long track record of successes with a variety of personal injury cases and will work tirelessly to help you get the best possible outcome. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation.
While back pain can be a common concern, if the pain stems from an injury (particularly one that was of no fault of your own), it can be devastating on a victim’s emotional health, mental health, and even financial health.
If you injured your back in an accident that was through little or no fault of your own, you have the legal right to seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Your personal injury lawyer may be able to settle your case out of court, negotiating a monetary settlement on your behalf. The exact amount for every back-injury settlement depends on the specifics of the case, such as the extent of the injury, level of negligence, and the cost of medical care.
The best way to make sure that you get the highest possible settlement amount is to retain the experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law. Our expert team will work tirelessly to fight for your rights and to make sure justice is served.
How much is a herniated disc worth in a personal injury case?
A herniated disc, sometimes referred to as a slipped, ruptured or protruding disc, is a painful injury that leads to numbness, tingling, and limited range of motion. While some herniated discs are the result of natural causes like old age, others are the direct result of a traumatic accident. If you or someone you love suffered a herniated disc through little or no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
The amount that a herniated disc is worth in a personal injury case is dependent on the specifics of the case such as the extent of the injury. However, victims of herniated discs can increase their chances of the maximum possible payout by retaining a personal injury lawyer to represent them and their best interests.
The reputable and experienced lawyers at Ellis Injury Law have a long track record of sound legal representation for herniated disc victims all throughout Los Angeles. We have the resources and expertise necessary to ensure you are awarded the maximum possible compensation for your case.
What causes a herniated disc?
Many people will experience lower back pain in their lifetimes and frequently, the cause of this pain is a herniated disc. The spine is made up of individual bones, called vertebrae, and rubbery cushions, the disks, that sit between the bones. The disks have a tough, rubber-like exterior and a viscous center called the nucleus. A herniated disc is when the rubbery exterior ruptures and some of the nucleus pushes out.
Herniated discs can sometimes be the result of old age as the disc’s exterior can weaken over time, but in other instances the disc ruptures because of a traumatic accident like falling on a hard surface. The impact of a blow or fall can cause the exterior to suddenly tear or burst, allowing the nucleus to bulge out and cause inflammation of the spinal cord and irritation of nearby nerves.
Herniated disc symptoms
The most common symptom of a herniated disc is sudden and severe lower back pain. However, because the spinal cord is made up of a complex nerve system that is connected to many other parts of the body, a herniated disc can also lead to a wide range of other symptoms including:
- Tingling or numbness in the arms, feet, hands, legs, calves, toes or back
- Pain that increases after specific movements
- Burning or sharp pain in the legs or arms
- Wide-ranging muscle weakness
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Sciatica pain that radiates from the buttock down the back of the leg
Herniated discs are serious injuries that, if left untreated, can cause potentially life-long disability and complications. That’s why it’s imperative to seek medical treatment if you experience lower back pain or muscle weakness in the lower limbs after any kind of injury, from a fall to a car accident.
Can I recover compensatory damages in for a herniated disc?
When a victim is awarded damages in a personal injury case, they are designed to compensate the victim for losses he or she suffered because of the injury. The amount of compensatory damages in herniated disc cases can vary greatly depending on the specific factors of the case including:
- The cost of medical care
- Victim age and medical history
- Lost income amount
- History of pre-existing conditions that may have worsened the herniated disc
- Recovery time
- Loss of consortium, meaning the impact the injury had on the victim’s relationships
- General pain and suffering from the injury
- Lasting complications
- Amount the victim’s actions contributed to the accident
- Punitive damages to further punish the defendant’s deplorable or extremely careless actions
Personal injury lawyers will look at these factors such as these to determine how much money they should seek on behalf of the victim in a herniated disc case.
How Much is My Personal Injury Claim Worth?
Whether you fell, got in a car accident, or were injured in another way that was no fault of your own, you might be wondering how much your possible personal injury claim is worth.
There is no exact formula for determining how much a personal injury claim is worth. In fact, the final amount you are awarded is usually determined by negotiations or a jury and neither of these uses a concrete mathematical formula for calculating a damages award.
However, when you retain a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer to represent you in your case, your lawyer can work with you to come up with an approximation of the amount you should seek in your case. These approximations are based on different kinds of damages including past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
Past medical expenses
You will most likely have incurred medical expenses because of your injury. You can seek compensation for these expenses whether they were covered by your health insurance, you paid for them out of pocket, or you have yet to pay them.
If your insurance provider already paid for some or all of your past medical expenses, they will need to be reimbursed for that amount out of the awarded compensation.
Future medical expenses
In many personal injury cases, the victim is still being treated for the injury when the case is in negotiation or in a trial. This may happen to you have not yet fully healed or if your injuries are permanent and will require medication or treatment in the future.
In these instances, you are able to seek compensation for future medical expenses if you are able to provide evidence that details the type of treatment, frequency, and cost.
People often miss work because of injuries they sustained in accidents that were no fault of their own. If this happened to you, you can seek compensation for any wages you lost because of the injuries in addition to missed benefits like retirement contributions, insurance benefits, and pension benefits.
Just like you can seek compensation for future medical expenses you can also seek compensation for future lost wages. Your personal injury lawyer can ask for compensation for future wage loss if you are still not back at work by the time the case goes into settlement negotiations or a trial. These requests must usually be supported by expert testimony from economic or vocational experts.
Pain and suffering
Accidents that cause physical suffering usually also lead to mental anguish, anxiety, shock, discomfort, fright, embarrassment, depression, or general emotional distress. You can seek compensation for your physical pain as well as your psychological pain in a personal injury case.
In most cases, there are four main items that make up any damages for noneconomic losses: pain and suffering, loss of ability to enjoy life, humiliation or embarrassment, and disfigurement. These items are considered in conjunction with other case details that may have an effect on pain and suffering such as:
- Plaintiff age
- Injury severity
- The extent that the injuries prevent the performance of basic daily living activities
- Whether the injuries are permanent
- Duration of treatment
- Nature of treatment
- The health of the plaintiff before the injury
There are some personal injury cases in which your lawyer may seek punitive damages. These damages are intended to serve as punishment for the defendant in the event that his or her actions were outrageously negligent (i.e. there’s a long history of this kind of action occurring). Punitive damages can also serve as deterrents from similar negligent acts in the future.
How much is negligence worth in a personal injury case?
If you are injured because of someone else’s negligence or wrongful actions, the law says you have the right to be made ‘whole’ again and compensated for your losses. The purpose of personal injury damage awards is indemnification – which simply means being put back into the position you were in before you were harmed.
How much is negligence in a personal injury lawsuit worth? The answer depends on a number of variables, as the circumstances surrounding every accident are unique. Whether your injuries were caused by an inattentive driver, a negligent property owner, or a dangerous work environment, you deserve to recover fair reimbursement for your monetary, emotional, and physical hardships.
How to determine the value of a personal injury case?
Only an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can make an accurate valuation of your negligence claim. This is a labor-intensive process that involves investigations into the relevant facts in your case, liability, available insurance coverage, and of course, your injuries and damages.
Any law firm that states they can tell you what your claim is worth during a phone consultation is not worth your time. While there is a rudimentary settlement calculator used by insurance companies, these formulas only account for certain factors like medical bills, property damage, and other key economic losses. Whatever dollar amount generated by this calculator may serve as a baseline for settlement negotiations.
Every insurance company – before making a settlement offer — will consider the quality and trial experience of your legal representative. If your lawyer has a proven history of winning trials, then you have just leveraged serious bargaining power, and potentially increased the value of your claim. When the defendant knows your attorney is fully prepared to file a lawsuit and argue before a jury, they are motivated to settle fairly.
How is personal injury compensation is calculated?
California’s comparative negligence laws are lenient to injury victims who may have partially been responsible for the accident in question. This means you can still seek money in a negligence claim, even if you were deemed to be 10, 20, or even 90 percent at fault for the accident. The settlement or court award is reduced in relation to your percentage of liability.
The following are the major categories of compensatory damages that can be sought in a personal injury claim. Assigning a monetary value to medical treatment and lost wages is straightforward, but doing so for emotional suffering and loss of quality of life is much more demanding. Experts are often hired to provide testimony on the extent and severity of your suffering.
- Medical care – These damages include everything from ambulance transport to diagnostic tests, surgeries, and doctor’s fees. It should also cover the predicated cost of future medical treatment, rehabilitation expenses, and costs for prescription medications.
- Loss of income and wages – When injuries prevent you from working, you can seek to recover all lost wages and earnings during your recovery. This should also take into account your loss of earning capacity if your condition prevents you from working in the future.
- Property repairs — If your vehicle was badly damaged in a car accident, the cost of repairs will be reimbursed. If the vehicle was ‘totaled,’ you can pursue the fair market value for replacement.
- Pain and Suffering – This category of non-economic damages addresses the pain you incurred – and continue to suffer – from the accident.
- Emotional Distress – Emotional distress entails the psychological effects of the accident and can include depression, anxiety, fear, loss of sleep, PTSD, and other types of emotional anguish.
- Loss of Consortium – the loss of comfort, care, love, companionship, intimacy, and moral support that your registered domestic partner or spouse has suffered because of your wrongful injury.
- Loss of Enjoyment – When your injuries keep you from living a normal life — participating in your favorite hobbies, recreational activities, and parental duties, you can sue for loss of enjoyment of life.
What is The Value of My Personal Injury Claim?
There is no simple formula for determining the exact value of your personal injury claim. It is impossible to plug the factors surrounding your case into a calculator and identify the exact dollar amount you will recover. That said, dedicated Los Angeles personal injury lawyers could review your case and advise you on what it could be worth.
Remember, even an attorney cannot promise a favorable outcome in your case. No amount of research and review can help them determine exactly what your case will be worth. But based on their experience, your attorney could give you an estimate on what you might be able to expect from a settlement.
Evaluating personal injury claims
There are several factors that help determine the value of a personal injury claim. When a personal injury lawyer reviews a claim, they will consider every factor from the nature of the injury to the identity of the at-fault party.
- The severity of the injury. First and foremost, the severity of your injury will plan a major part in the value of your claim. The more severe the injury, the higher your medical bills are likely to be. For example, the value of a traumatic brain injury claim is likely much higher compared to an accident that resulted in a broken arm.
- Treatment. The cost—in both time and money—of your treatment will also play a part. The lengthier your recovery, the more your claim could be worth. As your treatment continues, your medical bills will keep growing.
- Evidence of liability. Not all injury claims are cut and dry. When the responsible party admits liability, it puts you in a strong bargaining position. The same is not true if the other side denies all wrongdoing or even blames you for the accident. When liability is disputed, it is not uncommon for settlement offers to be lower.
- Your pain. The severity and duration of your physical pain is another important factor. In fact, you could be entitled to monetary compensation specifically for the pain and suffering that you have endured.
- Emotional trauma. You could be entitled to compensation for more than just your physical injuries. Your emotional trauma could also result in substantial compensation as well.
- Time off work. Another central aspect of a personal injury claim could be your lost wages. If you were forced to miss work as you healed, you could be entitled to recover damages for any paychecks you missed out on.
Your personal injury attorneys can consider each of these factors when they review your case. With the right legal counsel advising you, it could be possible to obtain a fair outcome in your injury case.
When is the right time to ask for a case evaluation?
There is no reason to wait for the right time to have your personal injury claim evaluated. Most injury lawyers will offer a free consultation. During your consultation, you can advise a prospective attorney on how your injuries occurred. By bringing police reports, medical records, or other documents with you to the evaluation, an attorney could provide you with an estimate on your chances of success as well as the value of your claim.
For a comprehensive view of the value of your case, you likely need to give your attorney time to thoroughly review your case. This starts with your medical bills but can include any evidence of liability or damages for your claim.
What Is Considered a Long-Term Injury?
A long-term injury, also known as a residual injury, is any medical problem that involves lingering symptoms or limitations. Long-term injuries include permanent disabilities. However, you could still have a long-term injury even if you aren’t considered to be permanently disabled. The nature of an injury is significant in personal injury law. Generally speaking, the more severe and long-lasting an injury is, the more compensation you are likely to receive from an insurance company or jury award. At Ellis Injury Law in Southern California, our personal injury lawyers make every effort to secure maximum compensation on behalf of our seriously injured clients.
What are common causes of long-term injuries
Healthcare providers define a chronic or long-term injury as anything that causes symptoms for at least three months or longer. In personal injury cases, long-term injuries often include the following:
- Traumatic brain injuries: A brain injury can result in permanent changes to one’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral wellness. Patients may suffer from persistent headaches, sensory deficits, and mental health symptoms. A severe TBI may even result in a vegetative state.
- Spinal cord damage: Any trauma to the sensitive spinal cord can result in permanent paralysis. Victims may lose the ability to feel and move their lower body or their entire body.
- Back injuries: Even when the spinal cord isn’t damaged, a back injury can result in ongoing pain and permanent disability. Some examples of back injuries include fractured vertebrae and ruptured discs.
- Burn injuries: Severe, third-degree burns can result in substantial trauma to muscles and other tissues. Victims may need multiple skin graft surgeries, and even afterward it’s still likely they will suffer from permanent disfigurement. Even if the burn injury isn’t deep, it’s considered severe if it affects a sensitive area such as the face or hands. The post-surgical development of scar tissue and contractures can result in lingering symptoms and permanent disability.
- Amputation: A traumatic amputation is the sudden, unplanned loss of a hand, foot, finger, toe, arm, or leg. Traumatic amputations can occur in severe auto, motorcycle, or truck accidents. Even if a crash victim survives with all their limbs intact, they may later require a planned surgical amputation if the damage is too severe to repair. An amputation results in permanent disability. Typically, it also results in the significant impairment of one’s ability to work and care for oneself.
These are just a few of the most common examples of long-term injuries. Any injury can be considered long-term if the symptoms linger for weeks to months, or if the patient has lasting limitations in their physical or cognitive capabilities.
Are long-term injury claims worth more?
Long-term injuries add a deeper level of complexity to the task of calculating the value of an injury claim. Like short-term injury claims, long-term injury claims will typically involve damages for medical expenses and lost wages. However, unlike short-term injuries, residual injuries are likely to continue to incur expenses over the coming months or perhaps years. Because of this, it’s necessary to request damages for the anticipated future medical expenses. These might include additional surgeries and hospitalizations, pharmaceutical expenses, durable medical equipment, home health aides, and physical therapy. The anticipated future medical expenses will be added to the request for damages.
In addition, long-term injuries tend to generate more non-economic damages. Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are subjective in nature and even more difficult to calculate than anticipated future expenses. In general, however, the more severe an injury is, the higher the non-economic damages will be. These include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life. To improve your chances of securing maximum compensation for your losses, it’s important to keep detailed records of the extent to which your long-term injuries affect your daily activities and capabilities.
Do All Personal Injury Claims Go to Trial?
Most claims are settled by negotiation or mediation. However, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers will go to court when it’s in the client’s best interests.
How your particular claim will turn out depends on many factors, including the severity of your injuries and the strength of your legal team. Having a skilled attorney with years of experience in this practice area is your best chance for receiving maximum compensation. Contact us at Ellis Injury Law today for a free consultation.
Unpacking the personal injury claims process
There’s no such thing as a “typical” case. However, here are some of the ways the legal process can unfold.
- Sometimes the process is smooth and straightforward: When liability is clear and uncontested, and the other side is cooperative– it may only take minimal time for you to receive your compensation.
- Other times, more work is required: When evidence is sparse, or the issues surrounding the case are more complex. For example, you’ve been hit by a school bus, so the process of filing and establishing liability becomes more time-consuming. Still, in most instances, these claims are settled successfully, either by direct negotiation or with a mediator’s help.
- Occasionally, going to court is the only solution: When the defendant or their insurance company refuses to make a fair offer or tries to intimidate the accident victim.
An experienced personal injury lawyer from our firm has dealt with all of these scenarios, and in each instance, we make every effort to reach a speedy, amicable solution. But, as noted above, we will go to court when the situation demands it—if, for example, the other side is intractable and will not agree to a fair settlement. At Ellis Injury Law, we believe our clients deserve the very best representation we can provide.
What to expect during your personal injury claim
While each case is unique, most claims do follow an established set of chronological steps. These include:
- The initial consultation: This is the “get acquainted” phase of the process. It’s your chance to decide if we are the right law firm for you.
- The analysis of evidence: Our Southern California personal injury attorneys will go through your accident reports, medical records, and witness testimony with a fine-tooth comb. Even the smallest detail can make a huge difference to your case.
- The demand letter: At the right time, we will send a formal letter to the other side, demanding a set amount of compensation. This typically occurs after your injuries reach the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI)– more on this below.
- The other side responds: If they offer a fair and reasonable settlement, all is good. If not, then we will either negotiate, seek a mediator, or file a lawsuit on your behalf.
- The matter is resolved: After it’s all over, you’ll face the future with added confidence, knowing that together we have done everything possible to get you the compensation you deserve.
Understanding the importance of MMI
For example, your accident caused you to lose six months of work, and now you have a total of $300,000 in medical debt.
In addition, you must go back to school to learn a new trade, as your injuries make it impossible for you to practice your old profession. With tuition, books, and other expenses, the total costs of your retraining are likely to exceed $50,000.
With this information in hand, our attorneys can calculate a reasonable amount of compensation to demand from the other side. But this requires waiting until you’ve achieved your maximum level of medical improvement, or MMI.
Do You Have to Pay Your Medical Bills From a Personal Injury Settlement?
In California, you have the right to pursue a personal injury claim when another person injures you due to their negligence. In many cases, the resulting settlement from these claims can be substantial. That does not mean you have free reign to spend your settlement money however you want. In most injury claims, insurance carriers and healthcare providers also have a vested interest in your settlement. If you have outstanding medical bills, these entities will have a lien on a portion of your settlement.
Unfortunately, some hospitals and healthcare providers take an aggressive approach to these liens. When these entities overreach and pursue more than they are entitled to from your settlement, you are the one that suffers. A personal injury lawyer can help you ensure you keep the settlement money you are entitled to.
What is a hospital lien?
A hospital lien provides the hospital with the ability to recoup their expenses from your personal injury settlement. The lien is a legal document that can be used to prevent you from distributing the proceeds of your court settlement without first paying your hospital bills. There are important technical requirements that the hospital must meet to enforce its lien. The failure to do so could render it useless. In general, you can count on the hospital to perfect their lien against you without issue.
Overreaching health insurance providers
When healthcare insurance companies contract with providers like hospitals, they negotiate special rates for their insured’s services. This means that insurance companies only pay a fraction of what a medical claim is worth. These prices are much lower than the cost of individual medical treatment that a regular person would pay.
When you are injured in an accident, your medical needs can be substantial. If the other driver has liability insurance, their coverage might pay for most or all of your medical expenses. However, liability policies have maximum coverage limits. Once the limit is reached, the other driver’s carrier has no obligation to pay any additional amount on your claim. If your medical bills are high, you will be personally responsible for any amount that the insurance does not pay.
These medical liens can do more than complicate your settlement; they can often siphon more of your settlement than the hospital would otherwise be entitled to. When the other driver’s insurance policy does not cover all of your bills, the hospital bills you for the full price instead of the negotiated insurance rate. This process is known as balance billing. While balance billing is barred in some cases involving state-regulated health insurance policies, it can still affect you after a car accident in other situations.
Does Medical Treatment Increase the Settlement Value of My Personal Injury Claim?
Since a personal injury claim can result in reimbursement for your medical expenses, it is indeed possible for medical treatment to increase the settlement value of your claim. The best way to assess how much your claim might be worth it to meet with a personal injury lawyer. At Ellis Injury Law, we provide comprehensive initial consultations free of charge. The initial consultation allows our personal injury team to get to know you, review your case, consider questions of liability, and estimate the potential settlement value of your claim.
How much is my personal injury claim worth?
As a general rule of thumb, the more severe a person’s injuries are, the greater the value of the claim. More severe injuries also go hand-in-hand with increased expenses for medical treatments. Although every case involves unique factors, your claim could be worth at least as much as the following:
- The total of your accident-related medical expenses, including ongoing medical costs
- The total of your lost wages if you missed time at work due to the accident
- The dollar value of your property damage, if applicable (e.g. damage to your vehicle or other personal possessions)
In addition, some injury victims suffer from partial or total permanent disabilities. These may prevent you from working in the future, even with medical treatment. If this is the case, Los Angeles personal injury lawyers can also request compensation for your loss of future earning capacity.
Can I sue for non-economic damages?
Your medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages are all considered to be economic damages. That is, they are objectively calculable. In some cases, a personal injury claim may also pursue non-economic damages, which are subjective in nature and difficult to calculate. For example, you may request compensation for the pain and suffering that arose from your injuries. If your injuries affected the quality of your marriage, you might also request compensation for loss of consortium.
An individual who only suffered from minor, temporary injuries will have a more difficult time securing non-economic damages. On the other hand, if your injuries were severe and/or resulted in permanent disability or disfigurement, there is a greater likelihood of securing non-economic damages. This is another way that requiring a great deal of medical treatment can enhance the settlement value of your claim.
Keeping track of your accident-related expenditures
One important thing that every personal injury plaintiff should know is the necessity of proving your losses. It isn’t sufficient to simply state that you spent X amount on your medical treatment; your lawyer must be able to prove it. The proof is in the documentation. For example, your lawyer will need access to your medical records in order to substantiate your claim.
In addition, you must keep careful records of your losses, injuries, symptoms, and treatments starting from your first post-accident medical evaluation. During your initial exam at the emergency room, you should make a note of each provider you see, as well as your diagnoses. Write notes about the symptoms you’re experiencing and, as time passes, the extent to which those symptoms interfere with your ability to work and perform the daily activities of living. In addition, be sure to make and keep all recommended follow-up visits, and follow your discharge instructions carefully.
You will need to keep each medical bill (get an itemized copy of each) and your receipts, including pharmacy co-pays. Keep track of your physical or occupational therapy expenses, as well as all other expenditures that are accident-related. Along these lines, you’ll also need to keep track of your lost wages and get written estimates for your property damage. With solid documentation of your losses, your personal injury attorney can pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.
When are punitive damages awarded in personal injury cases?
A California statute allows for the recovery of punitive damages in accident and injury lawsuits when the conduct of the person that caused the injury was malicious, oppressive, or fraudulent. Punitive damages are not commonly attained. Before awarding punitive damages, a court will require the injured party to show a defendant’s malice, oppression, or fraud by clear and convincing evidence. This is a tough standard to satisfy, and injured parties will face significant challenges when they seek punitive damages in a lawsuit.
For more than 25 years, the Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law have helped injured persons to recover damages to compensate them for their injuries, including both compensatory and punitive damages. If the facts of your accident case indicate that punitive damages may be available, we will use the full measure of our knowledge and experience to explain those facts to show how they rise to the level of malice, oppression, or fraud that California law requires for punitive damages awards.
Penalizing the wrongdoer and deterring future bad conduct
Unlike compensatory damages, which are designed to make an injured party whole by providing payment for his or her medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses that were caused by a wrongdoer’s conduct, punitive damages are intended to punish conduct that is perceived to be egregious and to prevent the wrongdoer from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Some examples of punitive damages awards in California are good illustrations of this:
- a court awarded punitive damages in a consumer protection case involving defective designs that led to serious automobile injuries where those damages were perceived as being necessary to deter objectionable corporate policies;
- punitive damages were appropriate where an arresting officer used excessive force that led to injuries during the arrest of a suspect;
- punitive damages have been awarded in civil actions that followed assaults by wrongdoers that had knives or other weapons;
- multiple assaults by an employer on an employee also justified a punitive damages award.
Proving malice, oppression, or fraud by clear and convincing evidence
To justify a demand for punitive damages, an injured party must make a detailed claim of how a wrongdoer’s actions were motivated by malice, oppression, or fraud. Where malice is an issue, an experienced California personal injury lawyer will describe an injury in a manner that demonstrates how the wrongdoer intended consequences that were almost certain to occur as a result of the wrongdoer’s conduct. Awareness of bad consequences or knowledge that certain actions could have adverse effects are lynchpins toward recovering punitive damages for malicious conduct. For example, an intoxicated driver that causes a serious automobile accident may be liable for punitive damages because of the accepted fact that drunk driving is known to be dangerous. A manufacturer will be liable for punitive damages if it places product in commerce that is known to have a potential for serious harm.
Further, to recover punitive damages for oppression, an injured party must show that the wrongdoer’s conduct subjected the injured party to cruel and unjust hardships in violation of that person’s rights. Punitive damages for fraud may be available when a wrongdoer intentionally misrepresents or conceals material facts with the purpose of depriving the injured party of his or her property or of causing the injury.
How are punitive damages calculated in California?
California does not set limits on the size of punitive damages awards, nor does it provide specific guidance on how to calculate those awards. A California court will generally direct a jury to determine an appropriate amount of punitive damages based on:
- how egregious the wrongdoer’s conduct was
- the extent of a party’s injuries
- the amount that will be an effective punishment given the wrongdoer’s financial condition
- if there is a history of this conduct/injury occurring
Although the State does not place caps on punitive damages awards, the U.S. Constitution’s prohibitions against grossly excessive or arbitrary punishments are frequently cited to reduce very large punitive damages awards.
If a Student is Injured at School – Who is Responsible?
If your child is injured on a school playground or during a sporting event, your first instinct will be to address their injuries as fast as possible. While their well-being should be your priority, it is understandable to also worry about how these medical bills are going to be paid.
Regardless of how your child’s injuries occurred, it is vital that you discuss your options with a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer. Pursuing an injury lawsuit or insurance claim against a school can be challenging, particularly against public schools. Let Ellis Injury Law review your situation and advise you on how best to proceed.
When California schools are liable for student injuries
In some ways, injury claims against a school are no different than any other. To be entitled to compensation or an insurance payout, you must first establish that the school acted with negligence. This can involve an unsafe condition at the school premises, or an act of negligence by an employee acting in their official capacity.
These claims differ in other ways. While you can bring a claim against a private school directly, the concept of sovereign immunity can apply to public schools. Additionally, a school might also claim that the injured student waived liability prior to their injury. Finally, compensation might not be available if the school can show a student assumed the risk of injury prior to their accident.
Under the law, sovereign immunity is a principle that protects “political subdivisions” of state, county, or local government. At first glance, it can appear as if sovereign immunity will cut off your chance of compensation from a public school district. That being said, there are many exceptions carved into California law that allow a claim against a school district following the injury of a child. For the most part, a school will not be able to rely on sovereign immunity in California to attack your child’s injury claim.
Another potential defense for the school district is the claim of waived liability. Before a child takes part in a sport or other potentially dangerous activity, the school district can have the parent sign a waiver of liability. In most cases, these written waivers will protect the school for injury claims related to their participation in school activities. It is even possible for the parent to waive a claim when the school or its employees are negligent, so long as courts determine it to be “ordinary negligence.”
Ordinary negligence covers accidents that are common with any sport or school activity. For example, a waiver could prevent you from pursuing an injury claim if your child suffers an injury following a tackle in a football game. Some types of negligence cannot be waived, however. They include:
- Known defects. If your child suffers an injury due to equipment the school knew to be defective, a waiver will not cut off your right to pursue compensation.
- Inadequate supervision. The school and their employees often step in the role of a parent during the course of a school day or event. If they fail to adequately supervise your child, they could be on the hook for any injuries that occur.
- Improper maintenance. If the equipment or school grounds that cause an injury are not properly maintained, a waiver will not protect the school.
- Intentional harm. If a teacher or staff member intentionally injures your child, these acts are not covered by a liability waiver.
Assumption of risk
Another way the schools will seek to avoid liability for an injury is through a defense known as assumption of risk. With this defense, the school will claim that the student and their parents understood the risks associated with the school activity that caused the injury. While this defense can work in instances of sporting injuries, it rarely applies to other types of negligence. What’s more, it is never viable in cases of intentional harm.
Talk to an attorney about your injury claim
It is one thing to understand what your personal injury claim might be worth. It is another to have the experience and skill necessary to successfully pursue that claim. The team at Ellis Injury Law has a long track record of successfully pursuing injury claims and winning. There is no case too difficult for our team to take on. If you are ready to get started with your claim, schedule a free consultation with Ellis Injury Law today.