Tag: Damages

Man with brace on wrist working on laptop.

How Do I Estimate a Personal Injury Settlement?

It’s never a good thing when you need to seek a personal injury settlement. By definition, it means you’ve been injured in some way, whether that’s injury to your person or injury by the loss of someone close to you. However, we are fortunate to have a legal system that makes legally and safely seeking personal injury settlements as straightforward as it can reasonably be.

But we regularly find our prospective clients asking us a particular question as they start their personal injury settlement journey: How much money should I be asking for? What’s a fair amount to be seeking as a personal injury settlement that will adequately address my damages and financial need, while not making it look like I’m just trying to get rich quick?

In this blog, we’ll look at the different types of damages typically included in a personal injury settlement and how much you should typically be seeking in your claim.

Important caveat: If you’re at all unsure about how to estimate your personal injury settlement amount, don’t just hazard a guess. There are many factors that go into assessing the amount you should be seeking, and you may not know about many or even most of the categories. For that reason, we highly recommend speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer before ever putting expected damages down in writing.

That said, let’s look at common wisdom about estimating claims.

The Average Personal Injury Settlement Is Between $3,000 and $75,000

Conventional wisdom in the world of personal injury law is that when you seek compensation for damages in a personal injury lawsuit, you can expect to receive (if successful) anywhere from $3,000 to $75,000. Damages below $3,000 typically aren’t seen in personal injury lawsuits; they’d be more suited for small-claims court.

On the other hand, while it is certainly possible to receive claims above $75,000, and you may have heard about personal injury settlements in the range of millions or tens of millions of dollars, these are extremely uncommon. What’s more, these are almost always not economic damages but rather punitive fines. That is, these are not necessarily reflective of the economic and personal hardship you yourself suffered but rather levied in order to punish the offending party for wrongdoing.

For instance, let’s say you lived downstream from a power plant that was dumping chemical waste in your water supply, leading to health issues for you and your neighbors. A judge or jury might award you money to address your health care costs, but if it found that the power plant company was acting willfully and recklessly, it might impose millions of dollars more in punitive fines as an extra penalty.

Still, punitive fines aren’t something that you can control—and the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits are settled before a trial ever starts—so you shouldn’t consider them as part of the estimate of damages you’re seeking.

Intangible vs. Tangible Damages

In any estimate of personal injury damages, there are always two types of injury to consider. One is much easier to estimate and quantify than the other.

Tangible damages

Tangible, or “hard” damages—sometimes called “special” damages—can include things like:

  • Medical expenses. How much did you spend out of pocket on specialists, medicine, physical therapy, hospital stays, and so on as a result of this injury?
  • Lost wages. How much money would you have made during the time period you were out of work as a result of the injury you suffered?
  • Other bills. If you were in a car accident, how much did it cost you to repair your car—or was it totaled and you had to buy a new one? Did you have to rebuild part of your house when an incorrectly felled tree damaged it? How much did you spend on hotel fees while living elsewhere waiting for your home to be livable again?

These are just some of the most common types of tangible or hard damages that you can expect to encounter as part of a legal settlement. These, in the end, are easy to quantify—you just need to add up all your bills. (Incidentally, this is why it is critical to keep records of all of these expenses so that you can prove you really did pay this money and that it was immediately relevant to the injury.)

Intangible damages

However, there are other damages, as well. Intangible damages, sometimes called “soft” damages or “general” damages, include things like pain suffered, emotional damage, loss of enjoyment, and so on.

These damages can be much more difficult to quantify than hard damages can, but they’re often the bulk of a settlement amount, and for good reason. After all, you can quantify being out of work for three months recovering, but how much money does it cost to have an aching body for the rest of your life due to the accident? If you had a car accident, what price can you put on anxiety every time you drive? Or if you had a love of skiing but the injury to your legs means you may never ski again, how much is “may never again do a beloved activity” worth?
For these reasons, you can see why intangible damages are both much harder to calculate than hard damages and often the more sizable part of any personal injury settlement estimate.

While it’s impossible to just put a price tag on things like loss of enjoyment or physical and emotional pain, one handy rule of thumb is this: take whatever your hard damages total is and multiply it by four or five to get the amount you should estimate for your intangible damages.

Setting Expectations

The reality is that you likely won’t get the full amount you seek in a trial, mainly because settlements are negotiated out of court to prevent it from going to trial in the first place. You can also only expect to recoup, in general, what the other party has in assets or insurance. It may not be possible for the person or entity you’re suing to pay the amount you ask.

However, working with an experienced personal injury attorney, like those at Warren Allen LLP, will increase your odds of getting the settlement you deserve. We know how to handle negotiations and estimations to maximize your settlement. If you’re looking to file a personal injury settlement, contact the experts at Warren Allen today.

 

Power of Attorney legal document with pen and reading glasses.

Power of Attorney and 5 More Legal Terms Everyone Should Know

You don’t need a law degree to understand some legal terminology, and in fact, there are some basic legal concepts everyone should know. For instance, “power of attorney” is a legal term many people seem to recognize. But what can it be used for and how exactly does it work?

Warren Allen LLP has experience litigating cases in several practice areas, and there are certain legal concepts that are relevant across the board. Here’s an overview of the most relevant and useful legal terms with which you should familiarize yourself.

1. Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants someone else the ability, or power, to act on your behalf. A power of attorney can be executed for a limited purpose, such as one specific matter, or for a limited period of time. It may also be executed so that your representative has broad authority to act on your behalf for a range of legal matters.

For instance, let’s say you’re closing on a home, but you’re currently living in another city and are unable to attend the closing. You may execute a limited POA giving your spouse or attorney the ability to sign the closing documents on your behalf for that particular matter only.

On the other hand, you may want to grant a trusted friend or family member the long-term ability to act on your behalf in all legal matters. In this instance, you would execute what’s known as a durable POA. A durable POA in Oregon remains in effect indefinitely or until the power is revoked by the principal. In fact, an executed POA in Oregon is considered durable unless the POA expressly states something to the contrary.

A healthcare POA can also be executed if you want to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. Even if you’re in good health, a healthcare POA is something you should consider in the event you become incapacitated and need someone to act on your behalf. For instance, you may want to communicate your feelings about life support to the person you designate as your healthcare POA and have them respect your wishes should you ever be unable to make your own medical decisions.

2. Retainer

A retainer refers to the fee that you pay to retain an attorney. An attorney may charge an hourly fee or a flat rate, depending on the legal issue at hand. If you are charged an hourly rate, you more than likely will have to pay the retainer before your attorney begins work on your case. Essentially, this is a good faith payment or a deposit of sorts.

The attorney then places that money in a trust account and accesses the funds as needed for expenses and services rendered. Should you have any money left over once the work is complete, your attorney will refund you the difference between the retainer and the amount of accrued expenses. Likewise, if the retainer does not cover the full amount of expenses, you will likely be responsible for paying the difference.

You may also choose to have an attorney on retainer, which is slightly different. If you have an attorney on retainer, you pay the attorney to be available for a specific period of time to answer questions or provide legal advice about specific matters. For instance, if you are a landlord or management company, you may want to have an attorney on retainer to answer questions about fair housing laws, eviction proceedings, or landlord/tenant disputes.

3. Liability

Liability refers to responsibility for a particular action or outcome. In personal injury law, for example, determining who is liable for an accident essentially means determining who was at fault. If a person is found liable, they will likely have to pay damages to the injured party. In some cases, who is liable isn’t entirely clear-cut, and it may be helpful to have a personal injury attorney acting on your behalf.

4. Damages

If you are found to be the liable party in a legal dispute, you will likely be responsible for paying damages—a monetary amount that is either agreed upon by the involved parties or determined by a court of law. Damages can be either punitive or compensatory.

The latter compensates the person for medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, and the pain and suffering they endured as a result of the injury. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the liable party.

For instance, a judge may award punitive damages on top of compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Punitive damages are meant to have a deterrent effect on the responsible party so they will refrain from any future reckless or negligent behavior that may have led to the incident in question.

5. With/Without Prejudice

Some legal matters may be settled out of court. But in other instances, you may need to file suit against someone to resolve a dispute. If so, a judge will evaluate both sides of the argument and either allow the case to proceed or dismiss it.

If a judge dismisses a case, it will be dismissed with or without prejudice. If the case is dismissed with prejudice, it means the judge has made a definitive decision to not allow the case to proceed further.

If a judge dismisses a case without prejudice, it means that the suit can be refiled with the court in the future. A judge could dismiss a suit without prejudice if certain revisions need to be made to the original filing or if more information is needed before proceeding.

6. Probate

When a person dies, probate is the process in which the person’s will is evaluated and verified before their property or assets are distributed. The probate process ensures the will is legitimate and that it is honored according to the deceased person’s wishes.

If a person dies without a will, a probate court will decide how the assets should be distributed. This can often be a long and drawn-out process, especially if there’s a debate about who should get what. That’s why it’s all the more important to draft a will before you die.

If you want to learn more about estate planning, Warren Allen LLP can help. From obtaining a power of attorney to drafting a last will and testament, we will provide you with sound legal advice and counsel. If you’re dealing with a complex legal matter, make sure you have an experienced team like Warren Allen LLP by your side.

 

© All Rights Reserved.