If you are one of the victims of an accident causing serious injuries or death, you are probably already drowning in a sea of debt for medical bills and expenses which cannot be paid due to a loss of income. As a result, you may begin to speculate on how your personal injury claims will be resolved. The valuation of a personal injury claim is difficult. When intangible losses are converted into a monetary value, it is generally only a rough approximation of how much the claim is worth. The amount which can be recovered and hence the valuation usually depends on three groups of factors damages, liability and recoverablility.
The first group damages relates to the losses incurred. Such factors include the medical expenses related to the injuries (both past and future), the lost earnings arising out of the accident (both past and future), the nature and extent of the injuries, the pain and suffering which they caused, the permanency of the injuries, the impact which the injuries will have on the victim’s lifestyle and family, and the victim’s age, education and background. Obviously the greater the damages, the greater the claim is worth.
The second group of factors liability relates to the cause of the accident. Who was the responsible party for this loss and how clear was their responsibilty? What could they have done to prevent it from occurring? Was negligence* or reckless conduct involved? Was a landowner on notice of a dangerous condition? Was a dangerous product involved? Was a ship or other vessel unseaworthy? Was the victim also partly responsible for the loss? Is there a basis for punative or exemplary damages? These factors together constitute the issue of liability who (if anyone) is responsible for the loss. Obviously unless some party is at least partly responsible for the loss there is little likelihood of a recovery.
The final group of factors recoverablility relates to the ability to recover any judgment which might be awarded. A claim against an uninsured insolvent is not as valuable as one against a person who has the financial ability to pay the claim. Factors to be considered in this aspect of valuation include the financial condition of the party primarily responsible, the ease or difficulty of pursuing such party, the applicability of worker’s compensation*, the presence or absence of other parties who are secondarily responsible for the loss, the financial strength of such parties, the ability to pursue such parties, the presence or absence of insurance, the adequacy of such insurance, the financial strength of any insurer, etc.
Although some injured persons seem to think that cash grows on trees, most defendants and insurance companies are very frugal with their money and they will only pay substantial damages to a personal injury victim when faced with the prospect of an unfavorable jury verdict. It is strongly recommended that you obtain the services of an attorney (usually in the state where you were injured or in your home state) to assist you in pursuing your injury claims. This should be done as soon as possible after the cause of action arises. Cash does not grow on trees and it is a difficult process to value a claim fairly and accurately. Obviously an accurate valuation of a claim is foundational in the process of resolving a personal injury claim fairly and expeditiously.
*Negligence is the doing of some act which a reasonably prudent person would not do, or the failure to do something which a reasonably prudent person would do, under the circumstances. It is the failure to use ordinary care.
*Worker’s compensation. For many jobs in the state of Hawaii, if you are injured at work then you are covered by worker’s compensation. Worker’s compensation covers many medical expenses and some lost income. Vocational rehabilitation is available in certain circumstances. The employee may be entitled to a permanent partial disability award for any residual disability which arises out of the accident. In some cases it may be possible to pursue both a worker’s compensation claim and a personal injury claim for the same accident. This typically happens when a person is injured on the job due to the fault of someone other than his employer.