After someone experiences a personal injury, one of the first things they usually want to know is, “how much is my claim worth?” Unfortunately, there is no simple and straightforward answer to this question. No two cases are exactly alike, and the value of your claim depends on a number of specific factors. To find out the most accurate estimate of what your personal injury claim is worth, the best place to start is to speak with an experienced attorney.
During the initial consultation, your lawyer may be able to give you some idea of what you can expect for a settlement, but in many cases, it is not possible to provide a precise valuation shortly after an injury. For one thing, it may take some time for all the facts and evidence of the case to be uncovered. In addition, it might be a while before you know the full extent of your injuries, your prognosis for recovery, and/or when you expect to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI).
How Much is a Personal Injury Claim Worth in Alabama?
Before determining how much an injury case is worth, you need to figure out if you are entitled to receive any damages at all. In Alabama, this may not be as cut and dry as you may think. Alabama is one of the few states that still operates under the “contributory negligence” legal standard. This means that if an injured party is found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying incident that caused their injuries (even 1%), they can be barred from recovering damages.
So, even if your injury was caused mainly by the negligence of another person or party, if they can find a way to pin some of the blame on you, you may lose out on the compensation you need and deserve. This is one of many reasons it is very important in a state like Alabama to obtain strong legal counsel as early as possible after an injury, so your right to recover compensation can be protected.
In addition to establishing liability, you must also be able to show that the incident the defendant is liable for was the proximate cause of your injuries. Sometimes, this is cut and dry, such as when an automobile runs a red light and collides with a motorcycle, causing the motorcyclist to fracture his leg. However, there are some instances in which there are questions about whether or not the plaintiff had a preexisting injury, and this is an area that the other side you sure to thoroughly investigate.
Damages Available in Alabama Personal Injury Claims
If you are able to prove that the defendant(s) were totally liable and proximately caused your injuries, you may be entitled to damages for both economic and non-economic losses.
- Economic Damages: These are actual monetary losses that result from the injury, such as hospitalization costs, costs for surgeries and other types of medical treatment, rehabilitation expenses, costs for ongoing medical care, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and property damage.
- Non-Economic Damages: These are losses that are real but intangible and more difficult to assign a dollar figure to. Examples of non-economic damages include physical pain and suffering, psychological distress, diminished quality of life, disfigurement, permanent disability, and loss of consortium.
In more rare cases in which the actions of the party responsible for the injuries were willful or malicious, the plaintiff may be eligible for punitive damages. Punitive damages operate under a completely different system than compensatory damages. They are not meant to make a victim whole after a personal injury, but rather to punish the wrongdoer and help deter them (and others) from committing similarly egregious actions in the future.
In Alabama, punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages. However, there is also a hard cap on punitive damages of $1.5 million, regardless of how much the plaintiff receives in compensatory damages.
Settle or Litigate?
One wild card that might make it more challenging to place a value on a personal injury claim is what a jury might do. Juries are unpredictable, and you never know how much they will award a plaintiff in damages. Since both sides know this, and because going to trial is costly and time consuming, it is generally in everyone’s best interests to reach a reasonable settlement. However, there are times when it is necessary to litigate a claim, such as when the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith. Your lawyer should be someone who has the proven ability to successfully litigate personal injury cases, and someone who is fully prepared and willing to go to trial when the need arises.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer in Dothan, Alabama
If you or someone close to you has suffered a personal injury that was the fault of another person or party, contact M. Adam Jones and Associates for a free consultation. We will meet with you to thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. Call us today at 334-581-9238 or send us a message through our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.