Don’t be fooled by a personal injury case calculator. A calculator can not calculate a victim’s pain!
I received a call from one of my clients the other day. She said, “Mr. Mendlin, I figured out how to calculate the value of my case.” She said, “I inputted my medical bills and loss of earnings into an internet-based calculator, and it spit out the value of my case. Do you agree that my case is worth $1,000,000.00? The internet calculator says so.”
Internet calculators are not new. They have been regularly used by consumers in the real estate and banking sectors to calculate mortgage payments. You plug in your loan amount and interest rate, and then the calculator provides you a payment schedule. However, these personal injury calculators are fairly new, and should not be trusted.
Interestingly, for many years now, insurance companies have been using such a calculator. Their calculator is called Colossus. Colossus has years of data that allows an insurance adjuster to calculate auto accident case ranges based on many factors, such as the type of injuries, property damage, the injured victim’s age, and past jury verdicts with similar circumstances.
No calculator, however, can truly estimate the value of a specific personal injury case. First, a case has different value ranges. A settlement value range is different than a jury verdict range. Most defendants and their liability insurance companies will not pay an injured victim the same amount of money that the injured victim would receive from a jury. They work to pay less than a jury verdict since a settlement dollar is guaranteed money.
A jury verdict, however, comes after serious risk to both the injured victim and the responsible party. For example, an injured victim may have a great case: the facts easily prove up the fault of the responsible party, and the victim has injuries that warrant a recovery. Yet, notwithstanding such great facts, a jury may be persuaded by a particular fact or argument that causes them to be concerned about the victim’s case and award much less in damages than reasonably expected.
A calculator can calculate past jury verdicts for similar injuries and provide a settlement range. However, a calculator cannot account for the credibility and likeability of the injured victim. It cannot account for a jury’s dislike of those responsible to the injured victim. It also cannot account for other intangible factors, such as the personal history of the victim, a judge’s attitude towards a particular witness, or an attorney’s conduct in the courtroom. These factors do play a role in determining what value a jury will place on a case.
Besides the above, a calculator cannot replace an attorney’s ability to critically analyze a victim’s damages and the law in order to obtain the best settlement value for the client. For instance, even if an injured victim was not working at the time of his or her accident, this lack of employment does not mean that the victim did not suffer some wage loss. The injured claimant would have a loss of earning capacity claim during his or her disability period. In other words, the claimant could have been working at a job but was denied the opportunity due to his or her injury. The above is only but one example of how an attorney can add value to an injured party’s case.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that a calculator can take the place of a good lawyer. It cannot. Although, I am sure the insurance industry would like you to follow their calculator and settle for much less.