How Much Money Can I Get For My Automobile Accident Lawsuit? It’s a question we get all the time. Let’s get the usual disclaimers out of the way—every case is different (meaning that your lawsuit might be worth more or less than your cousin’s lawsuit, no matter how similar they appear). It’s important to not fall into the trap of comparing accident cases—in isolated examples, the comparison doesn’t mean much. Also, there are many important factors, which we’ll discuss below.
The second disclaimer is that for each case, the true settlement value is what the insurance adjuster or the defense lawyer will give you. The trial value is what one judge or jury will give you. What we are doing here is trying to tell you what factors go into those decisions.
Simply put, an automobile accident case is worth the total amount of damages you’ve suffered. Here’s what’s usually involved:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Non-economic damages
Here’s what each of those mean:
Medical expenses: After an auto accident, you might incur medical expenses like an emergency room visit, appointments with your primary care provider, and visits to specialists, like orthopedists. You might also have prescription or over-the-counter medication costs, or assistive devices like crutches, braces or a wheelchair. The past and future cost of these all adds up to your medical expenses, even if they were paid by your health insurance.
Lost wages: If you missed time from work (or can prove that you will continue to miss time from work), you are entitled to your lost wages. This is true even if you used sick days or vacation days and got paid for your time off.
Property damage: If your car was damaged, or if the medics had to cut off your shirt, or if your cell phone was destroyed in the accident, you are entitled to the fair market value of your property. This is often taken care of separately from your personal injury claim, but they are sometimes combined into one lawsuit.
Non-economic damages: In Maryland, you can recover for mental and physical pain and suffering, permanent impairment, disfigurement and scars. These are called noneconomic damages because they are subjective and not capable of easy calculation. It is up to the experience of the judge or jurors to decide what these items are worth.
Factors Useful For Deciding Case Value
If case value was decided by computers or according to a specific, written schedule, it would be simple to know what any specific case is worth. However, there are a number of factors that influence the value:
Court: There are rules that tell us where each case must be tried. Sometimes there are a few choices, but experience tells us that jurors in some counties tend to be more conservative/generous than other counties. Likewise, judges have specific ideas about the value of non-economic damages in particular, and we sometimes have a good idea about how a particular judge will rule based on years of experience with that judge.
Liability: Cases that have “clear liability” (where one side was clearly at fault for the accident) are usually worth more than “disputed liability” cases. One reason is that a disputed liability case could result in a complete loss. Another reason is that some jurors (though they are not supposed to), might decide that the plaintiff wins in a disputed liability case, but may reduce the verdict to reflect their uncertainty.
The “likeability” of the parties: Believe it or not, if the plaintiff or defendant is particularly likeable or unlikeable, the verdict sometimes reflects the judge or jury’s feeling on the matter.
Non-economic damage cap: Maryland has a law that limits the amount of non-economic damages for Maryland automobile accident victims. For example, for most accidents which occurred in 2016, the cap is $815,000.00.
If you have questions after an automobile accident in Maryland or West Virginia, contact us, or send some brief information about your automobile accident to us online. We’ll put our expertise to work for you right away.