One of the most common questions that attorneys get in Nevada is the question of exactly how much a claim is worth. You can always check on websites where you can describe the injuries and request that your case be given a specific dollar amount. However, there are three important factors that will impact exactly what your claim might be worth.
The 1st Factor
The first factor that will impact the value of your claim is the odds of winning the case if it happens to go to a jury trial. The injured person is the plaintiff and will be required to prove that the carelessness/negligence on the part of the defendant is what caused the injury. There are some uncommon exceptions to this, such as injury by defective product, which is a type of claim that is covered in a different section. It is not unusual for the defendant in the case to attempt to claim that the victim is the one who’s carelessness or negligence caused the accident. In a car accident, this would be apparent as each driver attempts to prove that the other driver was entirely at fault or more comparatively at fault than themselves. Another example might be in a personal injury case where someone slips on a wet floor and is accused of not paying attention.
If it can be proven to a jury than both persons are negligent and at fault for the accident, then a plaintiff who is more than 50% negligent cannot collect any damages, according to Nevada law. If the plaintiff is less than 50% at fault, then he or she can still collect damages, but the recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is assigned to the plaintiff. Thus, if the defendant is 60% at fault, the plaintiff can only recover 60% of his or her damages.
This is a comparative fault law in Nevada, though not all states work the same way. For example, in California, the percentage of fault will not bar the plaintiff from a recover. Even if the plaintiff is 90% at fault for the accident, in California, he or she will still receive 10% of the damages incurred.
This is why it is so important to estimate the likelihood of winning the case and allowing for potential reduction based on percentage of comparative fault when placing a monetary value on your case.
The 2nd Factor
The second factor in determining the value of your case is in establishing whether or not the person or company being sued will even be able to pay the damages. For example, if you are injured in a car accident and your case is worth $200,000, but you don’t have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and the other driver has only $100,000 worth of coverage for this type of accident, you are not likely to be able to receive more than $100,000. It is unlikely for the other driver to agree to or to be able to add their own personal money to the settlement amount.
This means that you’ll have to work with the attorney to decide if it’s worth it to accept what you can get or to take it to trial to get a higher judgment. Even if you do get the higher judgment, you still may not be able to collect the additional funds on top of what the insurance company is required to pay.
Your only hope is to attempt to collect the additional money from the other driver, which is not very likely. Of course, your attorney can investigate to determine what the other driver’s resources and assets actually are. In the very same scenario, but with a liability insurance of only $15,000 and zero assets to speak of, the case that was worth $200,000 and in the original example dropped to $100,000, is now only worth $15,000, simply because that’s all you’re going to be able to collect.
The 3rd Factor
The third factor that affects the value of your case is going to be based on the specific rules that are used to place monetary values on the damages caused by accidents. Some of these rules are:
1. Proven Causation
It is up to the plaintiff to provide evidence that defendant’s negligence caused the injuries in question. You can do this by presenting medical records that show the diagnostic testing and treatment of your injuries, though if you have pre-existing conditions, you’ll need to prove that your injuries were not already present at the time of the accident.
If there is no medical record of your pre-existing injury or condition, then there is plenty of room for the defendant to claim that it was not their own negligence that caused your injuries, but past incidents and issues that were not adequately documented before and after the accident occurred.
This is why it’s so important to seek medical treatment as quickly as possible. If you go to the hospital with fractured ribs right after the accident, the defendant is not likely to attempt to claim that the fractured ribs were caused by something else.
If the plaintiff is able to show that the defendant’s negligence is more probable as the cause of injury than not, then Nevada law considers causation to have been proved. As long as the jury can be convinced that the defendant is at least 51% likely to be at fault, they will side with the plaintiff.
In general, a jury isn’t fond of taking someone’s money and giving it to someone else unless they are fairly certain that the plaintiff is owed the money because of the defendant’s negligence. While the case is supposed to be resolved without any prejudice, jury members often cannot help but be biased by how much they like or dislike the plaintiff or defendant. It can be difficult to find an unbiased jury because the jurors may say what they think they’re supposed to say when it comes to questioning.
2. Proven Lost Wages and Income
To prove your lost wages and income, you will have to provide evidence that your injuries were caused by the accident, that the injuries resulted in an inability to work, and the exact amount of the wages and income that you were unable to earn for this reason. If you don’t pay taxes or are paid under the table, it can be difficult to claim lost wages. The defense will want you to present authorizations to view tax returns and to refuse this will make you unable to claim lost wages and income.
Many people hope that they can get lost wage recovery for their time off work for medical treatment reasons. This can work in some cases, but not all of them. If you take time off of work to receive
necessary treatment that is only available during work hours, then you may be able to claim lost wages here. If you work evenings, however, you will asked to explain why you didn’t schedule your treatment during hours when you were not at work. In this case, you are not likely to receive compensation.
If you were disabled by the accident, even if it was only for a short period of time, you can still receive compensation for the hours that you were unable to work.
3 Proven Medical Treatment Expenses
When it comes to medical bills, there is a lot of confusion and disagreement as to how they will affect the final settlement. There is an old rule of thumb that you will receive three times what your medical expenses are, to be split between yourself, your medical care providers, and your lawyer.
Today, however, things work a bit differently than they used to. Medical bills are exponentially raised by private health insurance, public health insurance, and health care providers. They can boost charges and add extra charges. One example would be a situation where a trauma team charges $8,000 for their service, but the plaintiff turns out to not be very badly injured. Compare this to a situation where the plaintiff is charged $8,000 for surgery, and imagine which one is going to be taken seriously by a jury. If the case goes this far, Nevada law will allow the plaintiff to present the actual medical bills and testimony to prove that these bills were for reasonable and necessary treatments and services.
You can’t simply assume that the value of your case will be a multiple of your medical bills. You will have the option of agreeing to give a medical care provider a lien on the personal injury case to receive treatment before attempting to win the case. However, if your insurance will pay for the treatment, then this is the better way to go to minimize the costs of care.