If you have been hurt in a car accident in Baltimore or elsewhere in Maryland, one of the inevitable questions that will come up is whether or not you should sue. While the answer to this question is always a personal one and depends on a lot of different factors, one of them will always be whether your lawsuit can get you enough to make it worthwhile. Finding out how much your car accident personal injury case will be worth becomes essential.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know precisely how much you stand to get in a personal injury claim from a car accident until you agree on a settlement amount or are awarded a jury verdict after a trial. This is far too late in the game to help you make a decision about whether to pursue the claim. However, there are some methods that you can use to predict how valuable your claim could be, helping you make an informed decision about whether to enforce your rights in court.
Inherent Complexity in Valuing a Personal Injury Claim
It is a sad fact in the legal world that personal injury claims are inherently difficult to put a dollar amount on. This is because while there are some aspects of a victim's injuries that are easy to value—like the amount of their medical expenses, or the income they lost while they recovered from the crash and missed work—there are other losses that are notoriously difficult to attach a dollar sign to.
Economic and Noneconomic Damages
Maryland's personal injury law recognizes this problem, and has created two different types of legal damages:
- Economic damages
- Noneconomic damages
Economic damages are the losses that an accident victim has incurred and that can easily be distilled into a dollar amount. Economic damages in Maryland include the following.
- The cost of medical bills you have already had to pay.
- The cost of medical bills you are likely to have to pay in the future.
- Wages you missed while you were recovering.
- The cost of any diminished potential for income in the future.
- The cost of repairing or replacing any property damage you suffered in the crash.
The total amount of economic damages is frequently reflected on bills that have been paid, and in testimony from doctors or employers who know what your future recovery will entail and who understand details of your professional life and future.
Noneconomic damages, on the other hand, are the kinds of losses that cannot be put in a precise dollar amount because they do not appear on a medical bill or other piece of paper. Noneconomic damages include
- Financial compensation for the pain your injuries caused you.
- Restitution for the emotional suffering you stand to go through as you can no longer live the life you want to live.
- Your family's loss of companionship as you can no longer enjoy life's pleasures with them.
These noneconomic damages are the ones that make it extremely difficult to gauge how much your personal injury lawsuit will be worth because they largely rest with the jury, and how much its members sympathize with your plight.
Noneconomic Damage Cap
In fact, the only certainty about noneconomic damages in Maryland is that they cannot exceed a certain amount. Maryland law caps the amount of noneconomic damages you can receive in a personal injury case at $845,000 for accidents that happened between October 1, 2017 and October 1, 2018. This limitation goes up by $15,000 every year.
How to Gauge the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim
While you cannot know the value of your claim until a settlement or verdict is finalized, you can still estimate how much you stand to recover by adding together all of your economic damages and then include a spectrum of outcomes—both good and bad—for your noneconomic damages. This leaves you with a range of how valuable your personal injury claim can be.
- To find the lowest end of the range, take the total of your economic damages and multiply it by 1.33.
- To find the highest end of the range, add the appropriate noneconomic damage cap to the total of economic damages you have suffered.
Of course, to get either end of this spectrum, you will have to know approximately how much your economic damages are worth. This often requires gathering and examining your medical and repair bills, counting up the time you have missed at work, talking to your boss about potential earning capacity you will now miss out on, and talking to your doctor about the costs of your future recovery.
Unfortunately, Maryland's personal injury law prohibits accident victims from recovering anything if they in any way contributed to the crash. If there is a chance that your conduct on the road even partially caused the crash, you could see your recovery in the case vaporize.
General Principle: Precision Comes With Time
In the early stages of a personal injury case involving a car accident, it is difficult to make more than a vague estimate of how valuable your case really is. Only as more evidence surfaces and the extent of your losses becomes more and more apparent does that estimate begin to solidify into a manageable dollar amount.
Unfortunately, this means that the time when you most need to know the value of your car accident claim is also the time when its value is the most difficult to determine.
Free Consultation With Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
This uncertainty is exactly why the car accident and personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian offer a free consultation for accident victims. Our attorneys have represented countless accident victims to get the compensation they need and deserve, and they are adept at estimating how worthwhile it will be to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Contact us online if you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident in Baltimore or the rest of Maryland.