How Much Can I Recover in Personal Injury Suit?

After suffering an injury by another person’s fault, the victim begins to realize the cost that this injury has placed on him or her. Missed work and medical bills pile up and the victim wants to know: how much can I recover in a law suit against the person who did this to me?

The short answer…

It depends. This is not a very satisfying answer, but it’s the truth. However, there is a process for determining the value of your claim, which the lawyers at Winslow & McCurry apply to each client. Below is a summary of that process.

Settlement OR Trial

There are essentially two ways to recover for a personal injury claims, settlement or trial. The amount a plaintiff can recover in either of these situations depends on a variety of factors that make predicting the recovery at either trial or settlement a case-by-case calculus.

Usually, in personally injury cases a plaintiff can recover for both specific and general damages. Specific damages are basically the out-of-pocket costs that the plaintiff has suffered, through no fault of her own. Usually, specific damages are easy to calculate because a Plaintiff can prove what the injury cost her by showing medical bills and pay stubs to calculate the lost wages.

The second set of damages are called general damages, or damages for “pain and suffering.” These damages are harder to calculate with specificity. They include the human toll of the injury, including the literal pain of the injury as well as the way the injury has impacted that specific plaintiff’s quality of life. Because each injury affects each person differently, there is no way to predict exactly how much a claim is worth.

Generally, in Virginia, the awards for pain and suffering average about two-to-three times bills and lost wages. However, these statistics are limited. They do not show the variety of awards that occur depending on the degree of the injury or particular impact it had on the Plaintiff. Thus, when we take cases, we review in detail how this injury has affected you personally and what proof of that personal impact is available.

For example, if someone crashes into your car, causing you whiplash and a broken arm, and you are taken to the hospital, your personal injury suit would be calculated as follows:

Specific Damages – The specific damages are basically one giant expense report. They include mostly medical bills and pay stubs. For this example, let’s assume the following specific damages.

  • Emergency Room Visit: $5,000
  • Prescriptions: $500
  • Follow-up Doctor’s Visits: $2,000
  • Physical Therapy: $2,000
  • Lost Wages: $2,000
  • Total Specific Damages: $11,500

The next step in calculating the value of the claim is adding the general damages to the specific damages. For general damages, we’ll look closely at how this injury has affected you personally. We do this by asking some questions like:

General Damages –

How much pain did the injury cause you?

  • For how long?
    • Is the injury permanent?
    • How has the injury affected your life?  Your work?
    • Did you have to miss any vacations or family events?
      • How many?
      • Which ones?
    • Are you physically active? Did this injury prevent you from enjoying those activities?
      • For how long?
    •  Did this injury affect your relationship with family members or loved ones?
      • For how long?
  • Were you unable to take care of your children or pets?
    • For how long?
  • Did you have trouble sleeping?
    • For how long?
  • Did you have trouble showering or getting dressed on your own?
    • For how long?
  • Total General Damages: It depends

As you can tell from these questions, each person will have their own general damages, despite the specific damages. Statistics cannot account for the variety of different answers that could come from two people with the exact same injury. Depending on those answers, a plaintiff could reasonably expect to recover anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000 for this broken arm and whiplash. But, even those numbers are just estimates that don’t represent the true basement or ceiling of the claim.

In a sense, general damages are as much about the victim as they are about the injury he or she suffered.

In addition to the ways the injury has affected the plaintiff, there are other variables that factor in the amount the case is worth. Some of these factors are:

  • Is the Plaintiff completely free of any fault?
  • Did the Plaintiff get immediate medical care?
  • Did the Plaintiff follow doctor’s instructions?
  • Did the Plaintiff do anything to make the injury worse or slow recovery?
  • Is the Plaintiff believable and sympathetic to a jury?

All of these factors (and more) are computed to find a recovery number.

Should you have any questions regarding personal injury law questions, please call the lawyers at Winslow & McCurry, PLLC at (804) 423-1382.