Personal Injury: How Much is Your Case Worth?

How much your personal injury case is worth will depend upon a number of factors including among other things, the severity of your injuries, your ability to return to work and whether you have a specialist personal injury lawyer representing you.

Generally speaking the main areas of a claim are loss of earnings or wages (or even the potential to work certain jobs), medical treatment costs and pain and suffering (known to lawyers as ‘non-pecuniary loss’). In cases of severe injury there will also be significant claims for assistance, aids and appliances and home modifications. Many smaller claims will also include modest amounts for out of pocket expenses and assistance.

Thorough medical and economic evidence (such as pay slips and income taxation returns) will assist in calculating what losses have already been incurred and what losses will be incurred in the future.

The harder part to put a dollar figure on is that non-pecuniary loss, which includes pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and in severe cases reduction of life expectancy. So how do we calculate how much this part of the claim is worth?

The answer lies in a system imposed in the early 1990’s which put a cap of $200,000 on the amount claimable for non-pecuniary loss. This figure is indexed and increases each year, currently standing at $390,000. This maximum is paid only for the most catastrophic injuries. Everyone else is said to be suffering a percentage of that worst case scenario.

Parliament further decreased the amount payable by introducing a minimum threshold. This meant that any claim for pain and suffering below 20% of this worst case scenario (currently $78,500) would have a gradually reducing amount deducted from it. This threshold applies to the majority of people.

So for example, if your injuries are said to be 10% of the worst case scenario then the amount payable for pain and suffering would be 10% of $390,000 less the threshold of $19,500.00 leaving you with $19,500.00.

This meant that any claim worth less than 5% of the worst case scenario would not receive anything for pain and suffering. People with these smaller claims will still be able to claim for medical expenses and time off work and any out of pocket expenses but their claims are limited.

The Insurance Commission will often make an offer indicating that a claim is worth a very low percentage of the worst case scenario in the hopes that people will settle quickly and for a low figure. Unfortunately the Insurance Commission’s goal is not to adequately compensate people, but rather to minimise the amount that it pays out. This is why any settlement offer should always be discussed with a specialist personal injury accident lawyer to make sure that you are not settling for.

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