What’s My Personal Injury Case Worth?

Personal injury value              Is my case worth
$1 million? $10 million?  We’ve all heard
the stories.  “My friend broke her
fingernail and got $150,000.”  “My
brother-in-law’s friend’s cousin’s son’s wife got $4 million when she fell at
the A & P and broke her wrist.”  “Bob
Hartman got $2.7 million because he was rear-ended by a drunk driver and the
drunk’s insurance company was afraid to go to court.” 

            How
are these crash-to-riches cases possible? 
Well, in a word, they’re not!  

Are there multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements?  Of course there are but they are based on major injuries, good liability and deep pockets.  

Click here for details about a motorcycle accident that my office settled for almost $8 Million

Urban Legends

Urban-legend-rumor             Let’s
face it, folks.  Insurance companies are
not in the business of handing out huge settlements – they’re in business to
make money and unreasonable payouts fly in the face of their business model.  Unreasonable (and unjustified) large payouts
are just not the reality, they are simply urban
legends
.

Snopes.com quells the
examples of alleged gazillion dollar recoveries from people filing outrageous
lawsuits by researching the real facts (or lack thereof).  The Stella Awards,
named for Stella Liebeck, the plaintiff in the famed McDonald’s Burn Case (read
the real story here
) was a leader in putting out annual lists of crazy
lawsuits with alleged crazy
settlements and jury verdicts – but these lawsuits are not real, they are more
examples of urban legends. 

Really, Now.  What’s My Case
Worth
?

         Reality
check everyone: Every case is different.  Your rear-end case has a different value than
your neighbor’s rear-end case.  Sonny’s slip
& fall case has a different value than Chastity’s slip & fall case.  Chester’s
product liability case is different than Field’s product liability case.

            Why?  Because every case has its own unique dynamic
based on many of these factors:

*     
People/entities involved

o      
Parties

o      
Medical providers

o      
Employers

o      
Eye-witnesses

o      
After-the-fact witnesses

o      
Expert witnesses

o      
Insurance company(ies)

*     
Facts of the accident

*     
Who’s at fault and to what extent?

*     
Injuries sustained

*     
Medical bills (past, present and future)

*     
Loss of earnings (past, present and future)

*     
Property damage

*     
Pain, suffering, inconvenience, embarrassment,
disfigurement

 

Case Study

 Scalding Water Burns Tourist in Restaurant 

            As you know,
personal injury cases come in all shapes and sizes. There are, to name a few, traffic collisions, injuries
when someone has a slip
& fall
, product
liability
cases and premises liability
cases.  I am using this premises
liability case to illustrate the points raised in this particular article. 

Note: This story has been fictionalized and all persons appearing
in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead,
places or events is entirely coincidental. 

Boiling water              Facts: Kiki, a
30-year old female Japanese tourist visiting relatives, went to a Chinese restaurant
in Los Angeles’s famed Chinatown for a family meal.    Chinese Restaurants serving large parties
often place a Lazy Susan
on the center of the table to make it easier to serve the meal family style.  

            Early
on, the restaurant placed a teapot filled with scalding water on the edge of
the Lazy Susan.  While Kiki, with her
four-year old daughter Ling on her lap, and 11 other family members sat around talking,
the condensation began to form on the outside of the teapot.  Engrossed in conversation, no one at the
table was paying attention to the Lazy Susan or the teapot until disaster
struck.

            Suddenly,
the teapot was on its side and the contents spilled out all over Ling and Kiki.
 Little Ling began screaming and Kiki rushed
to cover her in cold water all the time unaware that her own arm was drenched
in hot water.

            Kiki
was able to save Ling from serious injury.  Although Ling was burned, the burns were first-degree
and quickly healed, leaving no scars.

            Unfortunately,
Kiki, who was wearing a long-sleeved sweater at the time, was not so lucky.  While Kiki tended to her child, the scalding
water caused her polyester sweater to literally meld into the skin of her arm.  She removed the sweater and several layers of
her skin in the process. 

            Kiki,
suffered second degree
and third degree burns
as a result.  That night she went
into shock
and was rushed to the emergency room. 

            Kiki’s
healing process was long and arduous.  She
returned home and underwent a major skin graft
where they replaced the damaged and dead skin on her arm with skin from her
scalp (and to answer your question in advance, her arm did NOT grow hair).  She has been left with permanent, unsightly
scars on her forearm.

 Who's Fault Is It That Kiki Was Hurt?

             Well,
this case had some unique twists and turns.  In evaluating this case, several of the factors
listed above had to be considered.  The
first, of course, was who was at  fault
was this incident?

            On
first blush, it appears to be the restaurant’s fault.  However, it’s important to note that the plaintiff
(the person making the claim) has the burden
of proving
that it is, in fact, the restaurant’s fault.

            Since
everyone at the table was talking when the incident occurred, we had no
witnesses who could honestly say how or why the teapot tipped over.  It was through the use of an expert witness’s forensic
analysis
that we were able to develop the viable condensation theory.

            The
expert, a physicist, based his analysis on an examination of the location, the Lazy
Susan, the dispenser from which the hot water was poured into the teapot, the
teapot itself and the depositions of Kiki and Shuau, the restaurant employee
who placed the teapot on the Lazy Susan.  Shuau testified at her deposition, under penalty of perjury,
that she was instructed by the restaurant to wait until the temperature gauge
on the dispenser was pointing to red before filling the teapot with water.  

            “What
does it mean when the needle points to red,” I asked.

            “Dangerous.”

            “Dangerous?”

            “Yes,
dangerous.”

            The
restaurant’s attorney covered his face with his hands upon hearing this admission.   It is also important to note that an employer
is responsible for the acts undertaken by its employees while in the course and
scope of their employment
. 

            This
is not to say that the restaurant’s lawyers weren’t mounting a defense.  The severity and degree of the injuries were
definite and obviously caused by the hot water dispensed by an employee of the
restaurant.  

 Who's fault             So
what could they say to mitigate their responsibility?  Simple: Kiki should have removed her sweater
sooner and none of this would have happened!  Yes, this was their defense.  (Defense lawyers ALWAYS have a trick or two
up their sleeve – click
here to read Anderson Cooper’s relevant expose
).  

There were
other family members there – why didn’t they take care of Ling while Kiki took
care of herself?  Actually, I hoped that
the defense would bring this up at trial because what juror would buy that
argument?  If anything, it would inflame
them because any parent, any human being for that matter, is going to tend to a
child before they tend to themselves.  That’s
just human nature. 

What Is Kiki Entitled To? 

Dollar sign              There
are various types of damages that someone is entitled to.  In Kiki’s case she was entitled to special
damages and general damages.  She sued
the restaurant for Negligence for her injuries as well as Negligent Infliction
of Emotional Distress for having witnessed her daughter’s injuries.  Since this writing is devoted to damages, I’m
not going to go into any detail on the actual legal theories of liability.

            Special, or economic, damages
are those that are quantifiable such as past, present and future medical bills
and loss of earnings that arise from the injury.  In this case, Kiki had about $40,000 in
medical bills incurred for the emergency hospital visit and her skin graft.  It was agreed upon by everyone that these
bills were reasonable and certainly necessary.  Therefore, she was entitled to reimbursement
for $40,000.

            General, or non-economic,
damages
are subjective damages for pain, suffering, disfigurement,
embarrassment, emotional distress, humiliation, loss of pleasure in life.  Normally, I’d put the actual figure in here upon
which we settled.  However, I’m going to
leave this to you.  What do you think Kiki is
entitled to by way of general damages
?  
Please put your answer in the comments
section!          

“Wait!” You Say!  “Didn’t You
Forgot Something?

             Just
checking to see if you were paying attention!  No, of course I didn’t forget little Ling.  That would be clumsy of me (not to mention a
tad bit of legal
malpractice
).  Thankfully Ling
suffered no permanent injuries.  She was
scared and had some blisters which healed and left no scars.  Naturally (and necessarily), she was included
in the lawsuit. 

            Ling’s
special damages amounted to $800 for a visit to a local doctor and some healing
ointments.  Again, both sides agreed that
this was reasonable and necessary.

            Again,
I’m going to leave it to you to decide her general damages. 

 Injured? Questions? Concerns? 

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

(323) 852-1100

lowell@steigerlaw.com

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

11 comments

  1. Nate Minier on

    One hundred BILLION dollars! Muuuuah haa haaaa

  2. Maybe for the general damages, I don't know how much but I'm pretty sure that it affects Kiki. During the incident, maybe there are other people watching them. After the incident, scars were left in her arm that may lose her confidence or embarrassment.

    -craig

  3. It really affects kiki. Its much more emotional accident than physical. These hurts are very difficult to recover from.

  4. I appreciates kiki for his job.That incident was very bad for kiki.She was emotionally heart .She can claim compensation for injury and emotional distress.

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  6. Andrew on

    Hey,
    Thanks! Great post you have written on "What's My Personal Injury Case Worth?". Really I can say that your post is very informative, I'll come across your blog again when you will update it with new.
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  7. In a few days i am injured in a road accident But it has not my mistake.And i am innocent.I want the personal injury lawyer because A Personal injury lawyer providing the opportunity for an injured person to take legal action another person mistake for those injuries.

  8. Thanks for all of the tips. I'm really glad that there are personal injury attorneys such as yourself that are here to help us out.

  9. You've stated a good point here. Kiki did make the right move to defend herself. This incident certainly had a significant effect on her quality of life, and that of her daughter as well. The burns that she suffered from the hot teapot are the restaurant’s fault. They have to inform the guests that the content of the teapot is hot, so the customers can act properly according to that knowledge.