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How is Personal Injury Compensation Calculated?

Posted by Ryan Russman | Oct 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

There is no standard formula for calculating a New Hampshire personal injury compensation claim. Every injury claim is unique and there are a variety of factors that an NH personal injury attorney will consider in conjunction with how insurance companies, who will typically be paying the injury victim, also calculate a value for a personal injury claim.

Assessing Liability

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An experienced personal injury attorney will analyze the facts and circumstances of an accident to determine who was at fault. If liability is not clearly established, then the injury's value may be decreased by the degree of culpability of the injured party or plaintiff. For example, if you were driving recklessly and contributed to the accident, the defendant's insurer may deduct your percentage of contributory fault from the full value of your claim. A $30,000 injury claim with 40 percent contributory fault by you could result in compensation of $18,000.

If there is more than one party that contributed to the accident, then the degree of fault by each party must be apportioned.

New Hampshire Personal Injury Compensation Value

The value of a personal injury claim in New Hampshire is heavily influenced by the nature and extent of your injuries. If you sustained a soft tissue injury to your back or neck, many insurers may consider this a minor injury and will offer a few thousand dollars or nuisance value–usually ranging from $500 to $1500–or will question whether you suffered any injury at all and may not offer anything.

Soft tissue injuries, like neck or back strains, often are not verifiable through diagnostic tests, like X-rays or MRIs, and typically depend on the victim's own subjective complaints.

Obviously, the more visible your injury, the more value will be placed on the claim. Broken limbs, torn ligaments, scars, disc injuries, brain damage, and internal injuries can be objectively verified on X-rays and other diagnostic tests.

Further, more compensation is awarded depending on the extent of your injury. A broken leg that heals in a few weeks will likely be considered of less value than a herniated disc that may last for months or years unless there is surgical intervention, which may or may not result in total relief.

An injury that results in a permanent, disabling condition is a factor that can substantially increase the value of your claim, especially if it prevents you from engaging in your usual recreational activities, or from performing your job.

Finally, your attorney must prove that your injury was caused by the accident or, if you had a preexisting condition, that it was exacerbated by the accident. For example, a bulging disc may be caused by years of degeneration rather than the accident, or it could have been exacerbated by it. Experts may disagree and this may diminish the value of your claim.

Personal Injury Claim Damages

  • Special Damages

The reasonable value of your damages is a major factor in calculating the value of your New Hampshire personal injury compensation. Special damages are one category that includes lost wages, out-of-pocket costs and medical expenses related to the accident.

The nature of your medical costs is determinative of value as well. If your chiropractic bill is $10,000 for a soft tissue injury like a sprained neck, this may be considered excessive and unreasonable, in contrast to $10,000 for surgical or rehabilitation costs for a disc or serious knee injury.

Also, you can be compensated for reasonably foreseeable and necessary future medical treatment and costs, if a medical expert testifies to this possibility.

Other special damages include any property damage and your loss of earnings, past and future. An injury that prevents you from working for several months can also increase your settlement or overall injury value considerably when general damages are assessed.

In regards to lost earnings, if you are unable to return to your usual occupation and have lost your earning capacity, a forensic economist can provide an opinion of the value of your lost earnings over your working life.

  • General Damages

General damages can be the most important factor in calculating your claim. This category or element is usually called “pain and suffering” and is largely subjective in how a value is determined.

Some of the indicators used by insurers and injury attorneys in calculating pain and suffering include the following:

  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Physical pain
  • Emotional harm
  • Loss of consortium or inability to engage in intimate activities

Certain injuries can significantly impact a person's life. The more your life has been adversely affected, the more value is placed on this element of damages.

A person who experiences pain daily, has a change in personality, can no longer play their favorite sport or pastime, is unable to drive, suffers from post-traumatic stress, or is unable to be intimate with his or her spouse, may well have a claim worth considerably more than someone who has pain for a few weeks or has a permanent scar that can be easily disguised.

In addition, if you can show that your pain is shortening your ability to work a full work week and is affecting your wages; or it is preventing you from going on vacation, performing your daily household tasks, or affecting your relationships with others, then your damages for pain and suffering can increase substantially.

To verify this, you would have to give personal testimony regarding the degree and extent of your pain and how your life has changed. Medical experts can offer opinions as to the degree of disability sustained, your physical restrictions or limitations, offer examples of emotional trauma, the medications you need and their side effects, and how the injury has affected your life.

Other Factors in a Personal Injury Settlement

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There are other factors that may increase or decrease the value of an injury case. A plaintiff with a drug or alcohol problem, several felony convictions, or a scant employment history will not be as presentable as a hard working mother of five, or a person who has a long work history and varied interests who is unable to engage in them any longer.

One other resource used by plaintiffs' attorneys are publications that list the compensation awarded by New Hampshire juries for injuries and factual situations that are similar to the claim they are pursuing.

If you can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that your special damages are reasonable and necessary, then this amount is added to whatever your general damages may be, so long as they are reasonable as well.

Retain a NH Personal Injury Attorney

Calculating the value of a personal injury claim is a process that takes into account a number of variables that must be considered from a medical-legal viewpoint. Only an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney can do this for you so that you can obtain the full value of your claim.

If you have been injured in an accident, it is essential that you contact a NH personal injury attorney. Many victims attempt to settle their own claims, which for minor injuries may be adequate. But even minor injuries can lead to more serious complications and settling too early will prevent you from obtaining any future compensation from that party.

Studies also show that injury victims who have legal representation collect more net compensation for their claims, even after deducting legal fees.

Contact personal injury attorney Ryan Russman to ensure that all your rights are protected, that the proper parties have been contacted or included in your claim, and that you receive your injury claim's full value.

About the Author

Ryan Russman

Attorney Ryan Russman has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights of New Hampshire citizens. His practice, based in Exeter (Rockingham County) New Hampshire, is limited to cases involving DWI and DUI, other motor vehicle and criminal cases, and many cases involving personal injury. He is, however, best known as one of New Hampshire's leading legal authorities on DWI.

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