Permanent Injury Settlements and Awards
The primary factors in determining the value of a personal injury claim or potential award or jury verdict from an arbitration or lawsuit are (1) the nature and severity of the injury that was sustained, (2) the monetary damages related to treatment needed for dealing with the injury, and (3) the monetary damages related to the claimant's inability or reduced ability to work. When considering the monetary, "economic" damages involved in the claim along with the general, "non-economic" damages (often called "pain and suffering") related to the physical injuries that were sustained, we include both the past damages that have been incurred to date, as well as future damages that are reasonably expected to be incurred on a long-term or permanent basis. Therefore, for any given injury that may occur, permanent injury settlements and awards will have greater value simply because they also include the value of ongoing, long-term, permanent impacts.
Our lawyers -- like any experienced personal injury attorneys – are accustomed to handling permanent injury claims and will carefully review our clients' medical records and reports for any evidence pointing at the permanency of their injuries. That is followed as necessary by retaining experts who can provide testimony and reports that translate medical evidence of permanent injuries into hard dollar figures.The Nature of Permanent Injury Claims and Lawsuits
Permanent injuries are those that the claimant's doctors and other medical experts identify as being permanent or at least as of long, undefined duration. One injury study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that nearly 10% of even minor diagnosed injuries in car accidents, when tracked over a five-year-period, showed some evidence of permanent medical impairment. There must be evidence present that establishes this duration, as well as:
- The pain, suffering, disability, and other non-economic impacts the injury is likely to have upon the claimant in the future;
- The types and costs of medical treatment and/or other care the injured person is likely to require in the future; and
- The partial or complete vocational disability from the injury (and associated loss of income) that the injured person is likely to sustain in the future.
Our civil legal system awards compensation for these categories of losses, so their presence is recognized by the insurance adjusters, plaintiff and defense legal counsel, arbitrators, judges, and juries who are all involved in placing values upon these losses when they occur. The types of medical and other evidence that shows the presence of these losses is well-established. The actual valuation of permanent injuries, however, is more complex, with some categories of permanent injury damages having fairly straightforward calculations of value while others are more undefined.
Where the evidence of permanent injury is present in a treating doctor's medical records and reports, we will present that directly as evidence. At other times, the evidence of permanent injury may be unclear or not well-defined, and the use of retained medical experts may be needed to bring the needed clarity. And once the nature and permanency of the injury is medically clear, various forms of evidence and expert witnesses can be utilized to attach actual dollar values to the permanent injury damage calculations.Expert Evidence for Permanent Injury Settlements and Awards
Among the categories of expert witnesses who may be consulted with in substantiating a permanent injury claim are:
Medical experts -- including both the client's treating doctors and retained consultants -- who can testify as to the nature and permanency of the actual physical injuries. Although a plaintiff's treating doctors will always be the primary source of this evidence, retained medical experts can often provide additional, more detailed evidence about the injury, its severity and likely duration, the degree of disability involved, and the types of future medical treatment likely required for long-term management of the condition.
Vocational rehabilitation experts have great familiarity with the physical and mental requirements of all types of jobs and are able to compare the medical evidence describing an injury victim's permanent injuries with the requirements of the person's current job, related types of employment, and/or employment possibilities in general to determine what, if any, type of work they may be limited to as a result of their permanent injury. They can then compare the injured person's current work income with that of any jobs they may be limited to by their injury in order to establish the value of their future income loss from the permanent injury.
Life care planners are often nurses or health care administrators who have studied the costs of different types of medical and supportive care -- surgical procedures, prescription costs, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc. These experts are able to take the projections by the medical doctors of what types of care an injured person is likely to require on a long-term or permanent basis and total up the costs for that care over time. They will usually present this in a documented "life care plan" that lists the anticipated types and amounts of treatment and the total anticipated cost for that treatment.
Economists are financial calculation experts who are able to take the permanent injury dollar loss projections from folks like vocational rehabilitation experts and life care planners and turn them into actual present-day dollar values. They will utilize tools like government-published life expectancy tables to project annual costs and losses out over the plaintiff's expected remaining work-life and remaining overall life expectancy to calculate total losses, then reduce those totals to present day values.Examples of Permanent Injury Settlements and Awards
Any experienced personal injury attorney will have successfully concluded many, many insurance claims and lawsuits involving permanent injuries over time. Past settlements and awards, however, are no guarantee or prediction of value for new permanent injury claims -- every case is unique and different, and about all that can be said with reasonable certainty is that a permanent injury is likely to have greater settlement value than the exact same injury would have if it had completely healed with no permanent results.
Past permanent injury settlements and awards can at least help illustrate the types of permanent injury facts that go into establishing settlement, award, and verdict values. We have many examples listed on our "past settlements and awards" page, and a few good descriptions include:
- Jury Trial Verdict of $4,100,000 -- Client was a young dental professional whose injuries included significant damage to spinal discs in his neck that eventually required disc replacement surgery. The client's symptoms included serious pain and a degree of disability in his arms and hands that significantly and permanently impaired his ability to work. Experts including a vocational rehabilitation witness, economist, retained pain management doctor, and life care planner provided important evidence to establish the value of his permanent injury, which accounted for more than half of the total verdict.
- Jury Trial Verdict of $2,880,984 -- Client was a woman in her 20s who was injured in a motor vehicle collision. Increasing low back and leg pain eventually led to emergency surgery for a severe lumbar disc herniation. Even though our client was unemployed at the time of her injury, medical and vocational planning evidence helped establish permanent injury value for her reduced ability to work during the remainder of her lifetime.
- Settlement of $995,000 -- Our client was a woman in her 30s who worked as a house cleaner -- she was injured in a major rear-end impact from a large pickup truck. Neck surgery improved her condition, but she was left with permanent injury symptoms. Evidence from experts including a life care planner, physiatrist, vocational rehabilitation specialist, and an economist were key to securing this settlement three days before trial.
- Settlement of $250,000 -- Our client was a 41-year-old doctor who was injured in a traffic collision. Her most significant injury was a hyperextension of her thumb that required surgical intervention and which left her with residual pain and minor disability. Our arguments were that even though this disability was relatively minor, it was permanent and would therefore have value over the remainder of the client's work life expectancy that was greater than the total amount of insurance available, resulting in a policy limits settlement.
View this video describing what expert witnesses are and how they are used to provide important evidence for things like permanent injuries:Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer
Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I am a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. Whatever settlement or verdict value a personal injury claim or lawsuit may have, it is very likely to be of greater value in situations of permanent injury where the valuations must also take into account the economic and non-economic impacts over the remainder of an injury victim’s life. If you or a member of your family has suffered an injury which your doctors say may have permanent impacts, please call us today at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.
Image by QuinceCreative from Pixabay
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