Cases with physical and permanent injuries are much easier to value then ones with purely emotional components to them. Even though you may believe you were emotionally injured and offer an expert to cooperate your testimony, a jury may be skeptical and it is much more subjective than an objective x-ray showing a broken bone.
How much have similar cases resolved for in the past?
You must compare apples to apples and have a professional evaluate how much similar injuries have settled for or received verdicts for in your jurisdiction. The most accurate comparison will see the identical injury with the same exact Judge to give the best indication. Every case is unique though, so its an art to extrapolate the value based on known results.
What is your counsel adding to the case?
A defense firm will value the case to some extent based on the reputation of the plaintiff's firm and how well the case is "worked up." Additionally, the further along the litigation trail the case survives, generally, the more value is added to the case. However, you always run the risk of the case being dismissed at some portion.
What are the expenses of the case?
Most lawyers front the costs of litigation as an interest free investment into the case. In the event that the case is lost, the lawyer eats those costs, so the attorney must be selective in what is litigated. Litigation costs are extremely high. There is the initial filing fee and service fee and costs to gather medical records. During the discovery process, depositions may cost a few thousand dollars a day (in NYC) and good experts generally charge several hundred dollars an hour with a retainer of $5,000 or more. The attorney wants to keep these costs down because these are paid to third parties and non-recoverable if the case is lost, but still needs to work up the case and have it properly prepared to receive value.
What is your tolerance to risk?
At many portions of the case there may be opportunities to resolve the matter, and the further the case is pressed on, the more risk and expense may be involved, but potentially the greater the reward. John Travolta, in A Civil Action, indicates that plaintiffs lawyers are like gamblers, although I prefer to think of it as calculators of risk and value assessors. A Judge may throw out a case on a Motion to Dismiss, Motion for Summary Judgment or some other procedural point. A Jury may not value your case to the extent you think its worth or may also throw out the case. You must realistically set your economic goal for your case and discuss it with your counsel up front so there is no disillusions at the end.
Will my attorney give me a value to my case?
Beware of attorneys who give inflated estimations in the initial consultation period. You may hear a number you want to hear, but that does not mean the attorney will get you there. Ask specific questions to your attorney, along those suggested in this guide. How much have similar cases gone for in the past? How much might expenses be? What are the risks? If you're receiving good advise from counsel they will naturally take you in that direction and shy away from promoting unrealistic expectations in the initial interview.
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