Determining the Value of Your Case
The value of your case depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of your injury, the strength of the evidence that the defendant was at fault, and the defendant's ability to pay. The last factor cannot be ignored, because no matter how strong a plaintiff's case may be, it is valueless if a defendant does not have the funds (either individually or through insurance) to pay a monetary judgment.
In personal injury actions, Florida law allows a successful plaintiff to be compensated for a variety of damages, including the following:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental suffering and anguish
- Loss of earnings and impairment of earning capacity in the future
- Costs of medical treatment, hospital care, nursing services and related expenses
- Loss of enjoyment of life due to the injury
- Cost of household services made necessary by injury (or loss of household services to the spouse of an injured person)
In evaluating the severity of the injury, insurance companies and defense attorneys will often look not only to the nature of the injury but also to the medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury. The severity and permanence of the resulting disability or disfigurement is either self-evident (e.g., a lost limb) or is established through medical records and testimony.
Even a severely and permanently injured person is not entitled to compensation unless he or she can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was at fault. The relative strength or weakness of the plaintiff's case with regard to liability thus plays a substantial role in determining the amount of compensation. A very strong case on liability may result in a determination of compensation that is at or near 100% of the plaintiff's evaluation of his or her damages. Conversely, a weak case on liability may result in no compensation (if the case is lost on the liability issue at trial) or a recovery that is substantially discounted to reflect the weaknesses in the case.