Andrew: On today's episode we're gonna talk about a really common question we get from clients. How much is my case worth?
My name's Andrew Iacobelli and I'm a personal injury lawyer with Iacobelli Law Firm.
Colton: My name is Colton Leung and I'm a personal injury lawyer at Iacobelli Law Firm.
How much is my case worth?
Andrew: So clients involved in a personal injury matter in Ontario at some point start to wonder: How much is my case worth?
Sometimes we get that question at the very first meeting with clients and at other times it could be later. They've gone through the process for some time and they're still dealing with their healthcare. Maybe they're still having symptoms and injuries and they're wondering, what's this case really worth? Is it worth continuing with it? Sometimes people don't even have a lawyer by that point, and they might be wondering, is it worth getting a lawyer? And some of that might boil down to how much is the case worth.
As a disclaimer, I'll say this, every case is different. And so on a video like this, it's really impossible to give a specific value for a case because we have to know the facts and circumstances to evaluate what it's worth.
How do lawyers, insurance companies and judges assess damages for your harms and losses?
Andrew: But what I'd like to do today is just kind of talk about how lawyers, insurance companies andjudges assess what lawyers refer to as damages for your harms and your losses. Because at the end of the day, that's what you're recovering for. So why don't we go through and talk a little bit about the types of damages you can recover. And then that'll shed some light on how we evaluate your case.
In Ontario if someone is injured as a result of an accident or because of someone else's fault. There's certain, what we would refer to as, certain heads or categories of compensation that can be recovered. And so as lawyers, we have to look at each of those individually and try to tell the story and calculate the potential value of the case.
The Pain and Suffering Award
Andrew: The one that everyone thinks about first and foremost, is pain and suffering. Sometimes referred to as loss of enjoyment of life. How has the accident harmed you in terms of your health? What have you gone through? Is it a severe injury? Have you required surgery? Longer term ramifications to your health. And obviously the more extensive that is, the greater the pain and suffering award can be.
In Ontario, there are caps or limits to pain and suffering awards. As lawyers, we would look at the specific injury, the harm, the losses. And take into account the case law, the caps and be able to give you a pretty good sense of where we see the pain and suffering award. But in most cases the larger part of the claim is going to be based on economic losses.
What are economic losses when evaluating a case's worth?
Andrew: So Colton, why don't you describe a little bit, like what we're talking about when we look at the economic losses.
Income Loss or Future Income Loss
Colton: So there's income loss with respect to the time period that you are off work. There's also other economic losses such as you are able to return back to work but you're on modifications. Such as modified hours, modified duties.
Loss of Competitive Advantage in the Workplace
Colton: There potentially might be a claim for loss of competitive advantage. You would've had promotions, but for your injuries. That's the bigger claim to be had generally speaking.
Andrew: And that applies even, not just to motor vehicle accidents, but slip and falls. Any kind of accident or injury that impairs your ability to work. Mm-hmm. What other economic losses are there?
Economic Losses: Prescriptions and Care Costs
Colton: Prescriptions, you know, medication, a cane, such as a walker. Hiring a housekeeper to clean your house during the time that you're unable to do that because of your injuries.
How is future income loss evaluated or calculated?
Andrew: How do you know how much this person will need in the future? Like when you're trying to figure out the value of the case? Do you just take into account what's been spent to date from the time of the accident until today? Or are you also looking at the next, you know, 10 years or 20 years or 50 years for some people?
Colton: Combination of both. So it includes what has been expended to date up until, let's say, a resolution of a file. But also how much the person is expected to use, you know, throughout their lifetime.
At times, we would hire experts to conduct future care cost reports to take into consideration the life expectancy of the individual. Also any expected expenditures that they have to use. For example, if surgery is contemplated in the future, what kind of extra costs are necessary while they're healing from their surgery.
Andrew: Yeah, so that's an important point. So on some cases, if it's more complex with expected longer term consequences. Generally speaking, we want the input of an expert because we wanna, we wanna make sure we've accounted for every last dollar so we can maximize their recovery.
The process of negotiating the case worth of a client
Andrew: In some cases, we can do the calculations our self. If you had to tell your client, "Hey, I'm negotiating on your behalf. This is how much I think your case is worth." Take us through the process.
Colton: Let's start back with pain and suffering damages. We have to assess what kind of injuries they are. What's the expected prognosis? Is surgery required? We take into consideration the caps. We take into consideration various case laws that have been established. So at that point, we'll have a better idea of how much a potential client's pain and suffering is worth at that time.
If they are still unable to return back to work and it's evidenced by medical records, doctor's opinions that the client is unable to return back to work and they have to retire earlier. Let's say they're age 60 and they're still five years left until they turned 65, which is the average age of retirement. Then you can easily calculate how much their future income loss for the next five years for example.
Andrew: You'll come up with this number and then what do you do? Do you get on the phone or have a meeting with the client to go through your analysis?
Colton: Yes. So after I come up with an analysis of the approximate range that you know, I assess the potential client's file to be. I'll give the client a call, explain to them, okay, these are the figures I'm looking at. My rationale behind why these figures, I think is a reasonable starting offer, let's call it. And then if they agree with me, they provide me with instructions to send, you know, a proposal or communicate this offer to the defense lawyer, then I'll do that.
Andrew: How do you then convince the insurance company on the other side of the case? Do they just say, "Oh, that sounds good, Colton, we're gonna pay you?"
Colton: No, I wish! At times, many times more likely than not, you know we ask if the insurance company is interested in a proposal. So basically it's a summary of the facts that we're trying to advocate on the client's behalf, what their injuries are, what's the expected outcome of their injuries. We summarize all of that to provide to the adjuster or to provide to the defense lawyer.
Andrew: And that's your demand.
Colton: Exactly. We advocate on our client's behalf and we highlight all the strong points to the file, all their strong points to the claim. As perfect as a case can be, you know, there's always some weaknesses to a claim that the insurance companies would generally nitpick about. Basically we agree on a number or the client instructs us to accept the number, then the case resolves at that point in time.
What happens if the insurance company doesn't agree with the value assessment in the settlement proposal?
Andrew: And what happens if you can never agree on a number? What happens if the insurance company just doesn't see it your way?
Colton: So if an informal resolution cannot be completed by way of a settlement proposal, then we'd go through the normal steps of litigation.
Andrew: We're confident in our evaluation of cases. We advocate for that evaluation of the case and we do what we have to do to convince the insurance company, show the insurance company the value of the case. And at the end of the day, obviously with the, with the agreement of our client, if they don't see it that way, then we have no reservation whatsoever about continuing on with the lawsuit.
And I think that's probably what makes us successful. The insurance companies know we won't just settle for their last best offer. We will push the case as hard as we have to and as long as we need to to get what we consider to be a fair resolution for our client. Each situation is different, but in Ontario, personal injury claims can range greatly in value depending on the nature of the injury and the circumstances and the impairments.
So cases can be very, Tens of thousands of dollars or cases can be millions of dollars. It's really important to emphasize that everybody's case is different.
Have Questions? Contact us today!
Andrew: You're welcome to call us for a free consultation so we can learn more about your circumstances and help you understand the value of your case and what it's worth at the telephone number in the show notes below and we'll see you on the next episode.