It’s A Common Question
We consult with people injured in auto collisions all the time. There are common questions. What are my rights? What should I sign, or not sign? Who are all these people calling me? These are questions we can answer, but one question we get that is not so easy is:
What is my case worth?
Oregon Injury Case Value Opinions Require Research
I can provide no opinion on the value of an Oregon auto injury claim unless I have all the information I can obtain to evaluate the claim. The first question is whether the other driver is legally responsible for causing your injuries. Many cases are straightforward. For example, a rear end collision is often the fault of the striking vehicle. However, unless you can establish that the other driver’s careless behavior caused the collision and some injury, you do not even get to a claim for damages.
The Losses You Can Recover in An Oregon Auto Injury Claim
To know the value of a claim, you need to know what you can claim.
There are two categories of “damages” or compensation you can claim if injured in an Oregon auto collision. The first is known as “economic” loss or damage. These are objectively verifiable like medical expenses or lost income. You may claim already incurred medical expenses and lost income. In serious injury claims, there may be a claim for future lost earnings or lost earning capacity and need for future medical treatment.
Although every case is different, some common themes govern our evaluation of claim value and help us advise our client how to move forward with their Oregon auto injury claim.
How Insurance Adjusters Think
Insurance carriers rely heavily on pieces of information they can use to compare one case to another. Many insurers use database programs that allow input of things like diagnostic codes, billing codes, and the damage to your car. Some of these items are known as “drivers.” Insurance adjusters evaluating an Oregon auto injury claim do not want to hear how the injury has affected you on a real-life level. This is because everyone is different, and that is not something that can be fed into a computer database.
Still, some hard facts impact the value of an Oregon auto injury claim. Here are a few examples.
How the collision occurred is key to determining not only who was legally responsible, but whether the collision could have caused injury.
Generally, the more severe the impact, the more severe the injury. However, a serious injury can occur in a “low-speed” collision, and sometimes our client is fortunate enough to escape serious injury in a high-speed collision. There is not always a strong relationship between the damage to your car or the speed of impact and the resulting injury. But insurance adjusters and defense attorneys have a lot less room to argue that someone was not injured in high-speed collision with significant damage to your car. Fair or not the collision’s severity is a factor.
Medical Evidence: The Insurance Adjuster’s Focus
Medical evidence is probably the most important factor for insurance adjusters and defense attorneys in evaluating Oregon auto injury case value. This is because medical records often contain information that adjusters can compare one case to another (see above). There are other clues in the medical records that help someone injured in an Oregon auto collision prove their claim.
Medical Evidence: Timing of Treatment
One factor is the timing of treatment. A basic assumption is that someone injured in an auto collision will seek medical care when injured. We see clients who try to “tough it out,” maybe because they are determined not to be injured or are concerned about other family members injured in a collision. Sometimes, the adrenaline is literally flowing after an auto collision, and symptoms steadily creep to the surface after thing settle down. So, there is often a reasonable explanation for avoiding treatment immediately after collision.
But if somebody waits weeks or months before seeking medical care after an auto collision, insurance adjusters and defense attorneys will be suspicious, and find a physician who is more than happy, for significant fee, to provide an opinion there is no connection between the claimed injuries and the auto collision.
Medical Evidence: Chart Notes and Tests
Medical chart notes are another source of information that helps us evaluate claim value. Most chart notes include the following outline:
- Subjective Reports
- Objective Findings
- Diagnosis and Assessment
Subjective reports are the patient’s report of symptoms to the physician. This is also called the “patient history.” This is as important as any part of a medical examination because it shows the physician the potential issues or injuries that may have occurred in the auto collision.
For example, if somebody reports of neck pain to a physician after an auto collision, the doctor may want to know if the pain is radiating into the arms or is only in the neck and upper back. Radiating pain into the arms may indicate a more serious injury like a nerve impingement or herniated disc. Other information like the onset of symptoms, aggravating factors, and the intensity of symptoms also helps a physician form a diagnosis.
Objective findings are those things that a physician can observe without a patient’s input. A fractured bone on an x-ray is an objective finding. The patient doesn’t need to be in the room when a radiologist views and x-ray to diagnose a fracture. Physicians can also perform clinical tests in the office that if positive, are objective findings. This is common with orthopedists performing an examination for damage to the knee joint like a torn meniscus or anterior cruciate ligament tear.
After obtaining a history, and performing an examination, the physician may further investigate with other testing like an MRI or x-ray. Once your doctor has all this information, the physician makes a diagnosis, and puts together a treatment plan.
We will review all this information in evaluating a case, including your response to the recommended treatment, and the treatment’s effectiveness.
Medical Evidence: Prognosis
The “prognosis” is the “forecast of the course of the injury or ailment.” What will the future be like for you?
Often, auto collision injuries cause only a temporary loss of health. The prognosis is good, and there is no ongoing impairment from the injury. However, all too often, injuries suffered in an auto collision because permanent impairment.
If a physician determines that an injury will cause a permanent change in our client’s health, our client may recover compensation not just for losing their health until the claim demand or jury trial, but for the rest of their life. Therefore, the compensation for our client’s loss of health covers a much greater chunk of time.
Injuries with permanent impairment may also require ongoing medical care, and we often work with life care planners to make sure that we have an accurate accounting of the cost of future medical care.
If an injury causes permanent disability, we often work with economists and vocational experts to determine the true loss of future income because of a life changing injury.
Real Life Evidence
This is the most overlooked but most important part of any serious injury claim because the real-life impact of an injury is what it means to our client. Insurance adjusters do not have a place to enter this data into their claims evaluation software, but jurors will want to know the day-to-day impact a serious life changing injury causes. Often, the most powerful witnesses in an injury lawsuit are our client’s friends, co-workers and relatives because they know the real-life impact and injury can cause.
If you have an Oregon injury claim, and have questions, contact us. We help injured Oregonians every day.