How much is your case worth?
The answer to this question has a ring of Zen to it. How much is your case worth? Your case is worth what you can get: that’s how much it’s worth.
So what can you get?
The answer depends on a variety of factors.
A good place to start out is a general understanding of the legal concept of damages. Simply put, there are different types of damages that correspond to a particular claim. For instance, punitive damages (or damages to punish rather than to compensate) are generally available only when a claim that entails intentional or malicious conduct is proved. Therefore, punitive damages are not available in negligence cases since negligence cases do not involve intentional conduct. Punitive damages are, however, available in fraud cases since fraud is a claim that necessitates a showing of intent.
So the value of a case depends on the type of damages available upon the proof of your claims and the actual amount of damages (for instance, the amount of your past and future medical bills). The difficulty of proving certain claims and the chance that the defense may be able to prevail with certain defenses, such as comparative negligence, must be factored into any analysis of how much a case is worth. An assessment of damages, though, is a useful first step toward an understanding “what you can get.”
A useful second step is understanding and accepting that no person alive on the face of this planet can tell you exactly what you might get if your case proceeds to a contested hearing. In the end, you roll the dice. This is the nature of our system, and the uncertainty of the outcome of your case is based upon the fact that there are so many variables that go into any contested hearing. Is the case in arbitration? If so, who is the arbitrator? Is he biased toward the victims of injuries or is he someone who suspects that most victims are frauds out to cheat the system? Is the case before a judge? Who’s the judge? What are his or her leanings when it comes to compensating injury victims? Is the case before a jury? Who’s on the jury? Who are the attorneys? How will the parties, the attorneys and the jury interact?
It’s impossible to know for certain the outcome of any given case. That’s why it’s important to work with counsel who understands the general value of a case and can assess, to the extent possible, the complex set of variables that go into a case.
There will be more about the subject of case value in future columns. Thanks for reading!
Steve is the Managing Shareholder of Steven J. Klearman & Associates, a civil litigation law firm located in Reno, Nevada. He practices primarily in the areas of civil litigation and injury law, and has authored one of the definitive guides to Nevada civil law that is widely used by Nevada judges and attorneys, his book entitled Elements of Nevada Legal Theories.