The case value of a spinal cord injury depends primarily on the severity of the injury. Because spinal cord injuries often cause a life-long severe disability, it is not uncommon for an experienced lawyer to recover more than a $1 million in a spinal cord injury case. In most cases, the party being sued is the insurance company of the individual or company which caused the accident and so awards of these amounts have a high chance of being actually paid. However, plaintiffs must be aware that they will not receive the total amount of the damage award; attorney’s fees, court expenses, and medical expenses will be paid from this amount.
Generally, an attorney who specializes in spinal cord injury cases is willing to work on a contingent fee basis—this means that the attorney will only get paid if the suit is successful and the amount awarded is actually paid. A lawyer working on a contingent fee basis will advance the money to pay for medical experts and other expenses out of his or her own funds. The preparation for a spinal cord injury case can be expensive; attorneys working on a contingent fee basis will take only the cases they feel have an excellent chance of being successful.
Expenses Incurred During a SCI Case
Typical expenses incurred during a SCI case include:
- Fees for independent medical experts
- Fees for damage experts
- Fees for court expenses
- Costs of interviewing all the witnesses
An attorney specializing spinal cord injury cases may advance between $10,000 and $100,000 on a case before it comes to trial. When a competent spinal cord injury attorney takes a case on a contingent basis, he or she is confident that your claim has a reasonable chance of success.
Spinal cord injury cases should be advocated by someone who understands the obstacles faced by an individual with an SCI. Spinal cord injuries are also traumatic for the family of the survivor. An attorney with a good track record in handling SCI cases understands these obstacles and knows how to get a jury to understand them.
A personal injury attorney who is not used to dealing with spinal cord injuries may be tempted to settle for a lesser amount out of court, rather than making the investment of time and money that a court trial requires. Although well meaning, these professionals may not realize the full extent of the medical and caregiver expenses which you may be dealing with for the rest of your life. As a plaintiff you must consider that a 33 to 40 percent attorney’s fee will be taken out of the amount you will be awarded; add to this your medical costs, court fees, and the other miscellaneous fees associated with a lawsuit and you can see how important it is to get the largest settlement possible.
Personal injury attorneys, who specialize in dealing with spinal cord injury cases, understand the importance of a large settlement to take of your future needs. They know you will need rehabilitation services, caregivers, and various medical treatments far into the future and they know how to demonstrate these needs so that sympathetic jurors will award the maximum amount possible. These professionals understand the importance of expert witnesses to help your case and they are able to hire them.
Types of Damages:
Loss of Earning Capacity:
Loss of earning capacity is the first loss that is taken into consideration in a spinal cord injury claim. A vocational expert will testify about how much of your expected lifetime earnings you will lose due to your injury. Survivors who retain some upper body control may be able to work, but often this must be at a lower paying position and they may not be able to work fulltime. Many SCI survivors cannot return to work; others will eventually, but their recovery will take a period of years, not months.
A vocational expert will show the jury what you would have expected to have earned over your lifetime if you had not been injured. He or she will then show how much money you will lose due to your injury; depending on the position you held prior to your injury, this amount can be substantial—in the six figure range. If you were not working prior to the injury, but were stay-at-home parent taking care of your children or were a caregiver for a relative, the amount it will now cost to hire someone to do the services you previously did for free, may be taken into account.
Life Care Costs:
People with most spinal cord injuries need various degrees of care throughout their lives; this may range from a part-time housekeeper to a full-time attendant, along with various medical services. A life care planner will assess your possible future needs and testify about them to the jury. A family member may assume responsibility for care of an individual with SCI, but the job is generally too big for one person to handle; the life care planner will assess what the services provided free by a family member would cost the patient in other circumstances and will also assess the costs for paid providers.
Pain and Suffering/Loss of Enjoyment of Life:
Pain and suffering, and your loss of enjoyment of life are other damages that may be taken into consideration. A damage expert on pain and suffering is not allowed to testify in every jurisdiction. Many court districts allow expert testimony on hedonic damage--the loss of enjoyment of life; these experts use economic studies to demonstrate that your quality of life has been reduced by a certain percentage. This statistic may be as high as the loss of earnings capacity.
Final Damages Assessed
If the vocational, life care planner, and hedonic damage experts have made a good case, you may receive a significant amount in damages. For example:
$250,000 medical costs
$740,000 earnings loss capacity
$450,000 lifetime care costs
$740,000 life enjoyment
$740,000 pain and suffering
Total damages: $ 2,920,000
A jury may not award the amount requested, but a lawyers experienced in dealing with spinal cord injury cases, typically win far higher awards in these cases than personal injury attorneys with no experience in this area. A responsible attorney will not take a case on contingency unless there is a good chance of winning the lawsuit.
Many experts complain that the contingency system creates needless lawsuits. Although their argument may have some merit, without a contingency system many people who have experienced a devastating spinal cord injury though the neglect or carelessness of others could not afford to file a case. The contingency system enables every spinal cord injury survivor to fight for just compensation.
BrainandSpinalCord.org works with a team of personal injury attorneys who are dedicated to getting you the compensation you deserve. We are experienced in brain injury cases and will guide you through the legal system. If you or someone you love has experienced a brain injury, we can help. Fill out the free case evaluation form on the right of your screen and one of our experienced attorneys will contact you and advise you on your legal rights. There is no obligation; please contact us today.