It depends on a number of factors. In Indiana, a Jury determines what your case is worth, and that Jury could vary depending on the people that are on sitting on it. Juries are instructed by the Court on what factors they should consider when deciding what a case is worth. In fact, Juries in Indiana are instructed throughout the course of the trial, from beginning to end. The Civil instructions Committee of the Indiana Judges Association is responsible for drafting and publishing the Indiana Model Civil Jury instructions and that committee is made up of Judges from across Indiana who in an effort to promote uniformity among Juries issue these instructions.
The Lawyers at Hurst Limontes LLC have litigated and tried numerous Personal Injury as well as Car Accident Cases and have seen a shift in the number of Judges using the Model Jury Instructions almost exclusively. Indiana Juries can be instructed on the Law in other instructions, but most Courts are applying the Pattern Instructions. These model instructions have a specific instruction on “Damages” which goes directly to the question of value or money. How much money will it take to make that person who suffered that loss whole again? As you can imagine the answer to that varies from person to person but Indiana Model Instruction No. 703 – General Elements of Damages can provide guidance.
Indiana Model Instruction 703 and Case Value.
When it comes to personal injury or car accident cases and case value you should consider the following:
703 General Elements of Damages
If you decide from the greater weight of the evidence that [defendant] is liable to [plaintiff], then you must decide the amount of money that will fairly compensate [plaintiff].
In deciding the amount of money you award, you may consider:
- the nature and extent of the [injury][injuries], and the effect of the [injury][injuries] on the [plaintiff]’s ability to function as a whole person;
- whether the [injury][injuries] [is][are] temporary or permanent
- the value of [lost time][lost earnings][and][loss or impairment of earning capacity];
- the physical pain and mental suffering [plaintiff] has experienced [and will experience in the future] as a result of the [injury][injuries];
- the reasonable value of necessary medical care, treatment, and services plaintiff incurred [and will incur in the future] as a result of the [injury][injuries];
- the aggravation of a pre-existing [injury][disease][or][condition];
- the [disfigurement][and][or][deformity] resulting from the [injury][injuries]; and
- the life expectancy of [plaintiff].
Understandably that seems overwhelming and like a lot so how does that break down in layman’s terms?
Using 703 to Evaluate the Car Accident Claim
Remember that Rule 703 is a general guideline and some but not all of the eight (8) factors might apply. For example, in response to Stanley v. Walker and Patchett v. Lee some Plaintiffs have been forced to try their case without admitting evidence of medical bills which is Element number 5 above (“reasonable value of necessary medical care”) because the Insurance Companies are using health insurance discounts (that you paid for) to limit Jury Verdicts. In another case, you may not have a claim for lost wages because even though you were hurt in your car crash, you can work from home. In those cases, the Jury should not be instructed on those Elements of Damages because they are not present and therefore irrelevant to the Car Accident Trial.
Element Number One generally analyzes the type of injuries as well as how the injury impacts a person’s ability to function. Therefore, the more serious the injury (i.e. Brain Injuries, Broken Bones or Catastrophic Injuries) the more the case is worth. On the other hand, a car accident case involving a temporary neck or back strain with limited treatment might not be worth as much. The first element is important because it is where the Jury will look at the type of injury as well as how it affects a person’s ability live and enjoy their life.
Element two is important because it considers whether an injury is temporary or permanent. Permanent injuries are valued higher because the injured person has to live the rest of their lives with those injuries. They will have pain and/or problems until the day they die which carries significant value. Hurst Limontes LLC has represented hundreds of clients who have suffered permanent injuries in car accidents and other personal injury cases.
Element three addresses the issue of wages and earning capacity that you missed as a result of your injuries. Earning Capacity is a Legal Term if Art that is generally defined as a person’s ability to earn money. In addition, Lost Wages can be past, present and future. We hire experts to present evidence of any future lost wages. These individuals can predict with scientific certainty a person’s future lost wages.
Element Four or “Pain and Suffering” is always a difficult “Non-Economic” Damage to measure because it can vary from Person to Person or Juror to Juror. Some people might believe that permanent back pain is worth a million dollars while others may disagree. It depends on the person, however, one certainty is that “Pain and Suffering” are real damages that must be considered.
Element Five or the “reasonable value of the medical treatment necessary to treat the injuries” can be broken down into two important parts. First, the “reasonable value of the medical bills” which has been defined as many different things in the State of Indiana. Second, the treatment has to be “necessary to treat” the injuries suffered in the car crash. This also includes future treatment that may be necessary in order to treat those injuries and the costs of that future treatment.
Element six allows a person to recover from an aggravation of a pre-existing injury which means you may have had a problem before but this car crash made it much worse (or maybe a little worse). Insurance Companies look for any other possible cause of the injuries so they will routinely argue that the injuries that are claimed in the car accident pre-existed the car accident. In other words, they were already there before! However, never forget that even if a person had prior injuries, car accidents or issues, they are still entitled to recover in this crash if they were hurt.
Element seven is a straightforward element that considers permanent disfigurement or scarring. A person can recover separately for permanent scarring or disfigurement. This of course depends on the injuries, but our Law Firm will routinely work with Plastic Surgeons to determine the costs of any future scar treatment.
Element eight considers a person’s age as part of the damages analysis. The ages are determined by the Federal Government who publishes life expectancy tables. These tables are routinely used in trial and generally the judge will take judicial notice of the life expectancy tables. However, the Plaintiff must still show that the injuries from the car accident are permanent.
Each of these Elements of Damages can play a sperate role in determining damages for your case, some elements may play a bigger role while others may not play a role at all. However, in order to obtain a settlement or verdict for your injuries in your car accident case you will certainly have to present some of these elements.