One of the first steps in negotiating a settlement of a personal injury claim is calculating how much money you would accept to give up your right to take any further legal action against the at-fault party. Most insurance companies and injury attorneys rely on one formula or another to arrive at a financial starting point for settlement talks. This is true for a bodily injury claim in a car accident case, a slip and fall injury claim, or any other personal injury case.
One common formula involves combining a multiplier (explained in detail below) and your total medical expenses to come up with an estimate of non-economic damages (which includes compensation for your pain and suffering). This figure is then added to your economic losses (medical bills, property damage, and lost income) to get to a dollar amount from which you can negotiate. The calculator below can help you arrive at this kind of number.
This is not legal advice and we're not your lawyer. The calculation here is for instructional purposes only. Consult an attorney for financial and legal analysis of your case.
|1. Medical Expenses ($)
Enter the total of your medical bills, even if you didn't pay out of pocket. If you didn't seek medical treatment but still suffer pain, see the daily rate method (opens in a new window).
Numbers only. No commas, dollar signs, etc.
|2. Property Damage ($)
(This field is commonly used for vehicle damage in a car accident case. You'll leave this at zero for most other types of injury claims.)
|3. Lost Earnings ($)
(If you missed work because of your injuries, enter the sum of your lost income here. If you used available time-off benefits—like PTO—enter dollar value lost as if it were unpaid.)
|4. Future Lost Income
(If you'll be missing more work due to ongoing treatment, or an inability to continue working at your current job while you recover, enter an estimate of those future lost earnings here.)
|5. Estimated Future Medical Expenses
(If you will require ongoing medical treatment for your injuries, enter an estimate of the cost of that treatment.)
|6. Multiplier for General Damages
The multiplier is used to estimate your general damages—your "pain and suffering". The more serious, long-lasting, and painful the injuries, the higher the multiplier. See below for tips on choosing a reasonable multiplier.
(Between 1.5 and 5)
This is the sum of your "special" damages, or economic losses.
|Non-Economic Damages (Pain and Suffering)
This is a payment for your general damages (pain and suffering), based on the multiplier you've chosen. We also include a $1,000 "nuisance settlement" value.
Your Total Settlement Estimate
After you enter your numbers and click "Calculate," the two dollar figures you see above the "Your Total Settlement Estimate" field represent the two main types of damages in most personal injury cases: economic losses (called “special” damages) and non-economic losses (called “general” damages). In any injury-related insurance claim, or even a personal injury lawsuit filed in civil court, losses suffered by the injured person can usually be placed into one of these two categories.
Special damages are those losses that are easy to quantify. They include the costs of medical treatment, any lost income due to time missed at work, property damage caused by the accident, and other out-of-pocket losses.
General damages, on the other hand, aren’t so easy to quantify. They include a sub-category of damages known as pain and suffering, which means the physical discomfort, mental anxiety, stress, and similar negative effects of the injuries—as well as the impact that the injuries have on the claimant’s day-to-day life.
Learn more about personal injury damages.
So, how do you put a dollar value on these kinds of losses? That’s where the multiplier comes in. To get a dollar figure that might represent the value of the general damages, an insurance adjuster will add up all the "special" damages (quantifiable losses) and multiply that total by a number between 1.5 and 5 (that’s the multiplier).
The multiplier will be lower or higher depending on a number of specific facts related to your case: How bad are your injuries? How much medical treatment have you received? How much treatment will you need in the future? Are you expected to make a full recovery? Will there be permanent or long-lasting effects? How have the accident and your injuries impacted your daily life? The list goes on.
Of course, the proper multiplier to use will likely itself be a point of contention. You’ll argue for the use of a higher multiplier (4 or 5, for example) while the adjuster is likely to push for a lower multiplier (perhaps 2 or 3).
Get more information on the right multiplier to use in valuing your personal injury case and tips on settling a personal injury claim.
You may need to reduce your target settlement amount if your own negligence or carelessness contributed to the underlying accident. Depending on the state in which the accident occurred, the law could require that a jury award be reduced in an amount equal to your percentage of fault—and in a few cases, the award could drop to zero. The three basic types of "contributory" and "comparative" negligence rules are as follows:
Pure Comparative Negligence States
In the following states, the dollar amount of your award would be reduced by your percentage of fault:
Modified Comparative Negligence States
In the following states, the dollar amount of your award would be reduced by your percentage of fault. If your own fault is determined to be equal to or greater than 50% (different states have different thresholds), you cannot collect any damages in court, so the settlement value of your case is much less than your damages).
Contributory Negligence States
The following states follow a very harsh rule when it comes to shared fault. You cannot collect any damages in court if you are found to share any amount of fault for the underlying accident, so your estimated settlement value could drop dramatically (maybe even to zero) if you bear any level of blame.
Learn more about shared blame and comparative/contributory fault in personal injury cases.