If you've got a personal injury case involving an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, you're probably wondering how that specific injury might impact the value of any settlement or court award you might receive. Any exact dollar amount will obviously depend on the unique facts of your case, but there are a few common factors to consider. In this article, we'll look at some examples of past verdicts and settlements where an ACL injury came into play, and we'll discuss the key considerations when attempting to value an ACL injury claim.
"Valuing" a case means coming up with a best guess at what a jury might award the person who is suing for an ACL injury (the plaintiff), while also considering what the person being sued (the defendant) would be willing to ultimately pay. There's also the question of the amount each side might be willing to agree upon in order to settle the case before trial.
That's obviously a lot to consider. But the two big factors in valuing any case are the extent of the plaintiff’s damages -- how bad the injury is -- and how likely the jury is to find the defendant liable if the case goes to trial.
Estimating with any degree of accuracy how much the plaintiff might receive is quite difficult for one main reason: at trial, it will most likely be a jury that ultimately decides just how much money the defendant must pay the injured plaintiff.
Some damages, like medical bills and lost wages, are easier to predict because "concrete" damages like these will mostly be based on the amount the plaintiff demonstrates he or she has paid or lost and/or will continue to pay or lose. For subjective, less concrete damages like "pain and suffering," predictions are at best an educated guess based on awards in similar ACL injury cases in the past. Because every case and every jury is different, even the best analysis will still only predict pain and suffering damages within a broad range.
How the ACL injury affects a particular plaintiff is also key in valuing damages. For example, if the plaintiff was a very active person who enjoyed participating in a variety of sports and outdoor activities, but suffers a partially-disabling ACL injury, his damages based on "loss of quality of life" will likely be higher in the eyes of a jury than if he had been relatively physically inactive before the injury.
If the plaintiff had a prior ACL injury that made him more susceptible to re-injury, his damages might go down. Additionally, if the ACL temporarily or permanently prevents a plaintiff from making a living, the defendant could be liable for the full extent of lost wages or diminished earning capacity.
The other major factor in valuing a case is the likelihood that the defendant will be found liable at trial. If the plaintiff has little or no evidence proving the defendant was at fault for the plaintiff’s ACL injury, the value of the case goes down considerably.
Even if the potential damages are high, a defendant will be less willing to settle and more inclined to take her chances at trial. Similarly, where fault is up in the air, the plaintiff will be more inclined to accept a low settlement because he runs the risk of getting nothing at trial.
A workplace ACL injury will typically only be paid out by the worker’s compensation carrier. The standards of compensation vary from state to state, but if a plaintiff is not completely disabled by the injury and does not have high medical bills -- no surgery was required, for example -- the worker’s compensation payment may not be very high. See our section on Workers' Compensation to learn more.