News & opinion Episode #9: How do I determine the value of a Personal Injury Case?

Episode #9: How do I determine the value of a Personal Injury Case?

For this episode of the Breaking Down The Law Podcast we’re joined by Stewart J. Guss, a personal injury lawyer in Houston who specializes in Personal Injury cases. He’s joined by Breaking Down The Law Podcast host, Ashley Rodriguez.

During today’s episode we’ll be addressing the questions that relate to  determining the value of a personal injury case. Some examples include:

  • How to determine what the value of my personal injury case is?
  • Are there different types of personal injury cases?
  • What if I can never work again?
  • Does my potential earnings matter?
  • How many factors play a role?

Personal Injury cases have so many factors it can be hard to determine the value up front. Listen to this episode to see all the factors that could affect your case?

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Breaking Down The Law Podcast with Stewart J Guss and Ashley Rodriguez!

Contact Us: 281-783-3934 or  [email protected]

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Transcript [This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors]

Intro : 0:08

Breaking down the Law, Breaking Down the Law podcast hosted by attorneys and legal specialists discussing everyday law and how it affects regular people, regular people. Let’s break down the law with our host, Stewart Guss and Ashley Rodriguez. They have the inside scoop on everything legal and newsworthy.

Stewart J Guss : 0:34

Hey, Ashley Stewart. Guss here, Ashley Rodriguez with breaking down the law. How are you doing today?

Ashley Rodriguez : 0:39

I’m doing good. How are you? Alright, good,

Stewart J Guss : 0:42

good. Good. Are we ready to provide good informative and helpful information to our listeners out there?

Ashley Rodriguez : 0:47

Yes. I would like to know what the value of a personal injury case is?

Stewart J Guss : 0:51

wouldn’t we all wouldn’t we all So, yeah, so today’s podcast is going to be about how the value of a person injury case is determined. And this is actually one of the most complicated and sort of mystically unclear things in the world. Because lawyers, two different lawyers, or two different jurors can look at the exact same set of facts, the exact same evidence, medical bills, injuries and come up with wildly different figures. So unfortunately, there is no equation, there’s no rule of thumb, there’s no rule of elbow, there’s just things that we can look at that we know affect value one way or the other. Just wild and out there. Aren’t you wondering what those factors are?

Ashley Rodriguez : 1:44

Yeah. Is it different for different types of personal injury cases?

Stewart J Guss : 1:48

Yeah, no, actually, sometimes, but typically. So for example, you know, if you have a car accident, you know, that’s going to have a certain sort of Have you have similar injuries and if it’s a typical personal auto versus personal auto, you know that range of value may be X or Y. Sometimes you look at the increased responsibility on the part of the defendant. So, for example, in a commercial accident, there’s a couple of reasons that the value of those cases is typically significantly higher. Number one, it may have to do with the diligence required on the part of a truck driver or a trucking company if for example, improper maintenance was was a factor. Also, you look at the physics involved in an 18 Wheeler crash typically speaking, they tend to be a lot higher impact

Ashley Rodriguez : 2:44

a lot bigger vehicle.

Stewart J Guss : 2:45

Yeah, basic physics tell you did not do particularly well in physics. But essentially, momentum is absolutely affected by mass and velocity. That’s, that’s the equation. So those are some things also Sometimes you might be looking at punitive or exemplary damages. For example, in the event of a drunk driving case, you know, the jury may have the option of giving an additional punishment. Or if you have a corporate defendant that acted with gross negligence or, you know, was a particularly bad actor, sometimes you see that you sent as well.

Ashley Rodriguez : 3:21

Different Factors

Stewart J Guss : 3:22

Yeah, fraud. The meat and potatoes of value is actually relatively straightforward. I’m going to talk about factors but they’re all of these things come into a range. So when we look at the valuation of a personal injury case, the number one factor typically, at it is after all, an injury case is we look at the injuries, we look at the type of treatment that the client underwent, the amount of the medical bills, the extent of the treatment,

Ashley Rodriguez : 3:50

how long they’ll be injured for

Stewart J Guss : 3:52

Yep, whether or not there’s there’s any permanent disability. That sort of makes sense as a factor. So for example, if you have one client that was in Iraq and sustained some soft tissue injuries. But then after a few weeks, you know, they do some they do some treatment, they feel better in a few weeks, they go through a final round of diagnostics just to make sure they’re cleared. That type of case is going to have a monetary value less than let’s say, for example, someone breaks an arm or God forbid, requires back surgery or neck surgery,

Ashley Rodriguez : 4:25

or someone that’s forever damaged.

Stewart J Guss : 4:27

Yes, yes.

Ashley Rodriguez : 4:28


Stewart J Guss : 4:29

Yep. So if you have someone with permanent disability or paralysis, those cases are, you know, obviously, absolutely completely heartbreaking. There are some things that you just can’t fix as much as you want to. And yeah, so at that point, it’s our job as an advocate to make sure that we recover the absolute maximum value that we can for that person to compensate them for what they’ve lost in some cases for what they’ve lost forever.

Ashley Rodriguez : 4:54

Yeah, they won’t be able to work again.

Stewart J Guss : 4:57

Well, then that’s actually another so it’s interesting. You bring that up? Because when we look at our damage models actually look at disability, although it’s related to income income is actually a separate separate damage issue. Yep. So for example, you know, if we can establish, you know, sometimes it’s very straightforward. You look at and you’re allowed to recover past loss of earning capacity as well as future. So if you, you know, lost a month’s worth of work and you make, let’s say, $3,000 a month, well, the math is pretty simple on that you’re entitled to $3,000. For past earnings, it gets a little bit more complicated when so for example, I’ve very often in fact, I represent commissioned salespeople.

Ashley Rodriguez : 5:43

Oh, thats different

Stewart J Guss : 5:44

So yeah, or a business owner, a small business owner. So sometimes it gets a little more complicated and we have to either look at past earnings.

Ashley Rodriguez : 5:53

For growth

Stewart J Guss : 5:53

projections for growth are projections for what revenue would have been and it becomes a little bit less clear. I’ve also I also had one case where I represented a highly scouted baseball player. So he was being scouted by a couple of major league baseball teams. He was in a wreck his he was a pitcher, his pitching shoulder sustained a lot of damage ended his career. That case got very tricky and

Ashley Rodriguez : 6:25

the potential of what could of been

Stewart J Guss : 6:26

Exactly. So it’s very that at the end of the day, we were able to get that resolved pretty well for him and he was pretty happy with it. But you know, sometimes I’m only bringing this up as to make the point that sometimes the question of income can be very, very complex.

Ashley Rodriguez : 6:43

What if it’s like a regular person and they’re injured for life? Do you get to consider even what they are making now forever? Or is it a possibility of like raises and what they could have made?

Stewart J Guss : 6:56

Yeah, yes, we absolutely amortize their income into the future. We also if they need, if they’re going to need medical care or support care, we can make a life care plan. So yeah, anything any additional expense that a client will incur as a result of their injuries, or anything that they have lost or will lose in the future, we’re going to we’re going to take our time and and calculate that to make the argument for the largest possible recovery. Now, what’s really heartbreaking sometimes we run into the situation where someone may be hurt pretty bad, but unfortunately, there’s only so much insurance coverage. And those situations can be heartbreaking. But even with that, you know, we still try and do our best to maximize our reductions when we settle the case and do everything we can to maximize the net recovery to the client.

Ashley Rodriguez : 7:50

And that’s why it’s so difficult because everything is so personal and so many different factors.

Stewart J Guss : 7:55

It varies from Yeah, every every personal injury cases unique They’re oftentimes factors that they have in common rear, I was rear ended at a stoplight, or someone ran a stop sign and hit me broadside that we see a lot of but each one of those events that occur have a completely unique set of circumstances, different people involved.

Ashley Rodriguez : 8:19

different speeds even

Stewart J Guss : 8:20

different speeds, different different injury levels. Yep. So so the one other, there’s one other factor I want to talk about, and that’s in terms of establishing value, that’s pain and suffering. And a lot of people you know, fortunately, there’s some jokes and some laughter about that. And the insurance companies have done a good job of, of making that seem like a joke recovery. Like that’s how people quote unquote, take advantage. Well, the fact is, if you’ve ever been in a car accident, and you’ve sustained injuries, you know that pain and suffering is absolutely no laughing matter. So that’s one of the factors that we that’s one of the factors that goes in to determine the value. And so I think we’ve hit so medical, medical bills past and future, disfigurement, disability, pain and suffering, I off the top of my head, I can’t I don’t have notes. So I can’t tell if I’m missing anything. But that’s the meat and potatoes of what we see most of the time. I’m sure that one of my lawyer friends listening to this will say, hey, you forgot about x, and email me and then I’ll have to come back and we can do another podcast about it. So we’ve had a good discussion today about how we calculate the value of the case or you know, the factors that can affect the value of the case. A lot of this comes into play, of course, because personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. That is to say we get a percentage of whatever it is that we’re able to recover on behalf of our clients. Quite frankly, if we don’t win, we don’t get paid. Yeah. Now, that is one of the unique benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer is that you don’t need to have any money in your pocket when you walk into the office, you get excellent representation, and it doesn’t cost you any money up front. This is not true for all lawyers. So there are some lawyers that actually charge by different methods. And some of them even charge a flat fee. And today’s lawyer joke has to do with one of those lawyers. All right, one flat fee, flat fee lawyer. So a client comes in to see a famous lawyer who charges a flat fee. The client asks, Can you tell me how much you charge? The lawyer answers? Of course, I charge $500 to answer three questions. The client says Well, that’s a bit steep, isn’t it? The lawyer says yes. What’s your third question?

Ashley Rodriguez : 11:01


Stewart J Guss : 11:08

But the good news is we do not charge by the question so if you have any questions or want any more information about anything in today’s podcast, or anything that we discussed on any of our podcasts, please feel free to reach out. We are here to help inform the public. We will continue breaking down the law. Feel free to contact us if you have been injured at 281-783-3934


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