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How your attorney decides the exact dollar value of your claim

In an earlier post, we briefly discussed how an attorney starts to determine the value of a personal injury claim. Eventually, your attorney has to decide exactly what figure to ask for in compensation.

This figure has to be justified in some way in relation to your injuries, however, if you expect to collect. Here's how your attorney might start to figure out the exact dollar amount to use for your claim:

1. Your attorney can divide your claim up into two basic categories: your "hard" damages and your "soft" losses.

2. Your hard damages include those things that you can easily put into monetary terms:

-- Lost wages, including overtime you normally would have worked or sick time that you've had to use and now don't have available in case of a future accident or illness

-- Medical bills, including hospital care, doctor's visits, rehabilitative therapy, psychological counseling if the injury was traumatic emotionally, costs of adaptive equipment and the cost of prescriptions

-- Damaged personal property, like your car, if your injury was caused by a car accident

3. Your soft damages include those things that can't be easily calculated in dollars and cents. That can include things like your loss of enjoyment of life and emotional distress, but the most commonly claimed item in this category is simply "pain and suffering."

4. A common method of calculating pain and suffering is known as the "multiplier method." To use the multiplier method, your attorney will add up all of your hard damages and then multiply that number by a figure between 1.5 and 5, depending on how serious your injuries were, how long it took you to heal, how clearly an objective viewer would likely say you suffered and what permanent injuries you have, if any. The multiplier can, in rare cases, go higher, but that's highly unusual.

That figure is then added to the amount of hard damages you suffered to come up with a total dollar amount. For example, if you suffered $5,000 due to emergency room bills, chiropractic care for an injured neck and your damaged car, but you were admittedly fine after about a week, your attorney might use a 1.5 multiplier, or $7,500. The total your attorney would ask for on your claim would be $12,500.

Source: FindLaw, "Pain and Suffering Damages in Louisiana," accessed May 19, 2017

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