As personal injury lawyers we frequently consult with people in Toronto and throughout Ontario who have suffered serious injuries. Their injuries may have been caused by a car accident, motorcycle accident, medical malpractice, slip-and-fall, or some other traumatic event. Their injuries may include a brain injury, spinal cord injury, orthopaedic injury, and more.
An accident victim will have many questions and concerns following a traumatic event, including whether they will get better, whether they will be able to return to work or provide for their family, and how they will be able to access and pay for medical treatment and care. A good personal injury lawyer will not only be able to answer these questions in a clear and straightforward manner, but also assist the person on their path to recovery.
One question we are commonly asked by potential clients is: “How much is my personal injury case worth?”
Our answer is almost always the same: “We have no idea, but we hope it is not worth much.”
This answer is usually met with a confused look, either because the person assumed we would know the value of their case (we are personal injury lawyers after all), or because another personal injury lawyer has already told them that their case is worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
Unless a lawyer is capable of predicting the future, they will have no idea how much a serious personal injury case is worth at the outset. If a lawyer tells you how much your case is worth they are likely just telling you what they think you want to hear. This is because there is no magic formula for determining the value of a personal injury claim. Each case is unique, just as every person is unique.
In Ontario, personal injury claims are made up of various “heads of damages”, or areas of compensation. These include:
- Pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life
- Past loss of income
- Future loss of income
- Medical and care costs (such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, personal support workers, home modifications, etc.)
- Housekeeping and home maintenance expenses
- Out-of-pocket expenses
The value of the specific heads of damages will depend on the specific facts of the case. However, in simple terms, the more hurt you are, or the more you have suffered, the more money you will be entitled to. Consider the following scenarios:
- Person A breaks his leg in a car accident and requires surgery. He works from home for three months and ultimately makes a complete or near-complete recovery.
- Person B breaks her leg in a car accident and requires surgery. Unfortunately, she experiences complications due to infection of the bone and she requires multiple additional surgeries over the next two years. She never returns to work due to chronic pain, scarring, arthritis, and depression.
Though Person A and Person B both broke their legs, Person B’s claim will be worth much more than Person A’s claim. She will have experienced far greater pain and suffering, she will have suffered a far greater loss of income, and she likely will have significant ongoing treatment and care needs.
So when we tell a potential client “we hope your claim is not worth much”, it is because we are hoping that they make a good recovery and get better. We are hoping that, in two or three years, they look a lot more like Person A and less like Person B. Regardless of their outcome, however, their claim will need to be properly assessed.
In order to properly assess the value of a personal injury claim a competent personal injury lawyer will do the following:
- Obtain expert medical opinions to determine the nature and extent of the person’s injuries, including their ability to work and the potential for complications such as future surgeries.
- If applicable, obtain an opinion from a future cost of care expert called a “life care planner” to determine the person’s ongoing and future treatment and care needs.
- If applicable, obtain an opinion from an accountant to determine the person’s past and future loss of income and/or the value of their treatment and care costs.
It can take several years for the full extent of a person’s injuries to become apparent and for their damages to be confidently assessed. If you meet with a lawyer shortly after your accident and they tell you how much your case is worth, you should therefore proceed with caution. Or, if you are curious, you might ask them: “How do you assess my future care costs at this time?” If they know the answer to that question then you should also ask for next week’s winning lottery numbers.
At Beyond Law we pride ourselves on providing clear, thoughtful, and honest advice to our clients at all times, whether it is at an initial meeting or at a settlement meeting. Our personal injury lawyers are experienced in handling serious cases including car accidents, statutory accident benefits (SABS) claims, medical malpractice, long-term disability claims (LTD claims), and slip-and-fall claims in Toronto and throughout Ontario. If you or a loved one has suffered serious personal injuries please contact us and we would be pleased to assist you.