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Elements to Consider When Evaluating an Automobile Accident Claim

What factors are considered when evaluating an automobile accident case? In other words, what is a case worth? This may not always be the first question I’m asked by a new client, but it’s eventually asked.

The most important factors to consider (not necessarily in order of importance) when assessing the value of a automobile accident personal injury claim are: (1) liability (is whose at fault debatable?), (2) injuries/damages sustained by the plaintiff, (3) amount of property damage, (4) where the case could ultimately be litigated, (5) how the plaintiff would present as a witness, and (6) how the defendant would present as a witness.

Let me expand briefly on each component, referenced-above. Liability simply refers to whether the plaintiff in any way contributed to the accident. This question can best be answered by a qualified attorney. In certain jurisdictions, if the plaintiff contributed to the occurrence/accident, he/she is barred from any recovery (DC, MD).

Component #2 is self-explanatory. If there is minimal treatment for injuries, or if the treatment is for “soft tissue” complaints (no objective proof of an injury), the case may be worth less than if there were a broken bone or permanent scar, etc.

Factor #3 focuses on the amount of damage sustained by both the plaintiff’s vehicle, and the defendant’s vehicle. In theory, the more property damage, the more the claim should be worth. But keep in mind, even if there is lots of property damage, if there is minimal treatment and minimal injury, the case still has minimal value.

Factor #4 has to do with the value a potential jury might ultimately put on the case, if the case ever went to trial. In general, the case may be filed where the accident occurred, or where the defendant resides. Certain jurisdictions are more plaintiff friendly, while others are very unfavorable.

Factors #5 and #6 are very subjective, and the plaintiff’s attorney, without deposing the defendant, may not know how the defendant would present as a witness. The basic rule of thumb is that an older, more responsible witness, is more credible.

For more information on this subject, please call me directly at 202-331-7227.

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