What Is a Soft Tissue Injury Case Worth?
The goal of any personal injury case is the ultimate settlement or jury verdict. The majority of injury claims, however, are settled before trial because of the time and expense involved, certainty or uncertainty of outcome, and nature of the injury. In soft tissue injury cases, which make up the majority of injury claims, it may be difficult at any stage to determine what the case is ultimately worth.
The Soft Tissue Injury
Unlike accident claims in which the injuries are obvious and objectively verified, such as broken limbs, lacerations, amputations, internal injuries, or disfigurement, a soft tissue injury is essentially invisible. Soft tissue refers to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that connect and support other bodily structures. In a common rear-end accident case, a victim's neck and back are thrown backward and forward in a whip-like motion, which tears or stretches the soft tissue.
These injuries produce various symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and stiff and painful neck and back movements. It is a strain injury and many whiplash injuries heal within a few weeks or months, although some do result in herniated discs, joint dysfunction, or chronic pain.
Soft tissue injuries, however, cannot be seen on an X-ray or other diagnostic scan, so it can be easy to exaggerate or fabricate symptoms. Insurers are well aware of this and will express their skepticism by making small settlement offers.
How Are Injury Cases Valued?
A common misconception is that an injury case is generally valued by multiplying the special damages incurred by a factor of three. There is no formula used by insurance adjusters, though, and many insurers are using computer programs such as Colossus to make offers. These programs use data such as age, gender, location, race, and verdicts in similar cases, but ignore any unique features of individual cases.
Factors for Evaluation
To determine the value of a soft tissue injury, personal injury lawyers will use some of these factors:
- Property damage
- Prior injury claims by plaintiff
- Wage loss
- Healthcare providers used
- Medical expenses
- Effect on daily living
- Permanent disability
- Plaintiff's credibility
A low-impact auto accident collision with little property damage that generates thousands of dollars in chiropractic bills are often not taken by injury lawyers as these are difficult to justify or prove. Also, chiropractors are not viewed as credible as medical doctors or specialists such as neurologists or orthopedic physicians whose opinions will hold more weight for jurors.
The value of a soft tissue injury claim will ultimately come down to the plaintiff's credibility and demeanor. The value of a soft tissue injury claim will ultimately come down to the plaintiff's credibility and demeanor. Ideally, an articulate soft tissue injury victim who has a solid job, little medical history, no prior claims, and a wage loss, and who was treated with medical doctors and can produce testimony from friends and co-workers regarding how the injury has adversely affected the plaintiff, will usually be a case with the most value. It is up to the attorney, though, to present the case in the best light possible and obtain a settlement in whatever amount satisfies the client.