When a person begins pursuing a personal injury case, one of their first questions almost always relates to how much money they stand to win in a settlement deal. The answer, of course, is highly dependent on the nature of the case. A person who was bitten by a dog and only had stitches has the potential for a much smaller award than a car accident victim who broke several bones and had to miss work for a week.
Theoretically, since Illinois currently has no damage caps, the amount of settlement an injured person could win in a settlement in Chicago is unlimited. In practice, however, the amount an injured person receives should be commensurate with the losses they suffered.
Compensation Available in Illinois Personal Injury Cases
For personal injury, Illinois is considered a “fault” state and how much an injured person can receive is based on modified comparative negligence model. This effectively means that a person may recover damages if they are 50 percent or less responsible for the injury. Claimants, however, can only seek compensation for the percentage of the accident for which they were not responsible. For example, a person who is determined to be 20 percent negligent may collect damages for up to 80 percent of damages while a person who was completely innocent can seek compensation for 100 percent of damages. When a person is 51 percent or more at fault, they cannot receive any compensation for damages.
Those with personal injury claims in Illinois can seek primarily two categories of compensation: special compensatory damages and general compensatory damages.
Special compensatory damages aim to compensate the injured person for their monetary losses. These items are relatively easy to calculate and can be backed by documentation, including medical records and repair bills. There is no limit to the amount of compensation that could be received and it depends on what each individual has lost. Specific damages include:
- Medical bills – This includes current and future medical expenses related to the injury such as hospitalization, doctor visits, prescriptions, and therapy.
- Loss of income/wages – An injured person may recover damages for the time they lost off of work due to the injury as well as any future lost wages they may incur because of a disability from the injury.
- Damages to property – In personal injury cases, a claimant may also be awarded money to compensate for property that was damaged in the accident.
Usually personal injury cases will also seek some form of general compensatory damages. These damages are more abstract and are meant to compensate the injured person for the relatively abstract emotional losses of injuries. This may be for:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of companionship;
- Emotional distress; and/or
- Loss of enjoyment.
There is no strict rule for how these type of damages are calculated. Attorneys generally will either multiply the total monetary damages by a number (depending on the severity of the injuries) and consider that a reasonable amount while others may simply assign a specific amount of money for each day it takes the injured person to fully recover. Proof of these emotional damages can be drawn from photos, documentation, and journal entries that communicate the injured person’s feelings.
Calculating the Worth of Your Case
To determine the worth of your own personal injury claim, you should find the sum total of all your damages. Gather together any medical records, bills, and any other documentation. As a general rule this should include: past medical bills + future medicals bills + past lost income/wages + future lost income/wages + any pain and suffering.
For injury claims involving severe injuries and permanent disabilities, an attorney is necessary to help calculate these items as they have the ability to determine how much an injury will impact the person monetarily in the future.
Median Settlement Amounts
Statistically certain types of personal injury claims will garner larger average settlements, although these cases do not necessarily have the best success rates. A majority of claims are auto accident related, with roughly 60 percent of cases being successful and settlements averaging $16,000, according to a report in the Legal Finance Journal. Medical malpractice and product liability claims, in contrast, generally are worth much more with settlement averages of $748,000 and $679,000, respectively. However, less than 40 percent of product liability claims and less than 20 percent of medical malpractice claims are successful. For all personal injury claims, the average settlement amount is around $31,000.