How Permanent Injury Settlements Are Calculated: Examples of Compensation

Accident victims with permanent injuries qualify for larger personal injury settlements from the at-fault party. Here’s what you need to know.

Long-term disability and permanent injury claims are complicated. Fair compensation for these cases can’t be calculated the same way as other injury claims.

Medical expenses for severe injuries can be staggering, and using a simple multiplier to account for the victim’s pain and suffering is inadequate.

Calculating a fair injury payout for serious or permanent injuries is complicated, and can only be done accurately by an experienced attorney.

Insurance companies know that catastrophic personal injury cases often involve emotional testimony and graphic evidence of suffering. Depending on the severity of the victim’s impairment and the financial status of the at-fault party, jury awards can run into millions of dollars.

What’s a Permanent Injury Worth?

Most mild to moderate personal injury claims have clearly defined costs associated with them. For example, if you break a leg in a car accident, you’ll incur “hard” costs for medical treatment, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages.

Adding one or two times the total of your hard costs is an easy method to come up with an amount for pain and suffering. Most adjusters are willing to include pain and suffering compensation as part of a personal injury settlement.

However, the monetary value of emotional distress caused by a long-term disability can’t be objectively measured.

Who can say what someone’s life would be like if they hadn’t been disabled? The loss of enjoyment of family and friends, and the ability to engage in their previous activities is permanently diminished. Life itself may be less fulfilling. What’s that worth?

Permanent Injury Compensation Factors

A variety of factors come into play when calculating permanent injury compensation that can significantly affect the total payout to the injured victim and their family.

Past and future medical care and lost wages are considered economic damages. They can be verified and calculated, and are difficult for insurers to dispute. However, when it comes to paying for non-economic damages, you can expect a fight that may only be settled by a personal injury lawsuit.

Compensation amounts for permanent injuries are influenced by:

  • Level of disability: Permanently injured victims may need ongoing medical care and equipment, and help with mobility and the activities of daily living, even if they can do some things for themselves. The cost of lifetime daily care for those who are severely or completely incapacitated can add up to millions of dollars.
  • Loss of future wages: Attorneys usually hire specialized accountants to perform an “actuarial analysis” to determine the potential wages the person would have earned throughout their remaining life. The analysis takes into consideration the victim’s skills and education, how many more years they would have worked, anticipated wage increases, and the rate of inflation projected forward.
  • Visible disfigurement: Permanent visible scarring or disfigurement is a strong factor for increased emotional distress compensation. Facial scars are especially significant when the victim is young, female, or involved in professions that rely on the person’s appearance, like models, entertainers, and other public relations activities.
  • Victim age: Generally, younger injury victims are awarded more compensation precisely because their permanent losses will impact a much longer portion of their lives.
  • Pain and suffering: Victims of permanent injuries caused by the negligence of others are always entitled to significantly higher compensation for physical pain, suffering, and mental anguish than the average injury claimant. Pain and suffering compensation can be extremely high based on the individual circumstances, like a person who endured repeated painful medical procedures, or who can’t get over witnessing the violent death of others in a crash.

When Limited Funds are Available

For some types of injury claims, there are limited funds available to the victim, no matter how severely they were injured.

Auto Insurance Claims: When you’ve been permanently injured in a motor vehicle accident, your compensation is usually capped by the limits of the at-fault driver’s liability coverage, unless you’ve purchased optional underinsured motorist coverage.

You can file a claim with your insurance policy for underinsured coverage when you’ve exhausted the other driver’s policy limits. Your policy will also pay uninsured motorist coverage if the at-fault driver wasn’t insured.

Workers’ Compensation: Each state has its own workers’ comp rules for handling permanent partial disability claims. Workers’ comp insurance will often settle permanent injury claims with a lump sum. This payout normally won’t include an amount for pain and suffering and won’t cover the full amount of your lost wages. However, the workers’ comp settlement amount is generally not treated as taxable income.

Injuries Caused by Corporate Negligence

Injuries caused by medical malpractice, defective products, mass-transit accidents, and other cases where the at-fault party was a corporation or a government entity usually have multi-million-dollar insurance policies and substantial business assets.

Litigation against a big corporation takes time and money. Look for a law firm that specializes in cases like yours, with the financial stability to advance the funds needed to pay for expert witnesses and extensive discovery.

Business and malpractice insurance companies will do everything possible to settle permanent injury and disability claims before they go to trial. Taking chances with jury verdicts that can reach into the millions is not good business.

Case Summary: $78.5 Million Verdict for Childbirth Malpractice

Victoria Upsey was 36 weeks pregnant with her daughter Parry when she arrived at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center suffering from pain and bleeding.

Rather than quickly delivering the baby by cesarean, the doctor examined Victoria with an outdated ultrasound machine. He told her the baby was dead.

Victoria frantically asked for a cesarean section to deliver the baby. The hospital sent for an ultrasound technician who arrived 81 minutes later. The technician determined that baby Parry was still alive. Parry was delivered alive with an emergency C-section but permanently disabled from the lack of oxygen caused by the delay.

The attorney for Victoria and Parry filed a lawsuit against the hospital and doctors, alleging negligence and malpractice.

Jurors awarded $65 million for Parrys’ future medical costs, $10 million for her pain and suffering, and $2 million in lost earnings. The jury also awarded $1.5 million to Victoria for the emotional distress caused by being told that her baby was dead. The verdict totaled $78.5 million.

Common Types of Permanent Injury Claims

Permanent injuries are changes to a victim’s body or mind that have a lasting effect, long after the original traumatic injury has been treated.

Most types of permanent injuries are disabling, meaning the injury victim will not be able to perform the same tasks or reach the same potential as before the injury occurred.

Common types of permanent injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can happen in car accidents, slip and falls, workplace injuries, and from medical errors. Brain injuries may be caused by abrupt force or from lack of oxygen to the brain. TBI can range from concussion symptoms that linger for months to permanent brain damage with a significant loss of cognitive function.
  • Burns may be deep third-degree burns that destroy skin and muscle, cover a large percentage of the victim’s body, or inhalation burns that cause permanent lung damage. Severe burns may leave the person permanently disfigured, or permanently impaired by contractures and heavy scarring.
  • Spinal cord damage may result in permanent paralysis of the injured victim. Depending on where along the spinal cord the damage occurs, the person may lose the use of their lower body, or become completely unable to move their head and body.
  • Back injuries that are less severe than spinal cord damage may be nonetheless disabling. For example, fractured vertebrae or ruptured discs can result in permanent disability and a lifetime of chronic pain.
  • Internal injuries caused by trauma or medical errors can result in the permanent loss of sexual functioning, loss of reproductive opportunity, reduced ability to fight infections, the inability to control bowel or bladder functions, and more.
  • Sensory losses may result from trauma, medical errors, toxic exposure and other causes that lead to permanent blindness, hearing loss, or impaired ability to taste or smell.
  • Amputations are the loss of fingers, hands, feet, arms or legs that may arise from work injuries, car accidents, severe burns, or infections.
  • Disfigurement may be caused by cuts, burns, scarring, or amputations that permanently affect the victim’s appearance. Disfigurement may also impair the victim’s self-worth and ability to interact in business or social settings.
  • Repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome may permanently impair the victim’s use of their hand or wrist.
  • Toxic exposure to dangerous substances like coal dust or asbestos can result in permanently disabling injuries like black lung disease and mesothelioma.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a potentially permanent mental health condition caused by experiencing trauma, such as a car accident, rape, assault, or military combat. PTSD can make normal functioning difficult or impossible.

Attorneys Boost Permanent Injury Compensation

If you or a loved one has suffered a permanent injury or disability caused by another party’s negligence, you need a skilled attorney to protect the financial interests of you and your family.

You never have to speak with an insurance adjuster before consulting an attorney about the true value of your case.

Even when the at-fault party’s insurance company says they are accepting full liability, like in a car accident, the adjuster will try to take advantage of you. Don’t believe the adjuster who says their first settlement offer is all you can get, or that you have to give a recorded statement before your medical bills can be paid.

A good personal injury lawyer will deal with the insurance company, and will also know where to look for other insurance sources and other parties who may be liable for your injuries.

Case Summary: Negligent School Forced to Pay $4.2 Million 

Sawyer Rosenstein was 12 years old when a punch from a school bully permanently injured him. The boy had bullied Sawyer and other kids for months. Despite reports to the school officials, the bully was not removed from the school.

On May 16, 2006, the bully punched Sawyer in the abdomen so hard it buckled his knees. The punch caused a blood clot in an artery to Sawyers’ spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Lawyers for Sawyer’s family sued the school district. In 2012, the school district agreed to pay $4.2 million to settle the case. A separate lawsuit against the bully and his parents was settled for an undisclosed amount.

When you or a family member has been disabled at work or permanently injured because of another party’s negligence, you owe it to yourself to talk to a personal injury attorney from the start.

Most experienced attorneys offer a free consultation to the injured person and their loved ones. Injury attorneys typically represent clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless your case settles or wins in court.

Don’t risk losing out on the permanent injury compensation you deserve. It costs nothing to talk to an attorney about the value of your accident case.

Permanent Injury Compensation Questions

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>