What is My Portland Personal Injury Case Worth?

The Value of an Injury Claim is Complex. Learn Why.

You know, people ask us all the time, “What is my personal injury case worth?” And, it’s a frustrating question. Because, there’s no easy answer.

We can figure out how much the damage to your car is worth, that’s pretty easy, we have repair bills. We can figure out how much your wage loss is worth. Easy. Figure out how much money you would have made, that’s straightforward. We can figure out how much your medical bills are.

But then there’s the pain and suffering money, the money you get for inconvenience, for making your life more difficult.

There’s hardly ever a trial. There’s a trial probably less than 5 percent of the time; most of the cases we settle. But [lawyers] are all thinking about trial. We’re thinking about what would happen in a trial, and that’s the only way to get a value for your case. There’s no easy answer.

Even though we cannot tell  your specific personal injury case worth, we can educate you about the different kinds of “damages.” Damages is a vague term that helps us encompass all possible types of compensatory money an injury victim might receive from a claim.

In Oregon, there are two basic kinds of damages you can recover for a personal injury case: (1) “economic damages” and (2) “noneconomic damages.” These used to be called “general damages” and “special damages,” and you will sometimes still hear lawyers use these words. But the proper terms are “economic” and “noneconomic” damages.

“Economic damages” is the compensation you can get for any money you have lost due to the collision. Examples include:

  • Money to repair your car, or the full value of the car if it was totaled
  • Money to pay for medical bills
  • Lost income if you were not able to work because of your injuries
  • Money to pay for household services like cleaning and childcare if you were not able to do these things because of your injuries
  • Money to compensate for future economic losses

“Noneconomic damages” is often called “pain and suffering.” Noneconomic damages cover such things as:

  • Pain
  • Humiliation
  • Mental suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Inconvenience
  • Interference with normal activities
  • Damage to a person’s reputation
  • Aggravation to a previous injury

There are also “punitive damages,” which are meant purely to punish the wrongdoer. However, the State of Oregon takes 60% of any punitive damages. Then your lawyer will typically take 20%, leaving you with only 20%. This is then taxable, so you might end up with only about 10% of punitive damages. In the right case, it can make sense to try to get punitive damages, but most injured people are better off seeking only economic and noneconomic damages, which are usually not taxable in personal injury cases, under Internal Revenue Code 104(a)(2).