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Using Online Legal Calculators. Can You Really Predict Damages?

| Apr 21, 2016 | Infographic, Personal Injury

Online settlement and compensation calculators may provide useful information to those who have been injured, but they are no substitute for the advice of a personal injury attorney. The web is full of legal and self-help information. Some of this data is helpful, however, not all of it is applicable to each individual case. Many websites are now posting online legal calculators that allow users to fill in forms to help determine estimated workers’ compensation benefits, settlement amount and even pain and suffering compensation.

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Comparing Online Legal Calculators

Legal calculators, often known as personal injury calculators, settlement calculators or damage calculators vary in their purpose and sophistication. Some provide estimated figures within a few moments and others require a great deal of personal and financial information to come up with a sum. While it might be useful to have access to the sort of information that these calculators provide, it’s important to consider the following:

  • What is the source of this tool? Is it provided by a personal injury attorney, insurance company, self-help site or referral service?
  • Is it applicable to the state where the injury occurred? Personal injury laws vary from state to state.
  • Is it applicable to the type of case or injury in question?
  • Is useful information provided in the disclaimer?

Speaking With a Personal Injury Attorney

Severe personal injuries are often devastating events with a lasting impact on victims. Most personal injury claims are the result of incidents such as slip and falls, car accidents and workplace injuries. Along with medical expenses, injured parties deal with loss of work and wages, ongoing pain and even significant changes to how they live their lives. Determining the amount of money that would fairly compensate someone for an injury is not a simple task.

As helpful as an online calculator can be, there are also other factors that are evaluated when determining compensation in a personal injury case. A personal injury attorney will review any evidence provided regarding the injury and the circumstances surrounding it. Some individuals with minor injuries choose to negotiate their own claim, but those with more serious injuries, or with questions about the settlement process often find it more beneficial to consult with an attorney during this process.

How Compensation is Calculated In a Personal Injury Case

Personal injury attorneys work with individuals to prepare their personal injury claims. Gathering and reviewing documentation including witness statements, photos, security camera videos and medical records is a vital first step.

Economic damages are measurable amounts of money that were lost and will continue to accrue as a direct result of another’s negligence. These losses would include the cost of medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses and lost wages. These costs are fairly straightforward. Bills and receipts are collected to come up with a total amount.

Some damages are non-economic and represent the tangible losses an individual has sustained, or will continue to sustain in the future. Losses sustained as the result of things like pain and suffering or emotional trauma are generally more difficult to calculate. No two individuals suffer in the same way. These non-economic losses could include:

  • Emotional distress
  • Ongoing physical pain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Disfigurement
  • Sleep loss
  • Loss of society

No two individuals experience the same effects of pain and suffering, so assessing a value is a complex process. Many insurance companies utilize computer programs or point systems to assign value to a claim. Whether a victim is represented by a personal injury attorney is often incorporated into this point system.

What the injured party deems appropriate compensation is generally dramatically different than what an insurance company suggests. This is one reason why collecting documentation and thorough preparation is so important. When it comes down to it, insurance company claims adjusters are encouraged to settle, so they will work hard to keep claims from turning into trials. Online calculators certainly cannot account for the actions of a jury. Once a case makes it to the trial stage, awards can be lower or higher than those on the table during talks with insurance companies.

Of course, most personal injury attorneys utilize formulas to establish a starting point for negotiations, however, since certain losses are not easy to quantify, they must fill in the gaps. Along with these basic calculations, settlement figures are based on numerous factors, including in car accident cases, any contribution that a driver might have had in causing the accident.

Online legal calculators can provide valuable information to those who have been injured and are considering seeking compensation. They are, however, not a replacement for a personal injury attorney. Computerized tools can only go so far when it comes to estimating the value and liability of a case.