A personal injury claim means asking someone to pay you compensation. But what amount of compensation? How much should you ask for in a personal injury settlement?
Our personal injury lawyers in Honolulu explain how settlements are calculated in Hawaii and what to ask for in a settlement for your case.
How Much Should You Ask for in a Personal Injury Settlement?
In a personal injury settlement, you should ask for the total of your economic and non-economic damages, subject to any damages caps imposed by law. The amount you ask for should also reflect other factors, including the likelihood of success if you were to take your case to trial.
Calculating a Personal Injury Settlement
Hawaii Revised Statutes § 663-1 states that residents and those present in Hawaii shall be personally responsible in damages for injury to others. That just means if someone hurts you, they should pay for it.
At the heart of any personal injury settlement is the harm to the victim. That is, in what ways have you lost or suffered because of your personal injury? These are the damages that you need to calculate first to determine what to ask for in a settlement.
Part of the calculation is a relatively straightforward math problem. These are you economic damages. Your economic damages are financial losses because of your injury. Medical bills, lost income, property damages, replacement household services, and other direct, financial losses are added up.
Future damages may be included, and you rely on evidence and experts to project the costs you expect to have in the future.
A personal injury settlement would be incomplete if it didn’t also account for your non-economic damages. Your non-economic damages are intangible losses, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
See H.R.S. § 663-8.5. Pain and suffering is the actual pain and suffering that is the proximate result of physical injury. There are two ways to calculate non-economic damages, the multiplier method and the per diem method.
The multiplier method starts with the total of economic damages and then applies a multiplier based on the severity of the injury. A mild injury may have a multiplier of 1.5 while a severe, life-changing injury may have a multiplier of 4 or 5. Economic damages are applied to the multiplier to arrive at damages.
For example, a victim sustains economic damages of $100,000. Injuries are moderate, so it’s appropriate to use a multiplier of 2.
$100,000 economic damages X 2 multiplier = $200,000 total compensation
For this victim, it’s appropriate to ask for $200,000 in settlement, subject to other factors that may impact the value of the case.
Per Diem Method
The per diem method uses a set amount of compensation for each day a person suffers from their injuries. For example, a victim has a recovery period of one year, or 365 days. They have economic damages of $100,000. Their damages are moderate, so it’s appropriate to use $200 per day.
$200 per day X 365 recovery days = $73,000 non-economic damages
$73,000 non-economic damages + $100,000 economic damages = $173,000
It’s not always better to use one method or the other. The two methods often produce similar results. The appropriate method to use may depend on several factors that are specific to your case.
Hawaii economic damages cap
Note: Hawaii law places a $375,000 cap on non-economic damages in many types of personal injury claims, excluding those listed in H.R.S. § 663-10.9(2).
Amount to Plead vs. Amount to Claim
How much you should ask for in a personal injury settlement refers to how much you should ask for in a settlement. That’s different than the amount that you should ask for in your initial pleadings. The two amounts may or may not be the same.
The settlement is the amount that you agree upon to receive in compensation to fully resolve the case. Effectively, it’s like having a final judgment after a trial.
There are things in addition to your damages that may impact the amount that you should ask for in a settlement. There may be issues that, if you were to take the case to trial, it would be uncertain how the jury would handle them.
For example, the defense may dispute whether they acted negligently. Alternatively, they may challenge the amount of your damages as speculative. You can’t know for sure what a jury would do unless you go to trial. In addition, maybe the defense has limited insurance and resources to pay a claim.
Any of these factors — and others — may impact how much you should ask for in a settlement. Even your personal risk tolerance and your desire to go to trial should influence how much you ask for in a settlement.
How a Lawyer Can Help
A lawyer can help you with what to ask for in a personal injury settlement in two ways. First, they can help you determine the value of your case. The case value is the total of your damages weighed against the many other factors that can influence the amount you should ultimately seek for a settlement.
Second, they can help you skillfully negotiate your settlement. They can determine what to present for an opening offer, how to counter any offers and engage in effective negotiations.
The goal is for you to have the appropriate settlement based on your damages, the strength of your case and your rights under the law. In addition, your lawyer works to manage the legal process for you while you recover from your injuries.
Talk to an Injury Lawyer in Honolulu
At Recovery Law Center, our dedicated team treats you like we would treat our own family. Let us personally review your case, answer your questions and explain what to ask for in a personal injury settlement. We can help you at any stage of your case.
Contact us to talk to a lawyer today.