Each year, hundreds of workers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are injured in work accidents. Whether it’s a factory in Northeast Philadelphia or a construction site in South Jersey, injured workers often suffer major injuries that necessitate lawsuits.
In most instances, a work injury lawsuit will be settled. After all, judges like to see parties resolve matters without having to go to trial. However, from the perspective of a work injury lawyer in PA and NJ, every single case must be prepared as if trial was inevitable. Insurance companies often low ball settlement offers, and when serious injuries occur, trial is the only way to get the case resolved.
How to Determine Settlement Value of a Work Injury Lawsuit
Injured workers often want to know what the value of their cases are. Various factors affect the relative settlement value of a work accident lawsuit in Pennsylvania or New Jersey:
- nature of the injuries,
- medical bills,
- lost wages,
- miscellaneous out of pocket costs,
- pain and suffering, and
- factual/legal issues (comparative negligence).
Below is a discussion of just some of these factors.
Nature of the Injuries
The first factor that impacts settlement value is the nature and extent of the injuries. Were there broken bones or a spinal injury? Was there a traumatic brain injury? There is no way to determine the value without fully investigating the case and giving the injuries time to heal. For one individual, a fractured leg may heal 100% in 8 months without any residual symptoms. For another, the same type of fracture may result in an infection and a non-union, or failure to heal, 18 months later. Timelines for injuries differ and affect settlement value. If an injury does not heal properly or results in permanent symptoms, settlement value can be affected, significantly.
In a typical work injury lawsuit, the medical bills can exceed tens of thousands of dollars. In the more severe cases, the medical bills can total hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, a forklift tips over and falls onto a worker’s leg, causing a major crush injury. The leg has to be amputated. Between the initial emergency room bill, surgery bill and physical therapy, the medical bills could total over $100,000. That’s just for medical treatment of the leg itself. The worker may have also sustained back injuries or a head injury.
The vast majority of injured workers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will make a workers’ compensation claim. Under the laws of both states, workers’ compensation claimants can obtain financial recovery for work injuries caused by a non-employer party’s negligence (read more about an employer’s liability for a work accident). In other words, injured workers can file both a workers’ compensation claim and a work accident lawsuit.
In most cases, if a lawsuit is successful, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier (or employer) may get reimbursed for payments made through the workers’ compensation claim (medical bills and indemnity/disability payments). These are known as subrogation claims, and are pretty routine in any work injury lawsuit.
Factual & Legal Issues
In some cases, there may be factual or legal issues that affect settlement value. Also, laws and court interpretation of laws can and do change. A complex legal issue that was decided in favor of the injured worker by a trial judge may be appealed, or the defense may threaten appeal. These are all factors that can impact settlement value.
Comparative Negligence May Negatively Affect Settlement Value
If fault is an issue, or if there is evidence that the worker bears some fault for the accident, then the value of the case would be affected negatively. In some work injury cases, the defense may argue that the worker was comparatively negligent, i.e., engaged in some act of negligence that caused the accident.
In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the plaintiff in a work injury lawsuit can bear up to 50% of fault. The plaintiff’s recovery is prorated by his or her percentage of fault, up to 50%. If the plaintiff’s negligence exceeds 50%, the plaintiff cannot recover at all. These comparative negligence laws allow plaintiffs to recover, even if they bear some fault in having caused an accident. They will be taken into account when it comes time to discuss settlement.
Here’s an example to show how comparative negligence works. A worker at a commercial work site in Philadelphia is horsing around and falls through a roof opening that was unguarded, which is a violation of OSHA requirements. Even though the general contractor was negligent in failing to provide guard rails, the worker will bear some fault for horsing around, assuming that the act of horsing around led to the accident. In this instance, both the failure to install guardrails and the horsing around caused the accident. If the injured worker was 30% liable for the accident and the value of his case is $100,000, he would only receive $70,000. Therefore, the injured worker recovered less than the full value of his case because he was partially liable.
Laffey, Bucci & Kent – TOP RATED Injury Lawyers
Our top rated work injury lawyers have received some of the highest lawyer ratings possible from Super Lawyers Magazine. Combined, our attorneys have over 50 years of experience and have obtained over $150 million for injured workers.
If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt in a work accident in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact the experienced, top rated work injury lawyers at Laffey, Bucci & Kent for a free, confidential consultation. 215.399.9255/800.220.7600
DISCLAIMER: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. It is crucial to speak to a qualified lawyer prior to making any decision about your case. Read full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.