I often hear insurance adjusters, and sometimes even lawyers and arbitrators, discuss the value of a particular injury as if there exists a menu with a price list somewhere.
For example an insurance adjuster might say:
- Herniated disc in the neck = $50,000
- Herniated disc in the neck with surgery performed = $75,000
No injury could possibly be properly evaluated without considering the following:
- Client’s age
- Pre-injury medical history
- Occupation and how the injury affects ability to work
- Hobbies and whether the injury hinders ability to do them
- What pain was experienced
- What medical care was required to address it and the costs
- What future medical care is necessary
In short, the most important factor in evaluating how to convert an injury to money damages is to answer the question: How has the injury affected this person’s life? A symptomatic herniated disc in the neck of a 65 year old retired man will not be worth the same as to a 40 year old woman with three school age children.
A particular injury affects each individual differently. A good lawyer first attempts to guide the client to get the medical care necessary to effect a cure and then carefully considers the effect of an injury on his/her client’s life, and prepares to prove it in court, to explain the value of his particular, individual client’s harms and losses due to the careless actions of another.
One of the effects of an injury can be loneliness. Injuries and disease might prevent someone from working causing the loss of their social network. In addition many activities enjoyed outside work are lost to people with substantial injury further affecting relationships. Although we all react to pain differently, typically people don’t enjoy being with others when enduring it. Pain leads to social isolation. Social isolation leads to depression.
A recent study published by Heart Online First on April 18, 2016¹ revealed that “Poor Social Relationships” were associated with 29% increase in risk of coronary heart disease and 32% risk of stroke.
The study revealed that the influence of social relationships on mortality is comparable to well known risk factors such as obesity and smoking. Being lonely is shown to increase physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol use. Feeling lonely and socially isolated is associated with defective immune functioning and higher blood pressure.
When helping my clients find the right medical care, and then in attempting to prove their harms and losses in court, it is important to consider all the effects an injury is having on their life, not just what physically hurts, but also what emotionally the client is suffering. Of course age, gender, marital status, socioeconomic position, ethnicity and health issues all effect how an injury or disease affects someone. There are no price lists for injury that exist. The value of what my client has lost due to another’s carelessness can only be understood with time, a kind ear, and keen understanding of human nature.
Tony Baratta is a trial attorney in Huntingdon Valley, PA who represents clients who have been seriously injured including due to medical mistakes. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and on the board for the Philadelphia VIP. Tony is a Nationally Certified Civil Trial Advocate, AV Rated Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbel and a member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). He is also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys and voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers 2008-2015.
¹ Valtoria NK, et al. Heart 2016;0:1-8