If you've got a personal injury case involving a wrist injury, you're probably wondering how that specific injury might impact the value of any settlement or court award you might receive. Any exact dollar amount will obviously depend on the unique facts of your case, but there are a few common factors to consider. In this article, we'll discuss the key considerations when attempting to value a wrist injury claim, and we'll also look at some examples of past verdicts and settlements where a wrist injury came into play.
Types of Wrist Injuries
There are a number of different kinds of wrist injuries with varying degrees of severity. Below is a list of the most common wrist injuries that might form the basis of a personal injury claim:
- stretched or torn ligaments (i.e. sprains), typically classified from Grade I (stretched) through Grade III (completely torn ligament)
- bone fracture, in particular the radius or ulna.
- repetitive movement injuries, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and wrist tendinitis.
Valuing the Wrist Injury Case
“Valuing” a case means coming up with a best guess at what a jury might award the person who is suing for a wrist injury (the plaintiff), while also considering what the person being sued (the defendant) would be willing to ultimately pay. There's also the question of the amount each side might be willing to agree upon in order to settle the case before it gets to trial.
That's obviously a lot to try to keep track of. But the two big factors in valuing any case are the extent of the plaintiff’s damages -- how bad the wrist injury is -- and how likely the jury is to find the defendant liable if the case goes to trial.
Estimating the Plaintiff’s Damages
Estimating how much the plaintiff might receive is difficult for one key reason: at trial, it will most likely be a jury that ultimately decides just how much money the defendant will be ordered to pay the injured plaintiff.
Some damages, like medical bills and lost wages, are easier to predict because they are typically based on the amount the plaintiff demonstrates he or she has paid or lost and/or will continue to pay or lose.
For subjective, less concrete damages like compensation for the plaintiff's pain and suffering, it will come down to the plaintiff's own experiences in dealing with the injuries and their impact, and even the best analysis will still only predict pain and suffering damages within a broad range.
For example, if the plaintiff was a very active person who enjoyed participating in a variety of sports and outdoor activities, but suffers a partially-disabling wrist injury, his damages based on “loss of quality of life” will likely be higher in the eyes of a jury than if he had been relatively physically inactive before the injury.
If the plaintiff had a prior wrist injury that made him more susceptible to re-injury, his damages might go down. Additionally, if the wrist injury temporarily or permanently prevents a plaintiff from making a living, the defendant could be liable for the full extent of lost wages or diminished earning capacity.
Likelihood That the Defendant Will Be Found Liable
The other major factor in valuing a case is the likelihood that the defendant will be found liable at trial. If the plaintiff has little or no evidence proving the defendant was at fault for the plaintiff’s wrist injury, the value of the case goes down considerably.
Even if the potential damages are high, a defendant will be less willing to settle and more inclined to take her chances at trial. Similarly, where fault is up in the air, the plaintiff will be more inclined to accept a low settlement because he runs the risk of getting nothing at trial.
Workers' Compensation May Come Into Play
A workplace wrist injury (carpal tunnel injuries are one example) will typically only be paid out by the worker’s compensation carrier. Benefits vary from state to state, but if a plaintiff is not completely disabled by the injury and does not have high medical bills -- no surgery was required, for example -- payments may not be very high. Learn more about workers' compensation cases.
Examples of Wrist Injury Verdicts and Settlements
Here is a quick look at some real-world settlements and verdicts involving wrist injuries:
- $155,000 settlement for plaintiff who suffered wrist fracture and required reconstructive surgery after defendant ran a stop sign.
- $250,000 uninsured motorist claim arbitration award for plaintiff who suffered severe wrist fracture requiring surgical repair.
- $450,000 verdict for plaintiff who suffered an intra-artiular fracture of his distal radius after his hand was struck by a gate. He developed arthritis and potentially required wrist fusion surgery.
- $500,000 verdict for plaintiff police officer that slipped and fell on municipal property. Injury required surgery and plaintiff was likely to continue to experience injury symptoms.