It is not uncommon for a new client, during the course of an initial meeting to ask, “how much is my claim worth” or “what are we going for” in terms of compensation.
The question is not unreasonable particularly if the client has incurred quite significant losses already, however, it is very difficult to assess what a person might be entitled to receive by way of compensation at the very early stages of the claim and without having gathered all of the relevant evidence that might be important in allowing us to calculate how much the claim is actually worth.
Assuming the client will succeed with their claim, there are two issues to consider before being able to accurately calculate the amount of compensation the client might be entitled to receive:
- What is the client actually entitled to claim?
- What does the evidence say?
Solicitors can tend to complicate matters, however, in very simple terms, when it comes to calculating a client’s entitlement to compensation, we look at what a person might be entitled to claim. The method of doing so is by what is referred to as “heads of damage”. These are basically sub-sections by which a lawyer or Court will use to calculate a claim. The heads of damage include:
(a) Pain and suffering;
(b) Past economic loss – the income the client may lose from the date of the accident until the date the claim resolves. The client is also entitled to claim interest and superannuation;
(c) Medical expenses – the client is entitled to claim for any medical expenses incurred by them that reflect medication or treatment directly related to the injuries sustained in the accident. The claim can also include future anticipated medical costs;
(d) Future economic loss – this is the income the client may lose going forward into the future as a consequence of the injuries suffered by the client in the accident and often forms the largest part of the claim but also the most difficult to assess;
(e) Gratuitous and paid assistance – a client may be entitled to claim for any assistance provided by a friend or family member since the accident and going forward into the future.
The extent to which the client can claim compensation for each of the relevant heads of damage will be subject to the evidence that is gathered during the course of the claim. That evidence may come in various forms, however, the most crucial items of evidence include:
(a) The medical evidence associated with the injuries suffered by the client in the accident and what that evidence says about how the client will be effected by the injuries.
(b) The client’s age – this is particularly important when attempting to calculate the client’s entitlement to both past and future lost income.
(c) The client’s employment and income history – once again, this evidence is particularly important when calculating past and future lost income.
(d) Whether the client has suffered any other non-accident related injuries or illnesses.
Whilst a solicitor might be able to provide a client, during an initial meeting, with some ballpark range of what the client might be entitled to receive by way of compensation, the solicitor can only provide a fully informed opinion once they have to hand all relevant evidence and documentation associated with the injuries suffered by the client.