Do Personal Injury Calculators Work?


  • Author Paul Boyer
  • Published January 18, 2022
  • Word count 674

If you’ve been injured in an accident, you’re probably curious about what kind of insurance compensation you could win to help you with your medical bills, lost wages, and the list goes on. You may have even found like I did, websites on the internet with personal injury calculators. Naturally curious, I set out to find out whether these personal injury settlement calculators work.

Here’s what I found out. They do and they don’t.

Not a very satisfying answer, I know, but let me explain. I spoke with two attorneys on this subject, Bob and Andrew Helland (in full disclosure, they’re clients of mine). They explained to me that personal injury calculators aren’t usually fine-tuned enough to account for the nuances involved in personal injury cases. Personal injury calculators are not detailed enough to be accurate, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not useful on some level.

To understand what they were getting at, they first had to explain to me how most personal injury calculators work. The typical personal injury calculator prompts you to enter what lawyers call your “special damages,” which are then automatically added up by the calculator. Special damages are the costs caused by your injury that are easy to track and add up, things like medical bills, lost income, property damage, etc. Then, the personal injury calculator will usually have you provide a multiplier — a number from 1 to 5 — to estimate your “general damages.” In other words, they multiply your special damages by whatever number, 1 through 5, you give as your general-damages multiplier. If I’ve lost you, your general damages represent the harder-to-add-up ways in which your life has been impacted by your injury, your pain and suffering, lost quality of life, etc.

“What number should I enter for my general damages,” you ask? Chances are, that I, with no knowledge of your case, would apply just as accurate a multiplier as you, unless you’re a trained legal professional.

Bob and Andrew inform me that there’s no hard-and-fast rule that tells you what number to assign for your pain and suffering, etc. It’s the job of the attorney to paint a picture of the loss suffered by the client and ask for what he or she deems logically and legally appropriate. So, if you’re feeling really down about your injury and you give yourself a 5 for general damages, chances are that the personal injury calculator will generate a total payout estimate that brings a smile back to your face. But was your 5 warranted? Would a jury or insurance expert see it the same way as you do? Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s true that these calculators are based on a way that lawyers have calculated the value of personal injury claims through the years. Insurance companies even use sophisticated tools that are similar in theory to many personal injury calculators. However, there is a vast difference between the average person crunching the numbers on his or her case versus a trained and educated lawyer. It’s also well known among attorneys that this formula, special damages x general damages, doesn’t completely add up in many cases. What if someone got too much medical treatment for his injury or not enough? Either error would throw off the math of his payout completely.

This is why personal injury calculators shouldn’t be seen as precise instruments but as ballparking devices that can show you a range of possible payout scenarios. Seen in that light, they can do some good. If a personal injury settlement calculator helps you get your mind around an idea of what you might be owed, it might motivate you to seek out a lawyer, which could substantially increase the amount of your settlement and improve your quality of life. However, my attorney friends would caution you not to let legal websites fill you with false assurances of guaranteed payouts. Your best bet is always to talk about the specifics of your case with an attorney.

About the Author

Paul is not a trained attorney. He is a professional writer who works at a marketing agency in Tacoma. His clients include the two lawyers referenced in this article, Bob and Andrew Helland of Tacoma, WA. The Helland Law Group website includes more helpful information on the accuracy of personal injury calculators, including a quick and informative video on personal injury calculators.

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