In New Jersey, it would be presented in lump sum form. Our relationship with the court system in any given case has a distinct time frame. It starts and ends, and then once the case is over, that’s it for the lifetime of the plaintiff. When a judge or jury is deciding any damages, it’ll include any damages into the future, but it’s be awarded in a lump sum and paid over time. It’ll be the present value of that life care plan.
You first need experts on the issue of the life care plan to determine if you need a life care plan because of your injuries, and are they catastrophic enough that one can predict reasonably into the future that you will need that kind of care. That’s usually established by experts in occupational therapy and doctors.
Then we use financial experts to put a number on the value of those services and that’ll come in the form of a lump sum. It is one of the exceptions to The Golden Rule in New Jersey – economic damages and financial losses. We can state to a judge or jury what those numbers are because they’re hard numbers established by experts. We can’t include our personal opinion as to the value of pain and suffering.
Q: Does the insurance company have experts who try to keep the life care plan as low as possible?
The insurance companies have the strongest lobby of any organization in the state of New Jersey and arguably the strongest lobby anywhere in the United States. They have developed strategies and tactics designed to pay out as little money as they possibly can. This means that over the years, they’ve been able to put a battery of defense attorneys together with doctors who only testify for the defense, economic experts who only testify for the defense, and life care planners who only testify for the defense.
To be able to successfully and competently battle the kind of institutional army insurance companies have, you should always look for an experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with and is capable in battling the insurance industry.