How Much is My Personal Injury Claim Worth?
...Is usually the first thing people want to know after suffering an injury from an accident. Each claim is different, and there are several factors that can determine compensation.
Factors that can determine the value of a personal injury claim include:
- Amount of medical bills.
- Amount of wage loss.
- Cost of car repairs.
- Any future medical bills.
There is also another group of factors known as “noneconomic damages” that can include:
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Immense pain and suffering.
- A loss of consortium.
- And other damages that do not have a fixed dollar amount.
Remember: Every case is different, and there are various aspects that can set yours apart from others.
What Mistakes Should I Avoid?
WARNING: The law is an extremely complicated system. It is very easy to unknowingly make mistakes when you are representing yourself and sadly, one fatal mistake could possibily ruin your personal injury claim.
Some common, detrimental mistakes people make with their personal injury claims:
1) Waiting Too Long to Go to the Doctor
Waiting too long to go to the doctor can be irreversibly damaging to your case. Insurance companies will use your delay against you, claiming that your injury "must not have been that painful" if you waited so long to seek medical care, or claim that something else happened during the two weeks delay that caused your injuries.
Furthermore, if you do not receive medical care within 14 days after an accident, then you may not be able to use your personal injury protection benefits from your insurance.
2) Not Calling the Police
After an accident on the road, you should call 911 and request a police officer. The accident report that a police officer writes is a crucial starting point for personal injury claims since it usually includes information about...
- The drivers involved.
- The driver's insurance information.
- The types of vehicles involved.
- Who the witnesses were.
- The name of the police officer who reported to the scene.
- All other pertinent information from the scene of the accident.
- A police officer may also issue a traffic citation to the at-fault driver.
3) Giving a Recorded Statement to the Other Driver's Insurance Company
Insurance companies may take advantage of the chaos that ensues after an accident and attempt to have a confused, injured person give a recorded statement. The problem with giving recorded statments to the other driver's insurance company is that you may mistakenly say something that the insurance company could use against you.
Understand that you are not obligated to give a statement. If the other driver's insurance company and calling you and asking for a statement, you should contact a lawyer immediately.
4) Signing Forms, Such as a Release or Authorization
The other driver's insurance company may contact you and request your signature on a release or authorization. You should never sign anything without consulting your lawyer.
What's a Good Settlement in an Injury Case?
Just like the question on how much a case is worth, determining a good settlement varies greatly case-by-case. However, here are some common ways to evaluate the quality of your settlement:
1) If the settlement will pay your bills and your lost wages
Injuries usually prevent people from working, and therefore from paying medical bills. A settlement that accomplishes this is a good way to start evaluating how effective it is.
2) What type of insurance coverage is involved in the claim
A lack of insurance coverage that could mean a larger settlement is simply impossible in some cases, despite the lawyer’s best efforts. When damages are great but the insurance coverage is minimal, just getting the bills paid with a little left over is a good settlement for the circumstances.
3) The general circumstances of the accident and other specific factors of the claim
The definition of a good settlement is obviously subjective and can vary depending on the case. You can read more about how to understand your settlement process by clicking here.
Who Will Pay for My Losses?
In a perfect world, the at-fault person and their insurance company will cover all of your losses, from medical bills to car repairs to property damage. After all, they caused these inconveniences to you, right?
Unfortunately, depending on your situation there may not be enough insurance coverage to even scrape the surface of the bills you’ve been left with. Your personal injury protection benefits only cover up to $10,000, but what if your medical bills are three times that amount? What if your brand-new car was totaled? What if your car was repaired because of the accident, significantly decreasing its value? Who will pay for that loss in value?
There are other resources for you to be compensated, such as premises liability coverage, gap insurance, and uninsured motorist coverage to name a few. However, most people may not even know about these resources, let alone how to navigate the complications and rules of each system.
Do I Need an Attorney to Make Someone Pay?
It is not about making someone pay, but ensuring that you are paid fairly under the law.
Once you send a demand to the insurance company, they will likely offer you a payment. However, this first offer is usually so low that anyone who knows the true value of your case would be offended. The insurance company may also ask you what your bottom-line number is to settle your case. This question is usually a ploy to establish a number that is lower than your initial request.
In short, you may not need an attorney to make someone pay, but you may need one to make sure you are paid what you deserve.
When a case concludes, some people are left with enough money from their accident that they are able to take care of their needs above and beyond their injuries. Others find that even after everyone has paid there is not enough money to cover all expenses. With this in mind, the best way to guarantee you get everything the law allows to cover your expenses is to get an attorney.