How Much is My Personal Injury Claim Worth?
If you’ve been injured due to negligence, and you’ve established the at-fault party’s liability, you probably have a strong claim. But having a strong claim doesn’t guarantee you’ll walk away with thousands of dollars in settlement money. It just doesn’t happen that way, but you should ask a lawyer for their opinion before trying to handle the case on your own.
You may have a strong claim if you have established the liability of the person who
caused your injury. However, that does not mean that you’re going to get a significant sum of money in your settlement. In fact, insurance claims adjusters are so good at convincing people to settle for a low sum of money that the average cost recovered from insurance companies has plummeted over the past twenty years.
Up until the late 90’s, you could expect to receive three times as much as your actual costs in your settlement. This is known as ‘special damages.’ These days, insurance claims are settled for half that amount with policies and procedures in place to minimize and restrict the amount of money that you can recover on an insurance claim.
Personal Injury Damages
Personal injury damages are all of the losses that one sustains due to injuries, combined, and include:
- Medical treatment (past, present, future)
- Property repair or replacement
- Lost income and future earning potential
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
Realistic Evaluation of Case
You should not settle your claim for less than it is worth, but you do want to avoid making the mistake of assuming that your claim is worth more or less than what you can realistically expect to recover.
It is not worthwhile to attempt to convince and insurance adjuster that you should receive five times the special damages when your claim is really only worth half of that. At the same time, you need to know how to stand firm behind your claim when the insurance adjuster tries to convince you that it’s worth less than you know it to be.
You should also keep in mind that no matter how similar two injury cases may be, they are never identical. You may experience similar injuries from different events or your may experience completely different injuries from seemingly similar events. In any case, an insurance claims adjuster might try to convince you that all injury claims like yours are settled for the same sum of money. For example, he or she may say that all rear-end collisions are settled for the same amount. This is not true, and you need to clearly and effectively communicate the damages that you’ve sustained.
Unique Damages For Unique Injury Cases
Even though insurance claims adjusters may indicate that a settlement value can be automatically assigned to your case, this is not even possible to do. You are facing a unique injury case with unique circumstances. You need to prove that your damages exist in the amount that you’re demanding. You do this with medical records, bills, evidence of loss wages, etc., to ensure that you get the full amount of compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Of course, the claims adjuster isn’t going to make this easy on you. He or she will fight to get you to settle for a lesser amount than what your case is truly worth. As long as you understand what you’re doing and know how to prove your damages, you can stand apart from other cases.
The most important factor in the value of your claim is going to be what sort of injuries you sustained and how severe they are. You will receive a higher settlement if your injury is more severe, though there is a distinction between soft tissue injuries and hard injuries.
A soft tissue injury is a painful and uncomfortable injury to the muscles, tendons or ligaments. They include swelling, bruising, abrasions, contusions, and injuries to the disks of your spine. It could be something as simple as a sprained ankle or it could be an extremely painful slipped disk. You claim will be worth more if your provide more evidence of medical treatment.
A hard injury is a more serious complication, like a broken bone, facial scarring, organ damages, brain damage, and other injuries that are regarded as life-altering. Some injuries can fall into the soft tissue injury category or the hard injury category. For example, cuts, abrasions, and scars could be considered to be soft tissue injuries, but in severe cases could be viewed as hard injuries.
Four Important Issues
While every claim is unique, there are a set of four questions that you can ask yourself or your attorney to determine the degree of severity of your own injury. These four important issues will be the defining points that set your claim apart from someone else’s:
- Did you experience a soft tissue injury or a hard injury?
- Have you clearly established liability?
- What is the total amount of your medical expenses, lost wages, etc.?
- Have you experienced other damages that increased your pain and suffering?
Often, an insurance claims adjuster will not empathize with soft tissue injuries and you will have to address each of these four important qualifying issues with adequate documentation of your injuries and associated losses. The more evidence you have, the stronger your case will be.
The insurance company can also make a hard injury negotiation a drawn out process. The damages are much higher in hard injury cases than in soft tissue injury claims, so an insurance claims adjuster will need to see very convincing evidence of your injuries and their severity. You need a qualified attorney to handle hard injury claims to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
Should You Hire An Injury Attorney?
No matter how severe your injuries are or which category they fall into, it is always wise to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney. You can usually get a free consultation so that you have nothing to lose by getting your case evaluated by a professional. The method of negotiation with the insurance company may depend on the severity of the injuries, and you need an attorney who understands this.
You can have significant fight ahead of you if your hard injury claim involves malpractice or a corporate entity. The claim can easily be dismissed by a judge in these cases for a single mistake because the expense of such a case can be quite substantial with discovery expenses, expert witnesses, and more.
You definitely have a lot to lose in your personal injury case by not hiring an attorney, and you have very little to lose by consulting one for his or her opinion and guidance in your case.
How Does An Insurance Company Value A Claim?
The amount that your personal injury claim is worth will be determined by several factors and can be difficult to establish. The insurance company will value your claim based on compensation requirements, the damages formula that they have in place, and the percentage of fault for each party.
Insurance Company Compensation Requirements
There are certain types of damages that you can be compensated for, including:
- Medical / recovery / physical therapy / rehab expenses
- Lost wages / future earning potential
- Permanent disfigurement / disability
- Missed school / training / vacations / events / recreations / other experiences
- Emotional stress / embarrassment / depression
- Property repairs / replacement
The Damages Formula
An insurance company’s damages formula makes it possible to place a value on missed experiences, lost opportunities, and pain and suffering. The insurance claims adjuster will begin negotiations by combining medical expenses (medical special damages). He or she will then use this figure to determine the value of nonmonetary losses like pain and suffering (general damages).
If you have minor injuries, you can expect the adjuster to multiply the medical special damages by 1.5 or 2, whereas more serious and permanent injuries will have this amount multiplied by as much as 5 (or even ten in an extreme case). Call us to learn more about how this multiplier is determined.
The adjuster then adds on any income lost as a result of the injuries.
Once this is done, the insurance claims adjuster is going to add in the lost income.
Percentage of Fault
The extent each person is at fault is the most important factor affecting how much the insurance company is likely to pay. The damages formula gives you a range of how much your injuries might be worth, but only after you figure in the question of fault do you know the actual compensation value of your claim — that is, how much an insurance company will pay you.
Another important determining factor of what your insurance claim will be worth is the percentage of fault established for each person involved in an injury. Fault is expressed in percentages, so the person who caused the accident may be %50 at fault, 75% at fault, 100% at fault, or something else. Your claim value will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is held by yourself.
This formula is a simple way to start the process of negotiation, but is not likely to be the final amount that you receive once negotiation gets underway.