If you have been injured and you plan to file suit to recover for your injuries and other damages, at some point early on, your attorney will have to calculate the value of your case. That is the only way to know whether an amount the insurance company offers in settlement is adequate. In fact, that is a key reason for hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you in your case in the first place. If nothing else, an experienced personal injury can calculate the value of your case accurately and do so relatively quickly.
In order to value your case, your attorney will take a look at a number of factors, including current and future medical bills, the cost of missed work and/or other lost income, as well as which party or parties in the accident has been negligent and to what degree. They will also factor in how the accident occurred and how you became injured.
When it comes to valuing a personal injury case, many complex questions must be answered. The above-mentioned factors are just a few of the factors that must be considered. In fact, when you are considering which attorney to hire for your case, it might be wise to rule out any attorney who seems able to determine the value of your case during the initial consultation because that shows a tendency to jump to a conclusion without sufficient consideration of all necessary factors. To determine the value of a personal injury case involves a detailed examination of many aspects of the case, so any attorney who claims to be able to value a case without a thorough examination of the facts may not be the most trustworthy attorney you could hire.
Of course, the two most important factors in determining the value of your claim are the extent of the damage and who was negligent, and therefore liable, for the accident and the injuries and damages that resulted. Anther relevant factor is the capability of the insurance company. In most cases, settlements also take into account the extent of the property damage. Under most circumstances, the amount paid for damages and injuries will be reduced by the amount that you are determined to be at fault. For instance, if it is determined that you were 25% at fault, the insurance company may offer you half of the value of all property damages. Another factor to be considered is whether or not you are represented by an attorney. If you have an attorney, the insurance company is more likely to offer full value than if not.
What Can Be Considered "Damages"?
In personal injury law, “damages” refers to your injuries and losses and it forms the primary basis for calculating the amount that is considered appropriate to compensate you. To come to an appropriate value, it is necessary to know which damages are available in your case.
There are three basic types of damages available in a given case, including economic, non-economic and punitive damages. In nearly every personal injury case, economic and non-economic damages are at issue. Punitive damages, which are designed to punish a party who is egregiously negligent, are generally available only in specific circumstances, which means they aren't usually part of settlement calculations in the vast majority of accident cases.
Economic damages are quantifiable expenditures or financial losses that can be directly attributed to the injury suffered, and to the underlying accident. Economic damages are relatively simple to calculate, especially if you have been diligent about keeping thorough personal records of all you spend or lose due to your injury, including any lost wages and other lost income.
Non-economic damages refer to damages like pain and suffering, and they are designed to compensate you for the emotional or psychological toll your injuries have taken on your life. While determining economic damages can be relatively easy, determining what to demand in non-economic damages requires a combination of research, experience and honest assessment.
Whereas every injured party would like a seven-figure sum, the fact is, insurance companies only have so much money to pay under the terms of their policies. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how certain insurance companies pay out and they will usually be able to figure out how much money is available under each policy. That knowledge, combined with some knowledge-based research, can help determine what juries have awarded in similar cases, which can help in coming up with an honest and realistic valuation of your case. That means you and your attorney will be able to determine what is a fair settlement.
What Happens if the Insurance Company Disagrees with the Valuation?
The fact of the matter is, more than 95% of cases settle without ever going to court. However, sometimes, despite all the court appearances, investigations, correspondence, legal motions and arguments, the insurance company will try to low-ball your payout. When this happens, your personal injury attorney should be ready, willing and able to go to trial. Whether you should accept the offered amount is always up to you, but your attorney should be prepared to pursue the case into litigation whenever you are unhappy with the amount of compensation offered by the insurance company.
If you cannot reach a settlement that is adequate based on how much your case is worth, then the details of your case will have to be reassessed at some point. The frequency and length of medical treatment, your medical bills since the accident, and whether any disabilities you have are permanent or temporary will be examined. There are other potential factors, as well. For example, if you have had previous convictions on either misdemeanors, or felonies, your sincerity may be doubted, which can lead to a smaller recovery. It is also not a good idea to rush your settlement negotiation, since you may end up shortchanged. Again, whether a case is settled or not at whatever stage will always be up to you.
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