When dealing with a personal injury, understanding how a personal injury settlement calculator works can be overwhelming. This guide aims to clarify the process, providing a clear understanding of the factors that influence settlement values. Remember, each case is unique, so consulting a professional for a personalized case evaluation is always recommended.
How to Increase the Value of Your Settlement
Personal injury settlements are designed to compensate victims for losses incurred due to injury. They cover economic damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
Fortunately, there are certain things you can do to increase the value of your personal injury settlement. When considering how to calculate personal injury settlement, the following factors must be considered.
Getting Immediate Medical Help
Getting immediate medical attention is crucial. This not only ensures your overall well-being after the injury but also documents your injuries to establish a clear link between the accident and your condition.
Delaying medical attention might lead to doubts about the severity of the injury. For example, let’s say you suffered a sprain which worsened because of delayed medical care. Insurance companies can argue that the resulting damage occurred because you chose not to seek immediate help. As a result, they may offer a lowball settlement on this basis.
Save and Maintain Records
Keep detailed records of every event or transaction that occurred right after the injury. This includes medical receipts, prescription receipts, and even financial statements, such as your salary records. This documentation can substantiate claims for lost wages and potential future earnings.
Consider Future Damages
Injuries can have a long-lasting effect. What might feel like a simple case of whiplash on the first day could turn into something more serious further down the road. When negotiating your settlement, consider future medical needs, ongoing medical costs, and how your injuries might affect your life down the line. An attorney can help estimate these future damages.
Do Not Rush to Settle
Insurance companies often make low initial offers, hoping to settle claims quickly and cheaply. It’s vital not to accept these offers without consulting a lawyer. A skilled attorney can negotiate effectively on your behalf, aiming to secure a fairer settlement, one that truly reflects the value of your claim.
Things that Could Jeopardize Your Settlement
Regardless of how valid your claim is, there are certain things that could jeopardize your chances of winning a settlement, as discussed below.
Providing inconsistent accounts of the accident or your injuries to different parties can cast doubt on the authenticity of your claim. Your narrative should remain consistent when talking to insurance adjusters, doctors, or your lawyer.
Not Following Medical Advice
Ignoring the guidance of your doctor can hurt your case. This shows that you’re not committed to your recovery, which puts into question every injury you might have suffered.
For example, say you experienced an injury that required bed rest for a full week. If you fail to follow your doctor’s instructions, the opposing party may argue that you were not as seriously injured as you claim to have been.
In addition, they may offer a lower settlement on the ground that any pain you experience is entirely because of your failure to follow the doctor’s instructions. Do not give insurance companies the chance to raise this defense. They’ll use every opportunity available to jeopardize your settlement.
Not Having Proper Documentation
Inadequate documentation of your injuries, medical treatments, and expenses related to the accident can reduce your settlement amount. Keep comprehensive records of all medical visits, treatments, and related expenses.
Note, though, that this goes beyond proving costs. Your documentation should include anything that helps establish the events leading to the injury. This includes photos and videos of the accidents, witness statements, and so forth.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims
The statute of limitations in personal injury cases sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit after an injury. This time frame varies by state and case type.
For instance, in Nevada, personal injury claims have a two-year limit, while property damage claims have three years. There are exceptions, such as cases involving minors, mental incapacitation, or the defendant leaving the state for a certain period.
Understanding these limitations is crucial, as missing the deadline can forfeit your right to claim compensation Different rules apply in cases involving government entities, often with shorter filing periods. Consulting with a lawyer is recommended to navigate these time-sensitive processes.
Factors Determining Settlement Value
A settlement calculator for personal injury provides an initial estimate of a claim’s worth. It takes into account various aspects of your case, offering a preliminary figure that can guide your expectations.
This tool is mainly used to help victims understand the financial implications of their injuries and the legal process ahead. Typical factors used in determining the settlement value include the following:
This is the primary factor in determining the settlement amount. This includes all costs related to your injury, from the initial treatment to ongoing medical care.
Expenses such as hospital bills, prescription costs, rehabilitation, and any future medical care related to the injury are considered. It’s not just about the bills you’ve already paid; the estimated future medical expenses should also be accounted for.
This factor accounts for the income you lost due to your inability to work due to the injury. It includes not only wages you’ve already lost but also the potential loss of future earning capacity. If your injury affects your ability to work in the long term, this could significantly increase the settlement value.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refer to the non-economic damages you’ve endured because of the injury. This includes physical pain, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other intangible changes.
Calculating this aspect can be complex as it involves subjective evaluation. Lawyers and insurance companies often use multipliers or per diem methods to determine the amount of these damages.
Extent of Injury
The severity and permanence of the injury heavily influence the settlement value. More severe injuries typically result in higher settlements due to increased medical expenses, prolonged pain, and potentially greater impact on earning capacity. Permanent disabilities or disfigurements are especially significant in this regard.
Determining who is at fault and to what degree is crucial in personal injury cases. The concept of liability includes negligence and can vary depending on the state’s laws where the injury occurred.
In some cases, there may be shared liability, which can affect the settlement amount. If you are found partially at fault, this might reduce the overall settlement you can receive.
To give you some perspective, the following four states and Washington D.C., follow the contributory negligence system:
- North Carolina
In these jurisdictions, if a plaintiff is found to be even slightly at fault in contributing to their injury, they may be barred from recovering any damages from the defendant.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
Now, let’s look at some common types of personal injury cases and what they entail.
Car accidents are among the most common types of personal injury cases. When an accident occurs, usually it’s because someone isn’t following the rules of the road. A careless driver can usually be held financially responsible for injuries stemming from a car accident.
Slip and Fall Cases
Slip and fall claims are usually filed on the basis that property owners have a legal duty to keep their premises safe and free of hazards so that people who are on the property do not become injured.
Not all injuries that occur on the property will lead to liability. The exact nature of the defendant’s legal duty varies depending on the situation and according to the law in place in the state where the injury occurred.
Medical malpractice can arise when a doctor or other healthcare professionals fail to provide competent and reasonably skilled care, resulting in a patient’s injury. Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex, and you’ll need to prove that the healthcare provider’s negligence caused the injury.
Examples of Personal Injury Settlements
Two of the most notable cases involving personal injury settlements involved McDonald’s and General Motors. Perhaps one of the most talked about cases is where a 79-year-old woman spilled McDonald’s coffee on her lap and suffered third-degree burns. The injury was severe and required skin grafts as well as several days in the hospital.
The victim initially wanted to get $20,000 from McDonald’s to compensate for all the medical expenses. However, McDonalds countered with an $800 offer, leading to a long and drawn-out battle.
In the end, the jury awarded the victim $160,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $480,000 in punitive damages. The jury recognized the negligence on the part of McDonald’s in serving coffee at dangerously high temperatures.
Another interesting case is the one involving General Motors. A drunk driver hit a Chevy Malibu car carrying six members of the Anderson family.
The car’s fuel tank caught fire because of the collision, and all passengers were severely burned. The case went to trial, and the Anderson family was initially awarded $4.9 billion in punitive damages.
However, it was later reduced to $1.2 billion upon appeal to the Supreme Court. Regardless, it showed the importance of corporate responsibility in ensuring the safety of their products.
Keep in mind that these settlements are fairly high up there on the scale. An average personal injury settlement calculator may not have monetary awards this high. This is because damages are computed based on the severity of the injury.
Personal Injury Settlement Timeline
The timeline of a personal injury settlement varies significantly and is influenced by numerous factors. It starts with the attorney investigating the claim to establish liability and assess its value. This phase varies in duration based on the complexity of the case.
Following investigation, an insurance claim is filed, which can lead to settlement negotiations. Ideally, the parties will agree at this stage, allowing them to pin down the settlement amount and then proceed to the payment process. However, if there is no agreement between the parties, a lawsuit may be filed by the plaintiff’s attorney.
The lawsuit involves several stages, including discovery, continued negotiations, and potentially alternative dispute resolution. Most cases settle before trial, but if a trial is necessary, it can weeks or months. Personal injury attorneys guide clients through this process, allowing victims to focus on recovery.
What Are the Limitations on Personal Injury Claims?
Personal injury claims are subject to various limitations, primarily determined by the statute of limitations. This legal deadline varies by state and type of injury. Generally, it ranges from one to six years from the date of the injury. It’s vital to file a claim within this period to avoid losing your right to sue. Other limitations include the extent of negligence involved, the severity of the injury, and caps on certain types of damages in some states.
What Happens When You Make a Personal Injury Claim?
Your attorney will investigate your claim, gathering evidence such as medical records, witness statements, and police reports. This phase is followed by a demand letter to the responsible party or their insurance company.
If a settlement isn’t reached, your lawyer may file a lawsuit. The process then involves discovery, negotiations, and possibly a trial, although many cases are settled before reaching this stage.
What Is the Least Amount of a Personal Injury Settlement?
There is no universal minimum for personal injury settlements. The amount depends on factors like the severity of the injury, medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Minor injuries with clear liability may settle for a few thousand dollars. More severe cases can reach much higher amounts. It’s important to consult with a personal injury lawyer to assess the value of your specific case.
How Do I Prepare for a Personal Injury Claim?
Preparation is key for a successful personal injury claim. Start by documenting everything related to your injury. Medical records, expenses, lost wages, and how the injury impacts your daily life can help solidify your case.
If possible, gather photos of the injury and accident scene. It’s also advisable to keep a diary of your physical and emotional recovery. Lastly, consult a personal injury attorney to guide you through the legal process and advocate on your behalf.
Seek Legal Consultation
When dealing with any type of personal injury case, one of the most critical steps is seeking legal assistance. Navigating the complexities of personal injury law and understanding the small details in a specific situation often requires the expertise of a seasoned attorney. This ensures that your rights are protected and that you pursue the best possible outcome for your case.