When you’ve been injured because of another party’s negligent actions or inactions, you have suffered a personal injury and are entitled to a settlement. You might bring a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault person or company, but it’s most common to settle out of court with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
If you’re dealing with an insurance company, it can be hard to know how much to ask for in a settlement or if an offer is fair. The amount of compensation you can receive is based on a variety of factors, but the first and most important is your expenses.
Expenses can be difficult to tally, but they are the foundation of your compensation settlement. These expenses include:
mental health expenses
physical therapy expenses
If you need long-term rehabilitation or physical therapy because of your injury, these expenses should be included in your settlement. So should the costs to repair or replace your damaged property, such as your car after a wreck. Medical expenses can include hospital bills, medication bills, therapy bills, and costs for installing ramps or other necessary medical devices in your home. You must also consider any lost wages, like if you were unable to work for a time, or if you had to be put on light duty during your recovery. Gathering all of this documentation can be time consuming, but once you have it and can show how these expenses directly resulted from your injury, it’s very hard for your opposition to argue with them.
Other factors that apply to your settlement include the following:
Severity of your injuries
Impact on your daily life
Long-term impacts on life and health
Necessary medical procedures, past and future
Actions of the at-fault party
Judges and juries take all these factors into account, but they tend to weigh the severity of your injuries and how they have impacted your daily life and long-term health most heavily. For example, permanent disabilities warrant a larger settlement than temporary disabilities. If you will need repeated surgeries for the rest of your life, your settlement should be larger than if you only needed one surgery immediately after your injury. Temporary paralysis of your hand will warrant a smaller settlement than the amputation of your hand.
These factors are more difficult to tally than your expenses because there isn’t always a clear dollar amount attached to them. If you can no longer participate in your favorite sport or hobby because of your injury, how do you put a number on that? If the at-fault party harassed you or said something deplorable to you, how much more money are you entitled to? Without a law degree and experience deciphering legal language, it can be difficult to know what laws, if any, apply to your case. These are the factors that make the help of an attorney invaluable. My team and I are equipped to look at the many parts of your unique case and turn those personal details into monetary figures. This is one of the reasons why I offer free consultations. I don’t ever want someone to be taken advantage of, and I want to help you get an idea of how much you should expect from a settlement.
If you’ve already been offered a settlement but would like to negotiate for a higher one, my advice is to rely on your evidence. Schedule a meeting or phone call and gather all your documentation regarding each of the factors that go into calculating compensation. Do your research and math ahead of time and make notes of totals so you can clearly demonstrate how certain factors aren’t covered or accounted for in the initial offer. Research as much as you can about cases similar to yours and the settlements they received.
Sometimes insurance companies will deny you sustained the injuries you did or will argue that your injuries aren’t a result of the incident at the center of your case. Make sure you can clearly show how the incident led to your injury as well as the connection between your injury and each factor that is going into your calculations. If you anticipate problems with these connections, ask your healthcare providers to write and sign statements about how the injury has led to these changes in your health, lifestyle, and ability to work. Remember, you are the wronged party. If you aren’t comfortable with a new settlement or it isn’t what you’d hoped for, you can always ask to think about it. If you need to, you can negotiate multiple times before accepting a settlement.
The Insurance Research Council determined that 85% of all the money insurance companies pay in compensation goes to people who are represented by lawyers. I know from my own experience that the final settlements I secure for my clients are often 2 to 3 times higher than the initial settlement offers. So my number one piece of advice for anyone dealing with a personal injury claim or negotiating for a higher settlement is to secure the help of a personal injury lawyer.
I’ve been practicing personal injury law for over 27 years—let me put all my skills and experience behind you, and together we’ll secure you the highest settlement possible. Personal injury attorneys like me don’t get paid until you get paid, and I offer free consultations to all my potential clients. Call my office today to set up yours.