How much compensation can I collect?
If you are planning to make a personal injury claim following an accident, you may be wondering how much compensation you will be able to claim for your case. Insurance companies use a formula to, in part, determine how much a claim is worth, but there are many factors that can affect the value of your personal injury claim.
Types of Damages in an Injury Settlement
In personal injury cases in California, you are entitled to several types of damages that are divided into general or non-economic damages and special or economic damages. General damages refers to the losses and harm as a result of an injury that are not easy to quantify such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life. Special damages are easier to quantify and include compensation for medical expenses (current and future), lost wages, property damages, and reduced earning capacity.
If you were hurt in an accident and another person was completely or partially at fault, you will likely receive some compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. The more serious, painful, or long-lasting your injuries, the greater the settlement for non-economic damages.
Understanding the Damages Formula in Injury Claims
When negotiations begin on a claim, the insurance adjuster will begin by adding the total medical expenses related to your injury or the “medical special damages.” To determine how to compensate for pain and suffering, emotional damages, and disability (all together referred to as “general damages”), the insurance adjuster multiples your special damages by 1.5 to 3 if your injuries are fairly minor and up to 5 or more if your injuries are very serious, long-lasting, or very painful. From there, any income you have lost as a result of the accident will be added.
There are many factors that determine the damages formula that will be applied to your claim. The damages formula will be increase depending on:
- The amount of pain of the injury you sustained.
- How invasive and long-lasting your condition will be.
- The more obvious the medical evidence of the injury. Hard injuries like broken bones usually have a higher damages formula than soft tissue injuries that don’t show up on X-rays and diagnostic tests.
- The length of your recovery.
- How serious and visible permanent effects of the injury will be.
This is where negotiations begins. The next step is working with your injury attorney to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company. Most injury cases settle with the insurance company before going to trial or get resolved before a personal injury lawsuit needs to be filed, but it may be necessary to take your case to court. Your attorney can help protect your best interests and avoid a settlement that does not adequately compensate you for your damages. Your injury lawyer will recommend the best course of action, which may involve making a counter-offer and including a demand letter that presents detailed evidence that the settlement offer is too low.
Every Case is Unique
There is no way to automatically assign a value to your case as every injury claim is unique. The severity and type of injuries always directly affects the value of the claim, but there are many factors that come into play. For example, the more evidence of medical treatment and diagnosis, the higher the settlement is likely to be, especially in the case of soft tissue injuries that are difficult to prove. Other factors that can affect your settlement include whether liability in the case is clear-cut and whether you immediately sought medical treatment or delayed care. If you are even partially at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, any award you receive will reflect this through the “comparative negligence” standard.
Negotiating with the insurance company for a fair settlement that covers your damages is one of the most complicated aspects of any personal injury claim. You can’t trust a settlement calculator because the resolution of your injury claim depends on too many factors, including the skill of negotiation, to rely on these estimates. Insurance companies employ a team of skilled attorneys who work to limit payouts.
If you have been seriously hurt in an accident due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, it’s important to seek experienced legal counsel from a Los Angeles personal injury attorney to protect your rights and seek fair compensation for your injuries. Contact Farar & Lewis LLP for a free consultation with an accident injury lawyer to discuss your case and how much compensation you may be entitled to collect.