Personal injury claims are filed successfully with each week that passes
by. Claims pertaining to various sets of circumstances are the subject
of a considerable volume of business between insurance companies and personal
injury attorneys. Large claims can have the potential to affect someone’s
life considerably and may leave the victim wondering if the settlement
payout was fair.
The Basic Methodology of a Personal Injury Claim
A common example is any given case involving a two-car accident and a resulting
trip to the emergency room. Let’s suppose our example represents
Driver 1 who was rear-ended by Driver 2 while stopped and waiting at a
red light. Driver 2 was distracted by a waving sign spinner on the roadside
and failed to brake in time to avoid striking Driver 1 from behind. The
impact was strong enough to send Driver 1 to the hospital for stitches.
As a result, Driver 1 also missed 3 days of work.
A fair settlement was quickly reached between Driver 1 and Driver 2’s
insurance adjuster. Driver 2 was determined to be 100% at fault due to
consistent statements provided by 2 witnesses and the details of the police
report. Driver 1 filed a claim for compensation, along with documented
proof of his costs, for the costs of his emergency room visit, repairs
to his vehicle, and time missed at work. Driver 2’s insurance company
agreed to reimburse Driver 1 for 100% of these costs and all was well.
What Constitutes a Fair Settlement When My Life will Never be the Same?
Often times, injury claims are not nearly as simple as the situation described
between Drivers 1 and 2. When the injuries resulting from an accident
are extensive, the costs can quickly add up. Determining whether a settlement
figure is fair often evokes considerable scrutiny and controversy when
a permanent injury is involved.
Insurance companies will state that coverage is designed to restore conditions
to their prior, existing state. In other words, to make things as if the
accident had never occurred – nothing less, and certainly nothing
more. However, what about cases of permanent injury such as paralysis
or severe brain damage? No amount of medical treatment, despite the price
tag, is available to restore the pre-existing conditions. So how much
money is permanent paralysis worth? Is $10,000,000 sufficient compensation
to make up for a lifetime of personal struggles and medical complications?
These types of case pose an impossible question, one with infinite answers
based upon who you may ask.
Was Your Settlement Fair? 4 Items to Consider
Here are 4 tips to help consider the fairness of some of the more quantifiable
aspects of a settlement:
Did my attorney and I accept the insurance company’s first offer? As in all negotiations, the first offer is typically toward the low
end of the spectrum and there is room for improvement.
Did we negotiate effectively? Allow your attorney to perform his/her job. He/she should have your best
interests in mind and benefits from years of litigation experience, especially
in cases of lawyers who dedicate their practice solely to personal injury
law. Even large offers can seem tempting, but consider your attorney’s
advice carefully if he/she feels strongly about rejecting it.
Does my settlement cover all of my associated costs? Perhaps you did accept the first offer. If you feel confident that your
settlement truly recouped 100% of your losses, then your settlement was
probably fair. You should also consider any opportunities lost (promotions
or seniority pay raises) in calculation of your true total costs.
Was fault placed correctly? Insurance companies may attempt to allocate excessive fault to you. In
our example of Drivers 1 and 2, Driver 1 was obeying the law and unable
to take any action to avoid being struck from the rear. Driver 2 had a
lawful responsibility to control her vehicle and stop at a safe distance.
Driver 2 should be assigned 100% of the fault. Driver 1 should be assigned zero.