How Much Is a Personal Injury Settlement?
After you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an accident, money is one of your most significant concerns. Besides your health, your financial situation is most seriously impacted by your accidental injuries. Therefore, money is often the first thing that prospective clients will ask an attorney about at their initial consultation. After all, financial compensation is the exact reason you will contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle your personal injury case.
No attorney will ever give you a one-size-fits-all answer about how much is a personal injury settlement. They can explain to you how to calculate your injury settlement. They might consider your own situation and give you an initial rough estimate of how much you can possibly expect. However, there is no standard answer to this question that will be helpful to anyone who asks it.
Your Damages Entirely Depend on Your Situation
The bedrock principle of personal injury damages is that you deserve to receive compensation for all the harm that you have suffered. No two accident injuries are exactly alike, and different people may suffer differently due to their injuries. The defendant must take the accident victim as they find them, meaning they must compensate the person for their own specific injuries.
It helps to understand what goes into the calculation of personal injury settlements. This is something you should always discuss directly with a personal injury lawyer.
First, no one determination or calculation method works in every case. Instead, there is a negotiation between you and the insurance company, which leads to a settlement agreement. Each claimant may have their own personal considerations regarding how hard they will negotiate and how long they can go before they get their settlement.
It can be stressful to wonder whether a particular settlement offer is adequate or whether you need to continue negotiations. Fortunately, you do not have to wonder about this when you have an experienced personal injury attorney handling the claim. They can advise you if a settlement is fair or not, which removes the guesswork from the process. Guesswork can be risky, as it can result in much lower compensation than you need to cover your losses.
The Role of Economic and Non-Economic Damages
There are two distinct parts of your personal injury settlement. The first part covers the economic losses that result from your injury. In contrast, the second addresses the subjective experience that you have gone through since your accident.
Many people also ask about punitive damages in a personal injury settlement. During negotiations, the insurance company will not pay these as part of a settlement. Only a jury awards you punitive damages after a trial to make a statement to a personal injury defendant. These damages are rare, but your lawyer can advise whether it is worth taking your case to trial if punitive damages might play a role.
How to Value Your Economic Damages
Economic damages are the money that came out of your pocket due to your injury or did not come into your pocket when it should have. The first example of economic damages is the medical expenses related to your injury.
The responsible party must pay for all aspects of your care, including the following:
- Hospitalization costs
- Surgical costs
- Doctor’s office visits
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Medical care
- In-home nursing care
- Assistance with the activities of daily life
Your personal injury settlement covers these expenses from both before the settlement and in the future. Therefore, it is up to you to know what your situation will be like in the future to ask for enough money when you file your claim.
The insurance company can underestimate the amount of your damages, especially for future expenses. You need to know how much funding you will need for your future care. Otherwise, you will not have enough money to last you in the future. Your attorney can help ensure you receive enough with your future economic losses in mind.
Property Damages and Lost Wages
The next part of your personal injury settlement is damage to your property, as a personal injury case does not always just include harm to your person. The most common example of property costs is in a motor vehicle accident, where your car or motorcycle sustained severe damage. Do not underestimate what property damage can cost you, especially in this age of rising vehicle and repair costs.
Finally, economic damages include lost wages from your job. Lost wages cover the time that you missed from work, either because you cannot work or because you were attending doctor’s appointments. This damages category is even broader than that. You can even get paid for advancements or promotions you missed because of your injuries. Your settlement will consider your future career path if you had not suffered an injury. You should receive compensation based on that amount.
Non-economic Damages Are Subjective by Nature
If the more objective economic costs can be a struggle to recoup, it can be even more challenging to value subjective non-economic costs. Non-economic costs compensate you for your own individualized experience. This can be difficult to properly express to insurance adjusters who do not know you as an individual.
A personal injury attorney who understands everything you are going through can help present your case to the insurer.
Pain and Suffering
The main element of non-economic damages is pain and suffering. Every accident victim responds in their own way to the injuries they suffered. Some may have more severe physical or emotional reactions to the effects of their accident. Pain and suffering damages measure your experience, both in the past and the future.
Pain and suffering can encompass:
- Your physical pain from the accident injuries
- Depression and anxiety in the aftermath of your accident
- The emotional trauma and distress that you have endured
- You are loss of enjoyment of life
- The embarrassment and humiliation from your injuries
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
Different people may have different experiences after an injury. For example, an active individual might suffer more loss of enjoyment of life than someone who may not have as robust of a lifestyle, as an injury might keep them from their usual activities. Someone prone to depression may suffer more emotional difficulties because of the accident.
Be sure to speak with your injury lawyer about how your injuries affect your life. Look beyond your medical bills and financial losses, and never underplay your physical pain and the emotional effects of your injuries.
The Insurance Company Tries to Calculate Your Subjective Losses
In the insurance company’s view, an objective measurement can accurately capture your pain and suffering. Adjusters do not know you personally, so they have training to use objective methods to calculate subjective losses.
The most common formula that they attempt to use is the multiplier method. This methodology assigns a number based on the severity of Your injuries. This number is then multiplied by your medical bills to determine a dollar amount of your pain and suffering. More severe injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, will have higher multipliers attached.
In most cases, the multiplier method results in damages far too low to adequately compensate you for your ordeal. Your pain and suffering damages should rely on your own unique experience. You are not the same as every other plaintiff who has suffered a similar injury in an accident. Therefore, you should not get the same settlement as anyone else.
Your attorney can review a settlement resulting from a multiplier method and explain to adjusters why it is incorrect for your situation.
Your Damages in a Wrongful Death Settlement
If your settlement arises from the wrongful death of a family member, different considerations and damages apply. In this case, your damages pay for your family’s loss from the untimely death of your close family member.
Here, the death of a loved one is your personal injury.
Accordingly, your family may seek the following in a wrongful death settlement:
- The loss of the earnings that your loved one might have provided had they continued working
- The loss of the close and loving relationship that you had with your loved one
- The missing guidance and support that you will have received from your family member
- Your family’s own emotional trauma and grief that arise from the sudden and tragic death of a loved one
The age of the person who died is a factor in the settlement amount. The loss of children and younger family members may merit higher settlements because they might have earned more in the future, and the family suffers an even more grievous loss. In general, wrongful death settlements may be worth more because of the extreme nature of the loss.
Any family seeking a wrongful death settlement needs an experienced lawyer on their side. In the face of your grief, the last thing you need to deal with is negotiations with insurers due to low settlement offers.
Always Know the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim Before You File
In a personal injury case, knowing the value of your claim before you file it is essential. If you do not have an experienced attorney advising you of your claim’s value, you will be at a significant information disadvantage.
An experienced lawyer will work to maximize the value of your settlement. First, they can work with numerous experts to understand the exact value of your claim. If you have suffered a severe injury, your attorney will work to understand your medical situation and what the future may hold for you before they even approach the insurance company. Once your lawyer knows the value of your claim, they will work with you on devising an appropriate legal strategy to recover the total amount of your damages.
Your Settlement Is a Meeting of the Minds
Each party must move from its initial negotiating position to reach a settlement. Your lawyer will approach the insurance company with a demand letter stating the amount of money they believe you are entitled to. For their part, the insurance company will often counter with a lower offer.
Eventually, you may get closer to a settlement agreement after you exchange different proposals and counter-proposals with the insurance company. However, nothing says you must settle your case with the insurance company. You can always take your case directly to court in a lawsuit.
You may settle your case after you have filed a lawsuit and before the jury hears it. In some cases, that is the best legal strategy because it pressures the insurance company to be more reasonable. They do not like litigation costs because it adds to their expenses. While you do not have to pay an attorney hourly, they must.
Always rely on the advice of a skilled injury lawyer when deciding whether to settle directly with an insurer or take the case to court.
How to Maximize Your Personal Injury Settlement
In the end, there are things that you can do to maximize your personal injury settlement. While your damages are set, you can take steps to put yourself in a better position to recover as much of them as possible.
The first step that you should take is hiring a diligent and experienced personal injury lawyer. You will do much better financially even after paying your lawyer their part of your recovery. An attorney has access to resources you cannot get on your own. They can work with relevant experts and know how insurance companies operate.
They also have a general knowledge of what certain things are worth in a personal injury case. The average person does not know this and might simply trust an insurance company to pay them fairly. This does not always happen.
The other thing you can do to put yourself in a better position is to document your damages as best as possible. Keep track of both your expenses and your experiences since the accident. If you cannot do this, enlist the help of a trusted family member. Your personal injury lawyer can help you tabulate all of your bills and seek compensation for all of them. Contact us at G & K to receive your consultation.