Anyone who contemplates filing an accident injury claim wonders: “How much are my injuries worth?” There isn’t a standard payout for these types of claims. Each settlement paid out covers unique costs, such as medical expenses and lost income.
What does an accident injury claim pay for?
A settlement should cover any damages you experienced due to your accident.
These damages are either economic or non-economic.
- Economic damages have a set cost, such as a doctor bill or car repairs.
- While non-economic damages don’t have a price tag, you still deserve compensation for things like pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
These factors determine the value of your accident injury claim:
Depending on job duties and the severity of your injuries, you will likely miss work. Some people need to take a few weeks off to recover, and yet others will never be able to return to work. If you must return to a lower-paying occupation, you could be compensated for your diminished earning capacity.
No matter how much work you miss, an accident shouldn’t ruin your financial stability.
A settlement should cover your current and future accident-related medical bills. That includes everything from your initial ER visit to the surgery you have scheduled next month to the physical therapy you will need several years from now.
Pain and suffering
The emotional and physical toll of an accident is genuine. It can seem strange to put a monetary value on your pain and suffering. However, this is one way to hold the responsible party accountable for your injuries.
Amputation, scarring, and burns can negatively impact your self-esteem. As with pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement is another non-economic damage you could recover.
Your accident injuries may prevent you from taking care of your home, yourself, and your young children. If you have to hire someone to take care of tasks you did before the accident, the settlement should cover these costs.
Property damage is often associated with car crashes. If you were in a motor vehicle accident, your car may need repair or replacement. And, any personal items inside of the vehicle with monetary or sentimental value may be damaged.
However, just about any accident can injure only you but your personal belongings as well.
Who determines the amount of an accident injury claim?
An accident injury attorney may work with medical, economic, and occupational experts to arrive at a fair settlement. Any settlement should cover all current and future accident-related expenses. For example, if a young adult at the start of their career is permanently disabled and no longer able to work, those decades of lost income need to be reflected in the settlement.
Meanwhile, the insurance company may offer you a payout. There is a good chance their initial offer is much less than what your accident injury claim is worth. Remember that insurance companies aren’t charities—they are for-profit companies.
When you hire an attorney, they negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Negotiations may happen quickly, or they can take some time. An accident injury lawyer’s goal is to pursue justice and maximize your settlement amount.
Who can file an accident injury claim?
While each accident injury claim is unique, these cases all have one common component: negligence.
You may pursue a settlement if the following two statements are true:
- Another party’s negligence caused your accident; and
- That accident injured you.
You must be an adult to pursue a personal injury case. If you are a minor, your parents or legal guardians can file a claim on your behalf.
If an adult is incapacitated, an appointed person, often a family member, may file an accident injury claim. This often happens in nursing home abuse cases.
What are common accident injury claims?
Some of the more common accident injury claims that attorneys handle are:
- An intoxicated driver sideswiped your motorcycle.
- A distracted commercial truck driver rear-ended your car.
- Your employer failed to follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws and regulations, and you were hurt on the job.
- Restaurant staff didn’t mop up a spilled beverage, and you slipped and fell.
- Your loved one experienced abuse or neglect while living at a nursing home.
- You were at a park when someone else’s dog attacked you.
- Your child was crossing the street when a car hit them.
The above is not an exhaustive list of accident claims. It would be difficult to account for all the ways that negligence can lead to an injury. If you are unsure who may be liable for your injuries, speak with an attorney.
What happens if someone dies because of their accident injuries? Can the family sue?
Yes, close family members can pursue a wrongful death case after losing a loved one. Typically, the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents can file a legal claim.
In some situations, the state may allow a representative of the estate or other family member to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit. If you have any questions about your eligibility to file a wrongful death claim, you should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. As with accident injury claims, wrongful death cases also have a time limit to file.
How long does it take to process an accident injury claim?
While no one wants to wait for a settlement, fast compensation may not necessarily be adequate compensation. It can take a few months or a few years for your attorney to successfully negotiate the fair value of your case. Some factors that may affect the length of your case include:
In some accident injury claims, liability is clear. Perhaps the negligent party takes responsibility for their actions. You can also more easily prove liability if the state files criminal charges, such as for driving while intoxicated.
And yet, in other cases, a dispute arises over responsibility. Motor vehicle accidents can become complicated if three or more parties are involved in the crash.
The severity of your injuries
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), accidents like falls and motor vehicle crashes are leading causes of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Accident injury claims that involve serious injuries like TBIs can take longer to settle. It may take some recovery time before doctors can determine a prognosis, and thus accurately predict future medical care.
Out of court settlements versus a court trial
Many accident injury lawsuits do successfully settle outside of court. If your case goes to trial, the process will likely take longer than an out-of-court settlement.
Accident injury claims: Time limits to file
In most circumstances, state law dictates how long you have to file an accident injury claim. This time limit is called a statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is measured from the date that the injury occurred. But in some cases, the date that you were made aware of your injuries may be used instead. For example, Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute, Title 42, § 5524 states, in part, that a legal claim for “asbestos exposure shall be commenced within two years from the date on which the person is informed by a licensed physician that the person has been injured by such exposure.”
There is no reason to wait to speak with an attorney after an injury. Most accident injury claim lawyers offer a free consultation to prospective clients. It only takes a few minutes of your time to learn if you have a legal case.
Do I need an attorney to file an accident injury claim?
You could attempt to pursue an accident injury settlement on your own. However, without legal representation, the following three outcomes are more likely.
You’ll be held liable for your injuries
The insurance company knows that the average person has limited legal knowledge. If you don’t have an attorney to represent you, you are vulnerable. The insurance company will simply say that you are responsible for the accident, and you’ll be left to prove otherwise on your own.
Building a strong case can take investigation and research. Most people don’t have the manpower and financial resources to conduct these efforts independently.
You’ll receive an unfair settlement
If the insurance company voluntarily offers you money, odds are good that this payout is inadequate. The amount may seem generous at first, but it may not cover your future accident-related expenses. You’ll run out of money and be ineligible to pursue another settlement.
You’ll miss the statute of limitations
An accident injury attorney knows the statute of limitations in your state and what actions to take by that deadline. If you try to file a legal claim after this important date, the court will dismiss your claim.
3 Ways to maximize your accident injury claim payout
It’s common to feel helpless after an accident. However, there are actions you can take to maximize your settlement.
Seek medical treatment right away
Don’t delay seeing a doctor for your accident injuries, even if they seem minor. An untreated injury may become worse with time, costing not just money but also your health and well-being.
The first doctor visit is also important because it starts the paper trail for your accident injury claim. You need an injury diagnosis before you can pursue a settlement.
Keep all medical appointments
Don’t cancel or skip doctor and therapy appointments. If you don’t follow through with your treatment plan, the insurance company could question the severity of your injuries.
Consult with an accident injury attorney
There is no reason to wonder if you have a valid legal case or not. Most accident injury lawyers offer free consultations.
When you delay filing your accident injury claim, you also delay receiving any possible settlement. In the meantime, you miss work and the medical expenses continue to pile up.
Accident injury claims: Who pays compensation?
When you file an accident injury claim, you typically sue the other party’s insurance company. But if the responsible party doesn’t have insurance, that doesn’t necessarily take them off the hook. You can still hold them financially responsible.
Don’t let an uninsured party tell you that you can’t sue them. Contact a personal injury attorney to protect your legal rights.
How do I choose an attorney to handle my accident injury claim?
Personal injury law firms handle accident injury claims. Some firms handle most types of cases, while other firms may focus on one type of case, such as medical malpractice or car accidents. A lawyer’s website should detail the types of cases they handle.
When you speak with a potential attorney, ask them these three questions.
What is the firm’s strategy for accident injury claims?
You want an attorney who is serious about your case from day one. Your lawyer should prepare your case as if it is going to trial, even though it may settle out of court. You need an attorney with trial experience, and who is not afraid to go to court if needed.
Who will handle my case?
A law firm should be honest about who will handle most of the details of your case. When you call with a question, will you speak to your attorney, a paralegal, or another staff member? If you leave a message, how soon can you expect a response?
When is payment due?
Many accident injury attorneys collect their fees after you receive your settlement. Others may have a different fee structure.
Before you hire a lawyer, make sure you ask them:
- When is payment due?
- How do you charge: a flat fee, an hourly rate, or a percentage of the settlement?
- In addition to your attorney fees, what other costs may arise?
- What do I owe if I lose my case and do not recover a settlement?
Leave your consultation with answers to these important questions.