Following an accident that results from another party’s negligence, injury victims may qualify for compensation in a settlement offer. This is most often how insurance companies and victims settle personal injury and accident claims, with 95 percent of lawsuits settled out of court. Pre-trial settlements are more favorable for many because they entail an easier process and fewer expenses.
While you may be eligible to receive a settlement offer, you might be unsure what constitutes a good offer. Many factors can contribute to a settlement offer in a personal injury claim, so it is essential to understand what they are and how they influence the amount of potential compensation.
Consider All of the Damages Associated With Your Case
Personal injury claims and lawsuits often involve many damages that victims may recover. For individuals who are new to the claims process and personal injury cases in general, it is often challenging to identify and quantify all of the damages sustained.
While personal injury cases typically revolve around injuries, the impact of those injuries on a financial and personal level will ultimately help calculate the total compensation. Damages involved in these cases may include both monetary (special) damages and non-monetary (general) damages.
Also known as special damages, monetary damages come with a particular dollar amount. They are easier to calculate than non-monetary damages, and they may include various expenses.
Some examples of monetary damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage
- Ongoing treatment and rehabilitation
- Therapy costs
Non-monetary or general damages, unlike monetary damages, are not as easy to calculate in personal injury cases. This is because they deal with how injuries affect a person both physically and psychologically instead of financially.
Examples of non-monetary damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- PTSD and other forms of psychological trauma
- Depression and anxiety
- Loss of relationships
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Injury victims may prove these damages through pain journals and other documentation that detail the personal experience the victims have had following an incident and injuries.
Generally, the greater the severity of your injuries, the more damages you will sustain, which can lead to a higher amount of compensation.
In rare instances involving negligent parties whose behavior is unusually outrageous, courts may award punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit. These damages are meant to punish the defendant and discourage others from engaging in the same or similar conduct. These damages are not commonly involved in cases and will not typically play a part in the claims process.
If you are not sure which damages you might qualify for in a personal injury case and how they would impact your settlement offer, an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help. A reliable lawyer could not only identify the different types of damages sustained and assist with calculating the compensation, but they can also help obtain evidence to help prove the extent of injuries and damages.
Why You Should Not Accept the First Offer
Following an accident and injuries, the negligent party may offer the victim cash payment to prevent them from reporting the accident to insurance companies. This bribe may tempt some, particularly if the dollar amount seems high, but this may not cover all the damages resulting from the incident. Keep in mind that many injuries take days or even weeks to develop symptoms and become apparent after an accident, which means you may discover an accident caused more harm than initially thought. In these cases, it may be too late to file a claim if you accepted a settlement of any kind.
Even if you decline the money, insurance companies are not on your side and will often attempt to reach the lowest possible settlement that you will accept. Insurers do not want to pay out large amounts. Their primary goal is saving money. Again, the dollar amount offered may appear high, but it can fall far short of the total compensable amount based on the damages sustained.
If you choose to accept the first settlement, you may need to cover certain damages out-of-pocket due to the inability to file a personal injury lawsuit at a later point.
How Insurance Companies Calculate Personal Injury Settlement Offers
When an individual sustains injuries, one key step that many victims take is to file a claim with insurers, particularly if a case involves someone else who was at fault. People may file these claims for car accidents, slip and falls, and many other types of accidents.
Injury victims may file claims under their personal coverage, in which case the insurer might seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurance. Other cases may involve victims filing third-party claims against the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Regardless of the circumstances, insurance companies work to manage risk and minimize costs, often leading them to do what they can to keep the case from going to court. In doing so, they would attempt to reach a settlement that awards the claimant a certain affordable dollar amount and release the defendant and insurer from further liability pertaining to the case.
Insurers will do everything they can to avoid taking a case to court, as this would enable a jury to make their own decision in the case and potentially award plaintiffs a lot more money in compensation.
This is why you should avoid accepting the first offer, and you may want to work with an experienced attorney to help negotiate a fair settlement offer.
How to Get a Good Settlement Offer in Personal Injury Cases
The fact is that the definition of a good settlement offer will depend on the nature of the case, including the injuries and damages involved. If you want to reach a favorable offer that you are content with, consider taking the following steps:
#1. Determine How Much You Are Willing to Settle for
When defining a good offer in your case, it is best to have a specific dollar amount in mind that you are willing to receive. Personal injury lawyers have plenty of experience in this area and may be able to help you determine how much your case is worth. Subsequently, your attorney may provide you with a range of potential settlement amounts, at which point you could decide on the minimum amount you want to see in an offer.
If you have a specific amount of money in mind going into negotiations, you can then make a comparison between your case’s actual worth and insurance companies’ offers.
In addition to the damages resulting from an accident, including special and general damages, you must consider other factors that may impact your settlement amount, such as:
- The specific injury, considering injuries like bone fractures may compensate far less than more traumatic injuries
- The length of your injuries and whether they are short-term, long-term, or permanent
- The amount of insurance coverage available
- The ability for you to continue living a normal daily life
- The presence of pre-existing conditions that could have affected the injuries
- The fault of those involved
Based on these elements, personal injury cases could settle for anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars.
#2. Build Your Case With Plenty of Evidence
To recover a good settlement offer, you must also be able to prove the extent of your injuries and the related damages.
This will involve gathering as much evidence as possible from medical professionals, the scene of the accident, and other sources. Because of the need for sufficient evidence, you should seek treatment as soon as possible after an accident to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment, along with copies of your medical records.
Additionally, staying at or returning to the accident scene can allow you to capture photos and video evidence of injuries, vehicle damage, property damage, and other physical evidence. You may also be able to contact witnesses who may testify in your favor.
If you require help with obtaining any of this evidence, an attorney may be able to hire investigators to assist you. Investigators can record visual evidence and collect many types of documentation, from medical records to vehicle accident data.
#3. Do Not Wait Too Long to File
Many states have a statute of limitations around personal injury claims of two or more years. While this may seem like a lot of time to file a claim, this period can pass quickly. Waiting too long to file could hurt or even eliminate your chances of recovering compensation through a claim or lawsuit. Seeking treatment and building a case are important steps to take immediately after an accident, but you should also file a claim as soon as you are ready to do so.
#4. Work With a Personal Injury Attorney
To reach a favorable outcome in your case, it may be best to work with a reliable personal injury lawyer. A lawyer with experience handling cases like yours will offer extensive knowledge to keep you informed. Insurance companies also take attorneys seriously when negotiating settlement offers.
Many minor accidents and injuries may not require an attorney’s involvement, but if your injuries are more extensive and the nature of the accident is more complex, you will likely benefit from having an attorney by your side.
#5. Consider How Legal Costs and Others May Affect a Settlement
You might be wondering how much an attorney costs and how this will affect your settlement amount. A good personal injury will not typically charge any upfront fees for legal services. They will only charge their clients if they can reach a favorable settlement. Once you have accepted an offer and officially approved it, your attorney will use a portion of that settlement to cover their fees.
To better determine how much these fees will reduce the total settlement amount, discuss legal fees with your attorney, who should be transparent about the amount they would receive. This will help eliminate any unpleasant surprises when receiving compensation.
In addition to attorney’s fees, you may also need to cover other expenses accumulated throughout your case. Case costs that attorneys may charge include medical records, postage, and copy charges.
Some cases may also involve medical liens and expenses, as health insurance companies and medical providers will require patients to pay the debt for the treatment they received. However, a personal injury attorney may help negotiate liens to reduce medical expenses and help maximize the amount of money the injury victim takes home.
When Should You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit vs. a Claim?
Following an accident and subsequent injuries, injury victims may be able to seek compensation for losses and injuries through either a claim or a lawsuit. While some cases may warrant a claim and out-of-court settlement offers, others may eventually go to court. Personal injury cases may involve the court system if the nature of the accident and injuries is severe enough or if the parties involved cannot come to an agreement during the claims process.
It is often in the best interests of both claimants and insurers if cases do not go to court, seeing as insurers do not want to deal with the uncertainty of a court’s decision. At the same time, victims do not want to wait too long to receive their settlement amount. Oftentimes, court cases can take as long as years to resolve. Additionally, victims may receive nothing if the jury decides in the defendant’s favor.
Consult a Reputable Personal Injury Lawyer Near You to Discuss a Settlement Offer
If you want to increase your chances of reaching a successful outcome in your case and get a good settlement offer, it is often ideal to work with an attorney. A qualified lawyer will help assess whether you have a valid claim and determine how much compensation you are eligible to receive. Your attorney can then help gather evidence to build your case and negotiate a settlement with insurers.
Get your free consultation with an attorney today to start on your personal injury case and find out your options.