Frequently Asked Questions - Factors Affecting How Much an Injury Case is Worth
Every single personal injury case is different and even if you are in the same car with another person and suffer the same type of injuries, it does not mean that your cases will settle for the same amount. There are many factors that go into determining a dollar value of a personal injury claim which insurance adjusters and personal injury attorneys alike take into consideration when making a settlement demand and offer. Some people disagree with the amount they should be compensated for their pain and suffering and not everyone has a realistic view of their claim. This is why it is a good idea to hire an experienced personal injury attorney at the very start of your case so that they are able to guide you on what to expect and give you professional advice on how to best treat your injuries.
If you are involved in an auto accident and you are injured, one of the first things you are going to want to find out is if there is any bodily injury coverage on the insurance policy for the at fault party. In the State of Florida, bodily injury coverage is not a mandatory requirement for any auto insurance policy, it is optional if you want to carry that coverage or not. Carrying bodily injury coverage on your insurance policy is a good idea because if you do not have bodily injury coverage, it leaves you vulnerable to being sued personally if you cause an accident with injuries and you could possibly lose your home, assets and have your wages garnished. If you are hit by someone with no bodily injury coverage, you can check your own policy to see if you have any uninsured motorist coverage. Again, this is another great coverage to have on your policy as its purpose is to compensate you, your resident relatives or anyone traveling in your vehicle at the time of an accident for your injuries if you are hit by someone who does not have bodily injury coverage. If you are hit by someone with bodily injury coverage but not enough to compensate you fully, you can then use your underinsured motorist coverage if you have this on your policy which acts as an excess coverage in addition to the at fault insurance companies bodily injury coverage. You can pick your own bodily injury and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage amounts, depending on what is best for you. Both coverages start at $10,000.00 payout per accident up to $1,000,000.00 typically. If there is only a very small bodily injury or uninsured motorist amount available, your medical treatment is limited because if you have large medical bills, there will not be enough coverage to compensate you so it is always best to confirm the amount of coverage before you start any medical treatment regiment.
Another factor that goes into determining how much your case could potentially be worth is prior injuries you have sustained. If you are injured in an auto accident but you already suffer from the same injuries either from a prior accident or just general wear and tear on your body over the years, the adjuster will consider this an aggravation of a prior existing medical condition and will argue that the accident did not cause the injury, only aggravated it. In this situation, the insurance company will offer you much less for your claim than they would if you did not have those pre-existing injuries. Each time you are in an accident or file a claim against an insurance company, that information gets entered into a database which all insurance companies have access to and are able to see how many prior accidents you have been involved in and what your injuries were. The adjuster will run your report prior to making any settlement offers and will inform you or your attorney if you have one of their findings and the reason for their low settlement offer. The insurance companies can also sometimes request five years of your prior medical records for review to determine if there are any pre-existing injuries that have not been mentioned in your current medical records.
The extent of your injuries make up a huge factor in determining settlement amounts. If you suffer from minor sprains or strains or a whiplash type of injury resulting in a month or two of physical therapy, the insurance company will offer you a very small nuisance settlement offer. This type of claim is called a soft tissue claim and is generally settled in the range of $1,000.00 - $10,000.00 at the very most. If you sustain any type of spinal injury such as a disc bulge or herniation, these injuries do not respond to chiropractic or physical therapy treatment. This is something an orthopedics surgeon or neurosurgeon would need to evaluate and determine what type of procedure would be best for you. Depending again on the amount of bodily injury or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage available to you, you will likely be recommended for some type of epidural injection procedure or possibly even surgery. If you undergo injections, chances are you will have to continue receiving the injections throughout your lifetime as this is only a temporary pain relief method. These types of claims generally settle in the $15,000.00 - $35,000.00 range. If you have the chance to undergo a necessary surgical procedure to relieve your pain symptoms once and for all and there is enough bodily injury or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to fully compensate you for your damages, you should definitely think long and hard about having the surgery as this could be your only time to get the procedure done. If you do not have the surgery and you settle your claim with the insurance company and a few months or years later your pain increases and you have no choice but to undergo the surgery, you are unable to re-open your claim with the insurance company and you will end up paying out of pocket for any co-pays for your surgery, that is even if your health insurance company approves the surgery cost. If you do have a surgical procedure under your claim, your case will be worth a lot more money, typically $100,000.00 and up, and the insurance company will take into consideration the fact that you had to endure this surgery in order to gain some pain relief.