Frequently Asked Questions - How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Calculate Settlement?
Every single personal injury claim is different. There are rarely two cases that are exactly the same as you and everyone else have their own background and medical history. Just as the insurance companies evaluate claims to pay out the least amount of money, personal injury attorneys work with their clients to get them the best settlement possible for their pain and suffering. If you have been involved in an auto accident or a slip and fall, it will probably be in your best interest to hire an experienced personal injury attorney from the beginning so you are not missing out on important benefits that you could be entitled to. After an auto accident, you only have fourteen days from the date of the accident to seek medical treatment from a licensed physician. If you do not treat within those fourteen days, the insurance company has a right to only pay $2,500.00 towards your personal injury protection benefits instead of your entire $10,000.00, which can come into play once your attorney is trying to settle your claim. There are several different scenarios that could cost you in the long run or substantially decrease the amount of your settlement offer so hiring a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident is really in your best interest.
The first thing that a personal injury attorney is going to do after you have hired them to work on your injury claim is obtain any and all applicable insurance limits. In the State of Florida, you are not required to purchase bodily injury coverage on your insurance policy as you are in most other states. Bodily injury coverage is the portion of the at fault insurance policy which you sue for injuries and pain and suffering when you are injured in an auto accident. If you were involved in a slip and fall in a store or a restaurant, chances of there being a very large bodily injury policy is high since stores and restaurants want to protect their assets as much as possible. Usually chain restaurants and stores have a minimum of $1,000,000.00 in bodily injury coverage. If you are involved in an auto accident, your attorney will need to verify the amount of bodily injury coverage available to you. If the at fault vehicle does not have any bodily injury coverage or only a minimal bodily injury policy, you can then turn to your own insurance company to check if you carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage which will then afford coverage to you under those circumstances. The amount of the available insurance coverages is the first indication of how much your claim can potentially settle for and your attorney will discuss this coverage with you at the beginning of your claim.
An experienced personal injury attorney will monitor your claim throughout the treatment process. They will make sure you are being treated by the correct doctors for your injuries and that you are undergoing all necessary testing to rule out any abnormal pathology. Usually the first test you will be referred for by your physician is an MRI. MRIs are able to show any internal damage or spinal damage. If you do have an abnormal MRI result, your attorney will discuss this with you once they have had a chance to review the MRI report. Usually by this time, your physician will have already referred you to a spinal specialist such as an orthopedic doctor or neurosurgeon. If your surgeon opines that you will require surgery, you should always think long and hard about undergoing this surgery as if you choose not to have surgery and you settle your claim, you are forever bared from re-opening your claim and suing the insurance company or their insured ever again. If you do undergo surgery for your claim, this significantly increases your settlement amount, provided that you do not have an pre-existing injuries to the same area. If you do have pre-existing injuries for the same body part which required surgery for this accident, the insurance company will do their best to claim that you did not sustain the injury from this accident, that it only aggravated a pre-existing injury, and will offer a much smaller settlement amount. If this happens, your attorney will likely discuss with you the option of filing a lawsuit against the insurance company. You have the choice to settle your claim for the highest offer the insurance company is making, but it is probably a much smaller offer given the circumstances and the insurance company’s stance on the pre-existing injury and you will end up with a much smaller amount in your pocket for your pain and suffering. If your attorney believes you could win your lawsuit, they will go over your options with you, but it will be your decision on which route to go.
If you were involved in an auto accident with minimal property damage, insurance companies take this into account when making their settlement offer, no matter what injuries you sustained. If your vehicle sustained only scratches or minor dents, the adjuster would argue that the impact was nowhere near strong enough to cause the injuries you are claiming. Before undergoing any type of surgical procedures, your attorney will discuss with you the possible argument from the insurance company regarding your property damage. An experienced attorney will anticipate all responses from the insurance adjuster given the facts and circumstances surrounding your case and will discuss this with you so that you can be prepared for a possible lawsuit. If the insurance company does make the argument regarding the minimal property damage, your attorney will take all factors surrounding the claim, your injuries and your treatment into consideration, discuss with you and the two of you will come up with a plan to move your claim forward. Your attorney will realistically inform you of what they think the value of your claim is and you can decide if filing a lawsuit is best for you or if it would be better to settle the claim at that point.