Personal Injury attorneys get asked about the value of cases often. Due to the number of aspects that can affect a claim’s value, or the insurer’s willingness to make a particular offer, it can be difficult to accurately estimate a claim’s worth. With that said, an experienced personal injury attorney can review several key factors of your case to help set the stage for a successful outcome.
First, the question of liability comes into play. Who’s at fault? If you bear any portion of fault for the accident, you may consider accepting a lower settlement. Your attorney should be able to evaluate liability by reviewing the accident report and police narrative, if one exists. In some instances, there is a shared agreement between the parties involved not to contact police following an accident. Please note that this is not usually advisable. In the absence of a formal accident report, there is no documented proof of liability or guarantee of credible insurance information for a potential claim for damages.
The weather conditions at the time of the accident can also factor into determining liability. For example, if you are in an accident on an icy road in the middle of a snow storm, the insurer could assert that in assuming the risk to drive in such adverse conditions, you bear as much responsibility for the accident as their insured. The insurer could also claim an “act of God” defense, in that no one had control over the conditions of the road and therefore cannot bear responsibility for the accident. In contrast, if you are rear-ended on an overcast, but otherwise uneventful day in July, it is more difficult for an insurance company to assert a weather-related defense. No matter the weather conditions, if you’ve been injured in an accident, it is recommended that you consult with a qualified personal injury attorney to see if you have a potential claim.
Speed and other details specific to the accident must also be considered. An accident occurring at 25 miles per hour can have the potential for a far different outcome, to both property damage and medical injuries, than an accident occurring at 65mph. Whether the at-fault driver violated any laws, such as speeding or traffic signals, also comes into play.
Perhaps most crucial are the injuries sustained. In order for your related injuries to best support your claim, they must be adequately diagnosed and documented in your health care providers’ treatment notes. Severe injuries such as broken bones, or those requiring surgery are sometimes viewed differently by insurers than soft-tissue sprains and strains. The reason, in part, is because the average cost of medical care for soft tissue injuries is less than those for injuries requiring surgery. In addition, the anticipated healing time, future medical costs, and affected activities of daily living are also typically reduced. There are, of course, exceptions to this. If you experience ongoing symptoms related to your accident, be sure to follow up immediately with your medical provider.
In addition to damages for injuries sustained, you can often recover for a loss of wages or earning capacity. If your injuries keep you from earning an income, whether short or long-term, you could be entitled to a recovery of that loss. For those injuries that result in a permanent disability, the settlement value increases.
Another critical aspect of your claim is pain and suffering. A pain and suffering claim is one that factors in the loss of quality of life you’ve suffered as a result of your accident. Being unable to engage in previously enjoyed hobbies, exercise or even routine activities and house or yard work can play a role in supporting a pain and suffering claim. An experienced attorney can be crucial in maximizing your claim.
Another aspect of your claim not to be ignored is policy limits. If the at-fault driver carries a policy with limits set at $50,000, you will not receive more than that, from that insurer. However, your insurance company could potentially compensate you for additional damages through your Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) if the at fault driver’s insurance is determined to be insufficient.
All of those factors are critical, but not exclusive, to determining the value of your case. The attorney and insurance adjusters involved also play a role. The attorney you choose to represent you must be well versed in the laws surrounding personal injury claims and have a desire to fight for what is best for you through negotiations and litigation. Moreover, your attorney’s experience with handling personal injury cases can impact the results of your claim.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact the qualified attorneys of Doar, Drill and Skow. For over 130 years, our attorneys have been helping clients receive just settlements in accident and injury claims.