One of the most common questions lawyers hear is, “How much is my claim worth?”
Statistics show that approximately 20 to 50 million people suffer injuries due to car accidents annually. Many of them have to deal with severe injuries while grappling with the burden of paying their medical bills.
That’s precisely why a victim’s first concern is how much their claim is worth. They need the maximum amount of compensation to cover these medical costs and make up for their other financial losses.
How much money any accident victim can expect to get depends on the situation at hand. Because the settlement amounts for a claim depend so much on the unique facts of a situation, any lawyer who quotes a figure upfront – without first conducting a meticulous investigation of the claim – generally has not done his or her job satisfactorily.
An experienced lawyer must take some important steps first that help them determine the value of the case. Car accident claims are not a walk in the park, and they require an in-depth analysis of the specific facts of a case to arrive at an estimate.
This post will help you understand the factors that affect the value of your claim.
Making a Compensation Estimate
When you suffer injuries and property (vehicle) damage because of another driver’s negligence, you deserve a couple of different varieties of compensation.
Calculating Compensation for Property Damage
First, there’s the property damage claim. Generally, the compensation you should get for property damage after a car accident is either the total cost of car repairs or, if that cost exceeds a certain percentage of the vehicle’s overall worth, the cost of replacing the car at its current market value.
Calculating the value of the damage to the car takes into consideration several crucial details, including:
- The initial value of the vehicle
- Its condition at the time of the accident
- Its depreciated amount
- The mileage
The cost of repairing the vehicle should be specified to the parts that need replacing. This is opposed to giving an average figure for repairing rear-end damages, for example.
Figuring Out the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
Unfortunately, it’s hard to place a monetary value on physical injuries. There’s no clearly defined market value for your damaged body parts or for a type of injury. Your case’s value is influenced by the kind of injuries you sustained and your accident-related medical care expenses.
Your lawyer should also take into consideration the economic impact of the accident. If the accident leaves you incapacitated, leading to a job loss, the value should be higher. The consequences of the injury differ from one person to another, depending on factors like severity, age, impact on life, and prognosis for recovery.
In most cases, more severe injuries receive more weight in the calculations, in part because juries tend to respond more to severe injuries. Even if the case doesn’t go to court, the insurance and your attorney will consider how a jury would respond.
With this in mind, your claim could attract a high settlement if there are visible serious injuries, especially if those injuries require complicated or invasive procedures. The claim’s value goes up further if the injuries leave you with a disability. Once your lawyer has gathered all the required information, they’ll estimate the value of your claim.
If the insurance company agrees to make a fair settlement, your attorney can accept the payment on your behalf. If it proves hard to reach an agreement, you’ll be advised to file a lawsuit.
Other Factors that Affect Compensation
Besides the type of injuries and resulting losses, several other factors come into play in determining your claim’s value.
Your Background and Statements
Your background is vital because, if you have pre-existing injuries, the insurance company may argue that you didn’t actually sustain any injuries in the accident, as you already had been injured before. This matters because, if the accident isn’t what caused the injuries, the at-fault driver’s insurance company isn’t the one responsible for paying.
The statements you present to the insurance company, police officers, and doctors will also affect the strength of your case. It’s, therefore, crucial that your statements are consistent across the board.
The Background and Information of the Driver at Fault
The background of the driver at fault will also be crucial in your case. Taking a look at their past traffic offenses, criminal history, and their condition at the time of the accident is essential. Were they driving under the influence or texting while driving?
Such issues make it less likely that disputes will arise when negotiating a claim and ultimately affect the value of the claim, which is what makes this information so crucial.
Type of Damages
When you suffer harm due to a car accident, you can claim three types of damages. These are economic, non-economic, and in some instances, punitive damages.
Economic damages are quantifiable and measurable. They include medical bills, personal property damage, lost wages, household service costs, and rehabilitative service costs.
Non-economic damages aren’t quantifiable and are more subjective. They refer to pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of companionship.
Punitive damages are awarded only in exceptional cases in which the defendant’s actions were careless beyond what’s commonly seen in claims of negligence. A court may choose to award punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter others from a similar act of exceptional negligence in the future.
How to Maximize Your Compensation
Each claim is unique, and there’s no specific amount you’re supposed to receive after a car accident. However, there are specific actions you can take to improve your chances of seeing maximum compensation. These actions will also go a long way in protecting your legal rights.
Get Medical Assistance
It’s prudent to get medical attention after an accident, even if you don’t think the injuries are severe. A professional healthcare provider will examine the extent of your injuries and check for any hidden damage. Your initial medical examination also serves to document your injuries, which will come in handy if you need to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
It’s vital to collect evidence at the site of the accident to prove your claim. Take pictures or record videos of the accident scene, any physical injuries, road hazards, and traffic lights or signals at the scene. Get the other driver’s information, including the driver’s license number, contact information, and insurance information.
It’ll also be helpful to collect witness contact information if possible. If there’s anyone who witnesses the accident, get their name and contact details.
Mind Your Words
You should take care when communicating with the insurance company. It’s important not to lie, but you also need to be wary of your statements. If your comments seem to indicate that you’re at fault or even that you are “okay” – that is, not severely hurt – the insurance company will capitalize on that statement or sentiment to avoid paying you what you deserve.
Seek Legal Help
Talk to an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident to help with your claim. The attorney will be your point of contact between you and the insurance company. Once they collect all the information required, they’ll fight for you – which frees you to focus on healing and rehabilitation. They’ll also enhance your chances of winning the compensation you deserve.