How Do I Calculate the Settlement of My Case?
While it is difficult to calculate the value of a personal injury case because of the different factors involved, there are ways to estimate what would be a fair settlement to cover your medical expenses.
To calculate your settlement, you must take both economic and non-economic damages into account.
Economic damages include:
• Medical expenses, which includes all of your medical bills if you suffered minor injuries.
• Property damage, which is usually applicable when your injuries are the result of a car accident.
• Lost wages, which occur when you are unable to return to work immediately after an accident.
• Future lost income, which could be the result of ongoing treatment for a serious injury.
• Estimated future medical expenses for serious injuries that require long-term treatment.
If your case is serious enough for an attorney, your personal injury lawyer will be in a position to negotiate an acceptable settlement for you. If you are handling your accident yourself, negotiations are unlikely. During the initial stages of settlement talks, your lawyer will consider how much money would adequately cover economic and other damages before beginning the negotiation process.
If the negotiations are successful, you will lose your right to take any more legal action against the at-fault party, even if medical conditions related to the accident are later found. Most likely, however, your attorney would have negotiated a settlement that would cover unexpected expenses such as those.
General damages can be complicated
General damages, better known as pain and suffering, are higher depending on the seriousness of your injuries. If you suffered paralysis in a car accident in which the other driver was at fault, for example, your damages for pain and suffering would be much higher than if you suffered a broken arm in a fall at a business that failed to put a sign out warning of wet floors.
The way most insurance adjusters calculate special damages is to add up your economic losses and multiply that total by a number ranging between 1.5 for less serious injuries and 4 or 5 for more serious injuries.
While insurance adjusters are likely to attempt to keep that multiplier number low, your attorney will push for a higher number so that you aren’t left with any outlying expenses.
While your attorney may use the multiplier method, he or she may instead compare your case to others in your area, using those settlement figures as a way to determine what your case is worth.
What happens if I was partially responsible for my accident?
If you played even a minor role in your accident – if you were in a crosswalk when the light was red, for example, and were hit by a car – you could see your settlement reduced by a certain percentage or reduced to nothing, no matter the severity of your injuries.
The state in which you reside will determine how much of a role your responsibility will play.
States where settlements are reduced based on the percentage of fault – if you are found to be 25 percent at fault, your compensation will be reduced by that amount – are called Pure Comparative Negligence States, and include Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington.
In Modified Comparative Negligence States, if your fault is determined to be 50 percent or more, you cannot collect damages, although your attorney will argue on your behalf to reduce your level of responsibility. Those states include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
In Contributory Negligence States, you cannot collect damages if you are found to be even 1 percent at fault for the accident. These states include Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.
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