Most people cannot afford to miss a single paycheck, so when they’re sidelined from work with a serious injury, it doesn’t take long to fall behind on essential bills. This is especially true if they’re having to pay deductibles and copays for immediate medical care. If you’ve suffered a personal injury and are now facing the possibility of severe debt or even bankruptcy, you’re probably wondering how much your claim might be worth.
Because every case is unique and settlement figures can vary dramatically, there’s no way to approximate a fair settlement amount until a thorough investigation has been conducted; however, you might be able to get a rough idea about the potential value of your case by learning the factors that influence settlement calculations. Such factors include:
- The Severity of Your Injuries: Naturally, more severe injuries tend to result in higher medical bills. Injuries that cause scarring, disfigurement, or permanent disabilities may warrant more compensation for non-economic damages. Because the severity of your injuries will play a big role in determining the total damages, it may be wise not to accept a settlement until you’ve reached maximum medical improvement. This will reduce the risk of underestimating the cost of necessary medical care.
- The Duration of Your Recovery: Because lost wages are a recoverable damage, the amount of work you miss could have a major impact on the settlement calculations. And if your injuries are so severe that you’re unable to return to work again, your probable career trajectory may also affect the financial award since you might be entitled to compensation for loss of future earnings.
- The Extent of Any Property Damage: Many personal injury victims also incur expenses to repair or replace damaged property. For example, if you were hurt in a motor-vehicle collision that a negligent driver caused, you have the right to pursue compensation for property damage.
- The Total Available Insurance Coverage: Financial recoveries in most personal injury cases don’t exceed the available insurance coverage since defendants usually don’t have the financial means to pay for damages out of pocket. While there are exceptions to this generalization that an attorney can help you explore, it’s possible for a defendant’s insurance limits to affect a claimant’s net recovery.
- Any Applicable Damage Caps: Some states have statutory caps on certain types of damages. For example, California does not allow victims of medical malpractice to recover more than $250,000 in non-economic damages.
- Your Own Percentage of Fault: There are countless causes of personal injury, and in some cases, the plaintiff can be held partially liable. California follows a pure comparative negligence system, which means plaintiffs in personal injury cases can only recover compensation for the damages for which they are not responsible. In other words, the final settlement or verdict can be reduced by your own percentage of fault. To protect your claim, you should avoid admitting fault, and make a concerted effort to mitigate your damages by following your doctor’s orders.
- Whether You’re Entitled to a Punitive Award: In California, plaintiffs in personal injury cases may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages if the liable party’s conduct constituted malice, fraud, or oppression. If you’re going up against a government entity, though, you won’t be able to recover a punitive award regardless of the circumstances.
What Steps Can I Take to Strengthen My Claim?
There are steps you can take from day one that may increase the chances of your personal injury claim resulting in a fair settlement. For example, before even leaving the scene, you should:
- Photograph the hazard that caused the accident from all angles;
- Obtain the names and phone numbers of any eyewitnesses;
- Ask for a copy of the official police report and/or incident report; and
- Accept care from first responders and follow up with a doctor after you leave.
What you don’t do after an accident can also affect the outcome of your case. For example, don’t apologize or accept any degree of fault. Determining fault after an accident is complicated and may require an extensive investigation and input from an accident reconstruction expert. As such, it’s wise to avoid admitting fault no matter the circumstances.
Over the days and weeks that follow the incident, you can take the following steps to strengthen your case:
- Follow all doctor’s orders;
- Avoid posting about the accident or your injuries on social media;
- Start a personal injury journal in which you write daily entries about the recovery process;
- Track all costs associated with treating your injuries; and
- Photograph the progression of any visible wounds, scarring, or disfigurement.
It’s also wise to call an attorney right away. Your attorney can:
- Interview eyewitnesses and first responders;
- Consult with accident reconstruction experts;
- Apply legal pressure as needed to obtain otherwise inaccessible evidence;
- Estimate a reasonable figure for all non-economic damages;
- Handle all correspondence with the opposing party;
- Prevent the insurance adjuster from manipulating you into accepting an unfair settlement;
- Handle settlement negotiations; and
- Prepare the case for court if the opposing party is uncooperative.
The longer you wait to speak to a lawyer, the more likely you may be to make a costly mistake that jeopardizes your personal injury case. From day one, your attorney can help you avoid critical oversights, gather time-sensitive evidence, and manage all dialogue with the insurance company.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were hurt in some kind of preventable accident, you may be entitled to compensation for all resulting damages. To determine if you have grounds for a claim, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks.
From the moment you call our office to the day your case is resolved, we will devote the time and resources needed to pursue the highest compensation possible. You will have a direct line of contact to attorney Michael D. Waks every step of the way. Call (562) 206-1939 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Long Beach.
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