What Determines the Value of Your Injury Claim
There are three important factors that establish how much your personal injury case is worth. My name is Matt Powell and I am a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer by the Florida Bar. I have helped car accident victims since 1987 years. I like to compare the three factors of injury claims to a three-legged stool.
If any one of the three legs is missing, you don’t have a stool. It’s the same with a claim: if one of the three factors is missing, you don’t have a claim. The three factors you need to determine how much your personal injury case is worth are:
- Insurance Coverage
Video About How Much Your Personal Injury Case is Worth:
Here’s the Deal: Liability is Important
The first factor is liability which is a fancy word for fault. In other words, whose fault was the accident? If you are involved in an accident that is 100% someone else’s fault, the value of your injury claim is strong and increases. If the liability or fault is weak or, in other words, if the accident is 100% your fault, then your claim is likely worth nothing.
Let’s say the accident is half your fault and half someone else’s fault, then your case is worth 50% of the full value of your damages because of your “comparative negligence.” Florida is a pure “comparative negligence” state which, means the courts ask a jury to award you 100%, or the full value of your damages. Then the jury is asked to determine your percentage of fault if any. So if you were partially at fault, the judge will reduce your recovery by your percentage of fault.
What if the accident was partially my fault?
Even if you are partially at fault in an accident, you may still be able to make a recovery. However, how much your personal injury case is worth will generally be reduced by your percentage of fault. This is why the insurance companies want to take recorded statements from you. They hope you will say something (even if you are wrong) so they can place some blame on you for the accident. They do this in an effort to save the insurance company money.
Recorded Statements are Used to Trick You to Save the Insurance Company Money!
The insurance companies want you to make recorded statements. So they train their claims adjusters on how to get the most concessions from you to reduce your claim. For a simple example, in most car crash claims, the insurance company wants you to tell them how fast you think someone was driving. They hope you don’t really know and want you to guess the other person’s speed. This is how insurance companies try to make you look like a liar: they make you guess at information and when your guess turns out to be incorrect, they call you a liar. They will try to make you look like you are a person who exaggerates.
Also, they try to make you admit the accident was partially your fault in some way. Or they may ask you questions about witnesses, or evidence, which you may not know about at the time they ask you. Then, months or years later, they ask the same questions, and if you happen to know the answer, they will say you are making it up to get more money since you didn’t know before. This is all done to decrease how much your personal injury case is worth.
Beware of Telling the Other Driver’s Insurance Company About Injuries
Another big problem with giving someone a recorded statement is they will ask you about your injuries. This sounds like a simple, straightforward question. But it’s a trick. If you don’t tell them about an injury that turns out to be a serious injury later on, then they will suggest you are lying to increase the value of your claim. The insurance company will suggest since you did not complain about the injury right after the accident, that the injury happened from something else – not the car accident.
Most of all, insurance companies use recorded statements to reduce the value of your claim to save money. Be careful and consult with an experienced personal injury attorney first. Remember, they want to destroy how much your personal injury case is worth.
How Damages Increase How Much Your Personal Injury Case is Worth:
The second factor or leg affecting the value of your personal injury is the severity of damages. There are some accidents where no one gets hurt. While there are other accidents where people are severely injured or killed. Either way, the law says if you are injured by someone else’s negligence, then you have the right to be put back into the same place or condition you were in before the accident.
Therefore, no injuries mean no losses. So no damages mean no added value to the claim. But big damages means it will take a lot of money to fix what can be fixed. It will require a lot of money to help what can be helped. More money is the only lawful way to make up for what can’t be fixed or helped. This is why the extent of the damages or injuries determines how much your personal injury case is worth.
Causation of the Injuries is Key
Another part of damages is what injuries were caused by the accident. The key word here is injuries *caused* by the accident. Causation is, in many cases, the place where insurance companies really dig in and fight you. Insurance companies love when a person doesn’t go to the hospital or see a doctor right away after an accident. Because any delay in treatment creates doubt as to what really caused your injuries.
If you didn’t go to the doctor or seek medical treatment soon after your accident, then you won’t have documentation showing your injuries happened right after the accident. And every hour, every day, and every week you don’t see a doctor will decrease the value of your case. Because it makes it easier for the insurance company to suggest your injuries were not caused by the accident. They will say something else happened to you after the accident and you are just blaming the accident for your injuries.
What if you have pre-existing injuries (which almost everyone does)?
Any delay in seeing a doctor will greatly undermine the value of your injury case. Why? Because the insurance company will say since you had a problem before, and you did not go to a doctor quickly, then the accident didn’t cause the complaints: it’s just old stuff you are trying to blame on this accident. Insurance companies will say the accident didn’t make your pre-existing injury worse. Because if you were hurt, you would have gone to the doctor or hospital right away.
What if you didn’t see a doctor right away? Does this kill your injury claim?
The answer is it might, but probably not. There have been many cases where my client thought they were okay after an accident. My client thought, “Hey, I don’t want to make a big deal about this. I think I will feel better tomorrow.” They truly felt like it was no big deal. But unfortunately, later on, their injuries were very serious. When this happens, it takes more skill and effort to convince the insurance company or a jury that my clients’ injuries were caused by this accident – not something else.
Types of Damages to Consider:
There are several types of damages to consider when trying to figure out the value of an injury claim:
- What are the past medical bills?
- Will any future treatments be needed to help the person?
- Did they get surgery or will they need surgery?
- How much will all of this cost?
- Did they miss any work? How much?
- How much work or income will they miss in the future?
- Have the injuries caused inconvenience to you or your family? If so, how?
- If there is a wrongful death, what are the emotional losses to the family?
- What are the financial consequences of the death?
All of these factors play an important role in the value of an injury case.
But Here’s the Catch: Is there Insurance?
The third and final factor or leg of the stool is how much insurance coverage is available to compensate you for your damages? If a large corporation owned the vehicle that hit you or if the bad driver carried adequate insurance, then there may be enough insurance to pay you for all of your losses, injuries, and damages. So, as long as the other driver has adequate insurance, the value of your claim is protected.
But in some cases, the at-fault person may have no insurance at all. Or they may only have the minimum amount of insurance which is not enough to fully compensate you for your losses. When this happens, you may make a recovery, but not a full recovery. Your recovery might be limited to the at fault person’s insurance policy limits.
What if the driver who hit me doesn’t have insurance?
If your accident was caused by an uninsured person, you may never recover a penny. If you were badly injured by tripping in a friend’s apartment, and your friend didn’t have any liability insurance, you may not be able to make a recovery.
The bottom line is that you may have a case where the fault is clear, and the damages are huge, but the lack of insurance or collectibility may prevent you from recovering any money.
That’s Not All: Big Insurance Doesn’t Mean Big Claim
UM or uninsured motorist insurance coverage is extremely important. It protects you if you are in an accident caused by someone who doesn’t carry insurance or who doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay your claim in full. If the insurance coverage available in your claim is low, then the value of your claim is low. Even if there are severe injuries and clear liability.
Why doesn’t a big insurance policy make my claim more valuable?
If you were injured by a huge corporation that has millions of dollars in insurance and assets, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a big case. Remember, insurance is just one leg of the stool. The severity of damages you sustained and clear liability is equally as important. Many people ask me if they have a big case when the at-fault company has tons of insurance. But the person has little or no injury. So I tell them they are fortunate they are okay and don’t have big injuries. The fact that there is plenty of coverage does not increase how much your personal injury case is worth.
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Find Out How Much Your Personal Injury Case is Worth
Ultimately, how much your personal injury case is worth is a combination of these three important factors: liability, damages, and insurance. An experienced personal injury trial lawyer can estimate the true value of your claim. I fully explore any and all insurance that may be available to help compensate my clients for their losses. I also investigate as soon as possible to check if any other parties may be responsible for the accident.
What if I have catastrophic injuries? How do you handle them differently?
In catastrophic cases, I often hire experts who help us quantify and explain the huge financial losses caused by accidents. These result in people’s inability to return to work and ongoing future medical treatment. It’s important to hire an experienced accident attorney who has the financial resources to hire the necessary experts to prove the damages of your case to both the insurance company and a jury.
I work quickly to help gather any evidence that may be useful to prove the fault of the accident. Things like eye witnesses can be lost. Or important surveillance videos might be important to obtain to prove liability. Making sure you receive quality medical care that is appropriate for your injuries is extremely important as well.
One big factor in the value of your case will be the quality and experience of your attorney and how quickly you get good legal advice. It is much easier to avoid a problem by having good legal advice early than it is for your attorney to fix problems later on.
In conclusion, every case is unique and if you have any other questions about how much your personal injury case is worth, please call me, Matt Powell, at 813-222-2222. I would be glad to answer all of your questions.