What is my Personal Injury Case Worth?
What insurance coverage is available?
When evaluating a personal injury or car accident claim, the first thing that an attorney must evaluate is the insurance coverage available. Typically, an accident attorney looks for the policy limits of the at fault driver. If the at fault driver has limited insurance coverage or if the policy limits are not enough to cover the injuries, then attorney will determine whether there is underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage available. Underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage provides additional coverage when an at fault driver does not have enough insurance to cover the injuries that he or she caused. In most cases, the injured party will not be able to exceed the policy limits of the insurance coverage because usually an at fault party does not have enough assets or income to collect on a judgment for damages. Additionally, if you were to obtain a judgment against a party without any income or assets, the judgment could simply be discharged in bankruptcy. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule.
Is liability clear?
A car accident claim is comprised of two parts (1) damages and (2) liability. Once you determine the amount of the damages caused by the at fault party, you must then determine whether the liability is clear. Often insurance companies will attempt to attribute fault to the injured party in an attempt to reduce their recovery. For example, if you have $100,000 in damages, but you are found to be 20% at fault, then you would only be able to recover $80,000. However, insurance companies will often attempt to attribute an arbitrary amount of fault to the injured driver. For example, we recently had a case where a major resort dropped a large metal pipe onto a major highway during construction. Our client crashed into the pipe resulting in serious injuries. The insurance company for the resort attempted to attribute 50% liability to our client arguing that she was traveling at an excessive speed and should have been able to stop to avoid the metal pipe. Obviously, this was merely a tactic to attempt to reduce our client’s recovery as the insurance company had no evidence to prove any fault on behalf of our client. However, this is a common tactic by insurance companies to attempt to reduce compensation to the injured parties.
Do you have an attorney representing you?
You should never face the insurance company alone. Documents maintained by some insurance companies provide that insurance companies may adjust their settlement offers based upon the experience and reputation of the attorney. The adjuster for the insurance company only wants to save money for the insurance company. We routinely see that insurance companies will make low-ball offers to the injured parties that are not represented by a lawyer. Even if you do not decide to retain an attorney to represent you, you should always speak to an experienced injury attorney, so that he or she can properly evaluate and value your claim.
Overall Value of Your Claim
When determining the overall value of any personal injury claim, you must determine the overall damages. Typically, your attorney will look at your medical bills, cost of ongoing care, pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of consortium, and any other potential damages that may apply to your specific case. Depending on the type of claim, there may be specific damages that apply. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney may help you avoid leaving thousands of dollars on the table.