How Much is My Car Accident Lawsuit Worth?
If Most Car Accident Lawsuits Settle, then What Determines Settlement Value?
Valuing your lawsuit depends on several factors. There is not a simple rule-of-thumb formula to use to plug in a value of your claim. If your claim goes to trial, it is because we cannot agree with the defense on the value of your claim. In those cases, the value of your claim is determined to be whatever 12 of your peers decide it is worth. However, most cases settle. That means that most of the time we can gather enough evidence to allow both sides to evaluate and agree on a settlement that both parties can accept.
1) Economic Loss
The first things we are going to evaluate are your actual economic damages, or expenses that you have incurred as a result of your car accident. Economic Damages typically include things like:
- Medical Bills: Your Emergency Room visit, the MRI, the X-Ray, the Ambulance ride, the Hospital, the Chiropractor, the Physical Therapists, the Pharmacist; they all have individual bills that are being directed towards you for payment. Even if you have heath insurance that pays your medical bills for you, they are going to want to be paid back if your medical treatment needed because of another driver's negligence. You are therefore entitled to recover either the amount of your medical bills, or at least the amount of reimbursement your health insurance company will ask for.
- Property Damage: Often times your property damage is satisfied outside or your lawsuit, and handled as a normal damage claim. However, if there is a dispute regarding who's fault the accident was, the other driver's insurance company may not agree to repair your car until after you prove that the accident was not your fault. If you have insurance, you might have better luck calling your insurance company and seeing if they can help you, rather than wait on a lawsuit to repair your car. If your having trouble getting your vehicle repaired, then you can certainly include that economic loss in your lawsuit.
- Lost Wages: Many people are cause to miss time from work because of the injuries they suffer in a car wreck. You are entitled to recover any wages you lose as a result of injuries suffered in a car wreck. You should make sure that your employer knows about your car wreck, especially if it is causing you to miss time from work. If you doctor does not think you should work, you should try and make sure your doctor puts that into writing so there is a record. If you have suffered a permanent disability that will affect your employment for the rest of your life, then you are entitled to lost future wages also.
2) Pain and Suffering | Emotional Distress | Mental Anguish
Pain and Suffering is harder to pin down than Economic Loss. With your economic damages, we add it up, and then argue about who's math we use. Pain and Suffering is not as easy to agree on. Particularly because it is different for everyone. A professional NFL Football player may be in a car accident and walk away with minor cuts and bruises. Whereas, a 62 year old Widow who left work early to get home in time to shower beore choir practice might be in the same car accident as the Football player, but end up very badly hurt.
Nobody suffers your injury but you. And nobody suffers it in the way you do but you. If we could jump inside your head and feel what you feel, then we could get a very clear idea of what you're dealing with, but, we cannot. So we have to look to evidence to show your pain and suffering. Evidence of Pain and Suffering is typically composed from the following sources:
- Your Testimony: You are the best source of information about your experiences. You can tell the jury better than anyone what it has been like for you since you were involved in a car accident. It's not a bad idea to keep a journal of your activities to help you remember everything that you have been through. If you do that, keep in mind that the defense will likely get to see it. They will certainly get to see it if you use it to refresh you memory when you testify. That's OK. Trials in America are fair. Just keep that in mind when you are writing in your journal. It isn't a private place for your inner personal thoughts.
- Your Medical Records: Medical records are an excellent source of evidence to show the nature and extent of your pain and suffering. It is used to either support or discredit your testimony. If you say you were in pain for six months, and your medical records agree that you received treatment for six months, then they support your testimony. If you say you had back pain, and your medical records reveal a bulging disc in your back, then your records have supported your testimony.
- Doctor Testimony: It is very common that we schedule a time to ask your doctor about your medical treatment, and whether he or she agrees that you suffered they type of injury that is usually associated with complaints of pain and suffering. If the doctor agrees that a bulging disc in the back is usually painful, then the doctor's testimony has supported your testimony.
- Other Witnesses: Your friends and family who know you and are familiar with you can testify to the changes in your ability or behavior that they have witnessed. Your spouse or immediate family can often times provide very useful testimony of witnessing your inability to do the things that you once were able to do prior to your injury.
Policy Limits Can Put a Cap on Your Settlement Value
At the end of all of the analysis, you can usually only recover from the insurance company and amount equal to, or lesser than the policy limits. In theory, you can recover from the driver individually, but most of us don't have much money saved up. Most of us are in debt. Most of us don't have any assets to recover. For that reason, we are typically stuck with the insurance policy limits. On top of that, those among us who do have assets have more coverage in their insurance policies. So, again, we are usually stuck with the policy limits.
The minimum policy in Alabama provides for $25,000 per individual, and $50,000 total if more than one person is injured. This is a strong contributing factor to the fact that most car accident claims settle. If there is only $25,000 available, and medical expenses total $100,000, then there isn't a whole lot to argue about. The full policy gets paid, and we then go to work on negotiating how much you get to keep, and how much goes to pay the doctors and hosptitals, because there isn't enough money to go around for everyone.
The good news is that there are laws in place that keep the hospitals from taking all of your settlement, even when it is less than the amount owed in medical expenses. A lawyer will help you with that negotiation process, so that you keep as much of the policy limit recovery as possible. A lawyer will also help you determine what the policy limits are. The at-fault driver's insurance company does not always want to tell you what they are. Sometimes you need a lawyer to help you make them tell you.
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Free Initial Strategy Session
All Initial Strategy Sessions are Free. If you would like to discuss your options, you are invited to fill out one of the Contact Forms. I will attempt to contact you if I think I can help you.
During your Initial Strategy Session, I will asist you in creating a strategy on how to best pursue your claim, whether it be the result of a Car Accident Claim, 18 Wheeler Injury, or, Alabama Workers' Compensation Claim. At your Initial Strategy Session, you will receive the following:
- First - I will listen to your story. You will have a chance to tell everything to someone who wants to hear what happened to you.
- Based on the information that you provide, I will give you my best advice on both what claims you have, and the next steps you should consider to proceed with your claim(s).
- If your claim is something that I think I can help you with, I will explain the services that I can provide for you, and what the next steps are that we should take. We will start working immediately.
- If your matter is something that I do not think I can help you with, then I will attempt to put you in contact with another lawyer that might be able to help you.
- Either way, what should happen is we will put to rest some of the unkowns that you may be experiencing. We will start to shed some light on what you can expect, and how to best pursue the benefits you deserve.
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