How Can I Maximize My Personal Injury Claim?
Money can’t replace the safety and security you’ve lost when involved in a car accident, but it can ease the stress of putting your life back together. So if you’re wondering how you can maximize your personal injury claim, you’ve come to the right place.
Many accident victims don’t realize they’re leaving money on the table when they accept fast, small settlement offers. That’s because insurance companies bend over backward to save themselves money. They’re in business to make a profit, not help you!
On this page, we’ll answer some common questions about maximizing personal injury settlements. Please contact Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers for a consultation about your specific situation, but in the meantime here is some important information that may benefit your personal injury traffic accident claim.
Why is it Difficult to Calculate Car Accident Compensation?
Your car accident is a very personal trauma. Nobody can understand exactly what you went through or what you’re still going through today. The pain, the frustration, and the confusion can feel like too much to handle.
That’s why it almost seems a bit cruel or insensitive to put a dollar amount on all of it. But that’s exactly what needs to be done in every single California car accident compensation claim. Without that dollar figure, there’s no way for you to be reimbursed for your losses or compensated for your suffering.
Most people don’t understand the complexities of filing a personal injury car accident claim to receive compensation in California. You might assume that you simply need to submit your hospital bills and a car repair estimate from a garage.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The legal process for accident compensation can be complex, especially if you’ve been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident or a delivery truck accident. These accidents have multiple people, businesses, and insurance companies involved.
In most California road accident cases, you can seek reimbursement for:
- Lost wages including future earnings
- Pain and suffering including physical pain, depression, grief, and anxiety
- Inability to do your household chores and responsibilities
- Loss of physical intimacy and increased stress
But that’s not all. In California, there are no hard and fast rules for calculating compensation regarding your pain and suffering after a car accident. That’s why accident claims can get so messy so quickly. You’ll quickly discover you need an attorney experienced in personal injury law to help you maximize your California car accident compensation.
How Do I Start a Car Accident Compensation Claim?
When it comes to getting the money you deserve after being injured in a car crash, you don’t have to struggle alone. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers we’re here to help, every step of the way.
We’ve created this online resource to help you understand your rights and obligations after a car accident in California. Here are a few important things you must keep in mind.
First, make sure you don’t miss the deadline. California law only allows victims two years to file a claim for financial compensation after an accident. You have even less time if you are seeking car accident compensation from a governmental entity or organization. This is the statute of limitations of your case.
You can handle all the aspects of your claim without a lawyer, but it’s risky to do it on your own. You may miss a vital opportunity to do something in your own best interests, or you might accidentally do something that ruins your whole case. The things you do and say after your accident can dramatically reduce the total compensation package you’re offered.
Plus, a lawyer will help you understand the finer points of the law. For example, did you know that you may be entitled to compensation even if your actions contributed to the accident? An insurance company may pressure you to believe this isn’t true, but your lawyer knows the truth!
Another important point is that insurance payouts represent only a portion of the car accident compensation you may deserve. Let’s dig into California car accident compensation a little deeper so you have all the information you need to decide what your next step should be.
What Damages Could I Win?
Now let’s look at the types of damages you can include in a California car accident compensation claim. You’ll almost always have the “big three” damages: medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering damages.
There are also additional financial damages you may be able to collect from insurers – yours and the other driver’s – and money you can gain from the at-fault parties or even government entities such as the DOT or the City of California.
Generally speaking, you can seek:
- The cost of repairing or replacing your car
- The cost of repairing or replacing any other personal property damaged in the crash like cellphones, sunglasses, clothing, and even pets
- Car rental fees, if they’re not covered by your own insurance policy
- Out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the accident such as Uber or Lyft rides to the police station or towing charges
Keep in mind that claims seeking these sorts of damages are generally processed quickly, without the need for legal assistance. Insurance companies will typically investigate the crash and cut a check within days. But think it through before you accept that check because it likely ends your opportunity to seek additional damages later.
It’s not so difficult to handle a minor, injury-free accident quickly on your own. However, complex crashes require complex solutions. If you’ve been seriously injured or if the amount offered to you isn’t enough, you may need to take things to the next level.
The amount you may actually deserve may shock you. For example, the team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers secured a car accident compensation settlement of over $57,000 for an individual who suffered soft tissue injuries and a dislocated joint. An insurance company might initially offer less than $10,000 for an injury like this, just to see if you’ll take it.
What are Damages and How Do They Work?
The total financial award offered to accident victims is often divided into two parts: compensatory damages and general damages. Let’s look at each of these components of your California car accident compensation package.
Compensatory Damages reimburse you for the direct monetary costs associated with your accident. These costs could be those incurred immediately, such as the bill for repairing your car, or they could be long-term financial effects like ongoing physical therapy.
You may collect compensatory damages for:
- Past, present, and future hospital bills
- Any other medical expense incurred because of the crash
- Property losses
You could also be entitled to compensation for lost wages after a car accident. But that amount isn’t limited to just the actual dollar figure you lost due to missed days. California law allows victims to seek reimbursement for the financial impact on all future earnings as well.
For example, consider a career musician who injures their hand in a car crash. Due to the accident, they risk significantly decreased future earnings because of their inability to play. This person may have a strong case for reimbursement of lost future earnings.
Now let’s look at general damages. This is a blanket term that encompasses what most people know as “pain and suffering.” These actual costs are much harder to assess and are necessarily calculated on a case-by-case basis.
Under California law, victims can seek compensation for general damages including:
- Physical pain, both now and in the future
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- The mental impact of bodily disfigurement
- Physical impairment
- The inconvenience imposed upon them
- The strain on spousal relationships
- Emotional distress like grief, anxiety, and humiliation
To maximize intangible expenses integrated into your total car accident compensation, it may be necessary to call in expert witnesses. Medical and mental health professionals may need to testify to the long-term effects of your physical and emotional trauma.
Why Isn’t an Insurance Settlement Enough to Compensate Me?
Your insurance coverage has a policy cap that serves as the maximum you’ll be able to get from your insurance company. However, that might not be enough to compensate you for all of your hardships – emotional, physical, and financial.
In addition to insurance companies, victims often need to seek compensation from:
- Negligent drivers, in addition to their insurance companies
- The owner of the vehicle involved in the crash, if not the driver
- At-fault drivers’ employers who may be liable for employees’ actions
- Mechanics, if the accident was caused at least in part by faulty workmanship
- Government entities, such as the state of California, that maintain the road and are supposed to fix hazards
- Auto manufacturers, in the case of defective parts or recalls
- Your insurance policy’s uninsured or underinsured insurance coverage
As you can see, calculating a personal injury claim isn’t an easy thing to do. But, as the victim, you never want to be under-compensated. Let’s look at several things you can do to maximize your potential payout and safeguard your financial future.
Tips to Help You Maximize Your Personal Injury Claim
At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, our goal is to work in your best interests and give you the best shot at maximum compensation. Here are some tips we typically share with our clients for strengthening personal injury claims.
#1: Collect, Preserve, and Present Evidence to Support Your Claim
The best way to be successful in pursuing a claim for damages after a car accident is to preserve evidence so you have a have a mountain of evidence in your favor. You can take it upon yourself to collect evidence at the scene of the crash and in the days and weeks afterward – but it’s very time-consuming.
Alternatively, your California car accident attorney can use their team of investigators who know exactly what you need and how to get it. While you rest and recover, your legal team is gathering evidence to support your case.
- Police reports
- Emergency room or doctors’ documentation like x-rays and ultrasounds
- Eyewitness testimony
- Photos of the accident scene
- Photos of your injuries immediately after the accident and as your injuries heal.
- Contact information for all other parties involved, including name, phone number, and insurance company
- Employment records documenting your absences and the wages you would have earned had you been at work
Keep in mind that your priority should always be your health. Never put off medical treatment because you think you can’t afford it. Your medical evidence is a key part of a successful claim.
#2 Get Medical Treatment
Even if you think you don’t need it, seek medical treatment and go to the hospital for emergency care. The examinations and treatment you’ll receive at the ER not only help you heal faster but they are the only way you can accurately document the damage that your car accident caused.
Your medical record is the single most powerful piece of evidence in your arsenal when arguing the merits of your personal injury claim in California. You can record all the personal testimony and snap all the selfies you like, but without actual doctor’s reports, it will be hard to put a real dollar figure on your injuries.
If you’re worried about paying for these medical services, don’t be. In the majority of car crashes here in California, your medical expenses will be reimbursed by your insurance company or that of the at-fault driver.
#3: Don’t Take the First Offer
Patience pays off! It may seem impossible to bide your time and wait for an adequate insurance payout when you’re recovering from an accident, but it’s worth it. Even as you’re in serious pain, racking up monumental medical expenses, and missing work, try to be patient.
It’s tempting to take the first offer and call the whole thing done. But if you do that, you’re likely not getting all the compensation you deserve.
Look at the numbers. A single emergency room visit here in California can cost, on average, more than $3,000 and a single day of inpatient care can cost far more. That doesn’t even take into account any long-term care.
Plus, you have the value of your missed work, which could be worth thousands of dollars, and your expensive car repairs. And let’s not forget about the aspect of your ongoing trauma and mental health struggles! This all adds up to tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.
It may seem terrible, but insurance companies are hoping they don’t have to pay you this money. They’re counting on your eagerness to get a check that’s fast rather than fair. They want you to accept that first offer because fast offers tend to be good for them and bad for you.
#4: Don’t Forget the Long Term Impacts of a Car Accident
Remember to place a value on your ongoing costs like follow-up visits, physical therapy, decreased productivity at work, emotional trauma, and so much more. Under California law, you can be compensated for these damages.
In fact, in cases of serious injury, permanent disability, or decreased ability, future damages may make up the majority of your insurance claim. Your lawyer can help you understand how to make a strong case for these long-term damages.
Consider this: You’re in a car accident and your injuries leave you with chronic joint pain. That means you can’t work as hard as you could before. Even if you keep your old job, you’re likely looking at decreased earning potential over the years based on your decreased ability level.
This is an example that shows why it’s essential that you consult with medical, legal, and employment specialists who can help estimate the total financial expenses associated with your injuries. These specialists can help you see beyond your immediate medical bills.
#5: Build an Ironclad Case
In a judicial system where a case can be won or lost based on whether or not you filed the right paperwork in a timely fashion, you need to build your personal injury case methodically. Even if your case never goes to trial – and the vast majority of personal injury cases don’t – you always need to prepare as if it will.
Routine case tasks include:
- Serving discovery demands
- Collecting depositions from involved parties and witnesses
- Requesting records from multiple parties including your medical providers and insurance company
- Collecting expert opinions from multiple medical specialists including mental health professionals
- Filing all the correct paperwork with all the correct offices, without missing deadlines
As you can see, building a case for compensation is not as simple as filling out some insurance forms. For that reason alone, many victims of car accidents here in California choose to work with personal injury attorneys. They can get the professional help and legal advice working with a law firm without having to do much of the heavy lifting themselves.
#6: Act As Soon As Possible
Speed matters in these cases. The sooner you get started, the sooner the process will reach an endpoint. Plus, you want to allow yourself all the time you’ll possibly need to gather evidence and make your case before the legal deadline expires.
While simple insurance payouts for minor injuries and small amounts of property damage can be processed in days or weeks, major cases involving extensive injuries can take months or years. The last thing you want to do is prolong the recovery process any longer than necessary.
- Here are some timing considerations to keep in mind:
- Under California law, you only have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a compensation claim in court. Waiting longer will negate your right to seek monetary damages.
- Cases against government entities often have shorter deadlines, like 1 year.
- As time passes, evidence becomes harder to find. Eyewitnesses forget things. Pictures, videos, and documentation go missing. Crucial details are lost.
- If you wait too long to seek compensation, the at-fault party, insurance company, or lawyer may argue you don’t actually need the money because you’ve already been coping without it.
#7: Keep Your Case to Yourself
It’s normal to want to share the details of your accident online with friends and family. But when you’re fighting to maximize your personal injury claim, the last thing you need is for your own words to undermine your efforts.
That’s why we always recommend that clients stay away from social media after an accident. Small things you say now could come back to haunt you later.
The representatives of the at-fault party will have access to anything you post on social media. That includes pictures, videos, and any facts or opinions you post. Even something as innocent as posting a picture of yourself smiling at a family birthday party after your accident can be used against you as if to say, “See? She sure looks fine in this photo!”
So when in doubt, stay silent online. Ask your lawyer before you post anything and alert them to any posts you’ve already made.
What Can Negatively Affect My Compensation Claim?
Many things can reduce the total accident compensation you may be entitled to. These include:
- Pre-existing injuries and conditions
- DUI/DWI charges or other citations issued to you
- Statements you made to other involved parties, including insurance adjusters
- Insurance policy limits
Pre-existing conditions make personal injury claims more complex, but they don’t eliminate your ability to collect compensation. If you’re claiming they worsened as a result of the crash, you are entitled to the amount they were worsened and will need medical experts to help prove this.
How Much Will My Compensation Package Be?
California Car accident compensation payouts range from a few hundred dollars to multi-million dollar settlements. The sad part is that the vast majority of victims settle for a lot less than they could potentially have been awarded simply because they don’t hire the right attorney to fight for their rights.
The total amount you’re likely to be awarded depends greatly on the details of your car accident and what kind of evidence you can gather. The skill of your car accident attorney comes into play here as well, because a good attorney can find ways to strengthen your case and skillfully negotiate with the other side.
At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, our experience allows us to assess the true cost of your car accident and maximize your compensation. We care about getting you an amount that is full, fair, and places a high value on the quality of your life.
We Handle Your Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
After a personal injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including many kinds of personal injuries. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.