Personal Injury Settlements FAQ
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It's almost always in the best interest of the insurance company to settle out of court. They arrive at the value of an insurance settlement in several ways, including by:
- Collecting Statements from the Insured: An insurer can be expected to try to uncover evidence and statements about the accident that may minimize or jeopardize your claim.
- Investigating the Victim: Any information you volunteer could be used against you to try to lower your final settlement amount.
- Requesting Documented Proof of Injury/Loss: An insurance company will require clear evidence of expenses and damages before agreeing to a settlement.
The insurance adjuster will enter whatever information they are able to gather into their actuarial claims software, which generates a settlement offer. The first settlement offer will likely be much less than the predicted total value of your case.
In a typical personal injury case, both parties to the accident would prefer to avoid the uncertainty of a trial. The injured party may be financially motivated to finalize a settlement quickly, while the party accused of negligence is often particularly motivated to avoid negative publicity or the admission of liability.
Since most personal injury cases are settled without going to trial, professionals who represent parties to accident cases participate in settlements regularly. Insurance companies and plaintiff attorneys have experience and tools to help them put a value on an injury case, so minimal negotiation may suffice to arrive at an amount that is mutually agreeable.
The Benefits of Settling Your Injury Case Out of Court:
- You Get Your Money Faster
- It Costs You Less
- You Eliminate the Risk of Losing
- You Can Preserve Your Privacy
Negotiations in a personal injury case are typically ongoing before, during and sometimes after a trial until a settlement is reached.
Deposition allows each side to collect information from individuals to whom the other side may have previously had exclusive access or who were not initially cooperative.
Thus, the deposition phase can function as a litmus test by providing lawyers for both sides an opportunity to see what evidence, testimony and resources are available to present or defend against a case to a judge or jury, and can facilitate changes to each side's negotiating position, including new settlement offers and more urgency to avoid trial.
Factors That Can Help You Determine the Expected Value of Your Personal Injury Settlement include:
- Missed time from work: Lost earnings or wages due to time away from or diminished ability to perform your job during recovery or in the future.
- Pain and suffering: Loss of enjoyment of life, all the ways the accident and your injuries negatively affect any aspect of your life including work, family, social life, sports and hobbies.
- Loss of consortium: Damage to your marriage and relationship with your spouse.
- Inability to do household chores: The cost of hiring someone to pick up the slack because your injuries make it impossible or too painful to perform normal household or familial duties. You can even be compensated if these chores are left undone.
- Property Damage: The cost of repairing or replacing any personal property damaged in an accident.
- Medical Costs associated with injuries sustained in the accident.
- Out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the crash, including tow trucks, cab fare, Uber rides and prescription costs.
Money awarded in personal injury settlements in California is technically legally exempt from garnishment, but if you accidentally mismanage that money, that exempt status could be put in jeopardy.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Injury Settlement from Being Garnished:
- Create a bank account just for your settlement money, separate from other money you may have, including savings, wages, inheritances, etc.
- Keep accurate records of where that money came from and where it goes. Keep all receipts, invoices, and bills that you paid with your settlement money, thus creating a paper trail for future use.
- Use prepaid debit cards in an emergency. If a creditor holds a judgment against you, a creditor may be able to get legal access to your money in a traditional bank account. Depositing that money onto a prepaid debit card will let you hold onto it but still have easy access to it.
A personal injury settlement calculator will probably not provide you with a very accurate idea of the value of your case.
A settlement calculation tool used with the appropriate assumptions behind the data entered can provide a very broad and general idea of what your settlement may be worth, but it takes an expert such as an experienced personal injury attorney to make the best use of these tools and come up with a more meaningful estimate of the potential value of your case.
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