If you've been injured due to someone else's negligence and you've established their liability, you probably have a strong claim. But having a strong claim doesn't guarantee you'll walk away with thousands of dollars in personal injury settlement money. It just doesn't happen that way.
Over the last 20 years or so, insurance companies have slowly but surely succeeded in settling injury claims for less and less money. In the decades up through the 1990s, insurance companies often settled soft-tissue injury claims in car accidents, slip and falls, and defective product cases for three times the amount of a claimant's actual costs (known as their specials).
Today insurance companies have policies and procedures in place to restrict the amount they have to pay out. A claim that might have settled for three times the amount of specials in the mid-1980s might settle for half or less of that amount today.
To recover the highest compensation possible, you must be knowledgeable and realistic about your claim and its settlement potential. Being realistic doesn't mean having to settle your claim for less than it's worth. It means avoiding the pitfalls of thinking your claim is worth substantially more than it actually is, or mistakenly valuing your claim too low.
Don't waste time or effort trying to convince the insurance adjuster that your soft-tissue claim is worth four times your specials when realistically it's only worth one-and-a-half or two. You're better off knowing how to stand firm when the adjuster assesses your claim at two and you have the documentation to prove your specials should be multiplied by three to three-and-a-half.
The same holds for negotiating personal injury settlement amounts for hard injury claims. The damages you or a loved one sustained in a head injury event may be entirely different from those sustained by another person in a seemingly identical event. If you're going to negotiate successfully, you can't let an adjuster convince you her insurance company settles all similar injury claims for the same amount.
In soft-tissue and hard injuries alike, you must be careful not to undervalue your claim. Those who understand their unique damages and know how to value their claim will undoubtedly get higher a personal injury settlement amount.
To understand why different injuries result in different compensation, you must understand what damages actually are. Damages are the tangible and intangible losses a person sustains as a result of an injury. Damages can include, but aren't limited to:
No two injury events are alike. It's impossible to automatically assign a value to your claim. You have to prove that you deserve the amount you're demanding for the type of injuries you sustained. If you have your damages well-supported by medical and other documentation, you can usually convince the adjuster to raise the multiple higher than a claim without documentation.
But the adjuster isn't going to give an inch without a fight. The key is being informed enough to stand out from other claimants who don't understand the correlation between injuries and total damages, and the appropriate settlement amounts they deserve.
The type and severity of your injury will always directly affect the value of your claim. The worse your injuries, the higher the settlement. In theory that seems obvious, but in reality there's much more which goes into determining your settlement amount.
Personal injuries are normally categorized into two groups: soft tissue injuries and hard injuries.
There are four issues that directly affect the value of your claim. Remember, each claim is unique. Injuries sustained in seemingly similar injury events can result in greatly varying damages. The issues which distinguish one injury claim from another are:
Soft tissue injury negotiations are always controversial. The adjuster will not empathize with the pain and suffering you endured. The same type of injury can affect 100 people 100 different ways. To distinguish your claim, you must successfully deal with each of the above four qualifying issues. After successfully addressing the first three issues, the fourth will be the most important in driving up your settlement amount.
You must distinguish your claim from others. The more documentation you have to convince the adjuster of the uniqueness of your claim, the higher your personal injury settlement amount can be. Your goal in a soft-tissue claim is to raise the multiple from one or one-and-a-half to at least two, two-and-a-half, or possibly three.
Hard injury negotiations can also be complicated and drawn out. Because the damages in hard injury claims are normally much higher than those in soft-tissue claims, adjusters require convincing medical proof of the type and severity of the injuries. In these claims, the multiple might normally begin at three or four but can quickly rise above five. The more severe the injuries and the more supporting documentation you have, the higher the multiple will be.
Even though you may now understand the relationship between injuries and damages, a time may come when you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Injuries such as head trauma, disease, toxic poisoning, facial scarring and medical malpractice are very serious - not only in their type and severity, but in the way they're negotiated by insurance companies.
Because there's so much to lose in serious injury cases, it's in your best interest to consult with an attorney before deciding to represent yourself.
When it comes to hard injury claims, especially malpractice and corporate cases, you'll be up against overwhelming odds. One mistake and your entire claim can be dismissed by a judge. These types of cases are always long and complex. They can cost thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in advance pre-trial discovery expenses, expert witnesses, and the like.
Your chances of receiving the personal injury settlement you deserve will greatly increase with legal representation. Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is ask for help.