Settlement for an infant / toddler after violent car accident?
I'm trying to work out a settlement for my daughter. A speeding, texting, drunk driver hit us a couple of years ago. After hitting us, the driver abandoned his vehicle and ran away on foot. The other driver was 100% at fault and has since been convicted and sentenced.
The car flipped multiple times and landed upside down. The force of the crash caused my daughter's car seat to break from the base it was clipped into (she was buckled properly and the base was up to code, the crash caused the securing clips to break). She was 6-months old at the time.
Immediately after we took her to the emergency room to be checked on but she did not suffer any apparent injuries at the time. We also took her to her primary physical the next week as advised by the doctor.
For the next couple of weeks she seemed sore, and for months afterwards, she seemed easily upset, especially when in the car. There were a few times when she would just start screaming for no reason, which she had never done before.
We also noticed that her joints seemed to be popping a lot, so on the recommendation of her primary doctor, we began taking her to an orthopedic doctor to have checkups. The orthopedic doctor said that she appeared to be fine but that it is very hard to tell certain injury with children.
He advised that we bring her in every couple of months for a check-up. Currently, it has been two years since the accident and the doctor finally has advised us that it is probably safe to settle, as she appears to be fine and the joint popping has become less severe and was likely a developmental issue.
However, he also said that there is always the possibility, especially with an infant/toddler, that problems could become apparent in the future (however, he does not think this is likely).
Originally (right after the accident), the insurance offered us $5,000 in settlement for my daughter, which I thought was kind of ridiculous since she could have easily died and the driver was committing several crimes.
How much would be a reasonable price to settle at now? What if she develops problems from this in the future, is there any way to protect for that possibility? Thanks for any information you can give.
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ANSWER for "Settlement for an infant / toddler after violent car accident?":
Kaylee (Lynchburg, VA):
Often, victims believe if the negligent driver was drunk, had no insurance, or fled the scene of the accident, his or her doing so automatically results in a higher settlement amount. In most cases, this is not true.
When it comes to settling personal injury claims, and when negligence is attributed to the other driver, it is the victim's injuries and resulting damages which control the amount of settlement. In personal injury claims, damages can include medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and (in third-party fault states) pain and suffering.
While there are several ways to calculate settlement amounts, the "multiplier" method is quite common. Here’s some background to help you understand how it works...
Soft tissue injuries include bumps and bruises, minor cuts and abrasions (usually not requiring stitches), muscle, tendon, and ligament sprains, whiplash, and the like. Hard injuries are much more serious and include fractures, head trauma, disk herniation, 3rd degree burns, and the like.
Hard injury settlements are usually substantially higher than soft tissue injury settlements. In your daughter's claim, and possibly yours, you both appear to have sustained soft tissue injuries.
Pain and suffering is almost impossible to quantify. Every victim suffers in a different way. To avoid complete subjectivity, many attorneys calculate settlement demands by taking their client’s medical bills, and multiplying them by a factor determined by whether or not the client’s injuries were soft or hard injuries.
For hard injury claims, medical bills can be multiplied by anywhere from 3-5x, and even higher, depending on the severity of the hard injury. In soft tissue injury claims, the multiplier is much lower. Those multiples are normally anywhere from 1-2x, and maybe 3x.
From the facts you present, you might consider taking your daughter’s medicals bills, and yours (if any) and multiplying them by four. That’s a good starting point for a demand. From there you will likely have to negotiate downward.
That multiple is meant to cover all damages, including pain and suffering. You should, of course, wait until you are sure your baby won't require further medical treatment. If you do, keep in mind Virginia has a 2 year statute of limitations.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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