Visitor Question

Compensation questions for rear end accident in CA?

Submitted By: Ruth (Sonoma County, California)

At the end of last summer my family was hit from behind while sitting it traffic at a light. The driver accidentally accelerated instead of braking and slammed us into the car in front of us. Our children were both properly restrained in car seats and were thankfully not seriously injured. Both complained of minor pain and were checked out by a doctor, who said it was minor and they’d be better in a few days.

Since we were at a light I was turned talking to the kids in the back seat when we got hit. I ended up with a lot of pain and ended up with a clavicle strain, neck strain, and shoulder strain. I had 3 doctors appointments and eventually a month and a half of physical therapy. Then ended up seeing a specialist and getting a cortisone shot which paired with medication finally let me finish healing. So it was about 4 or so months of treatment.

We have an HMO so the medical costs are low, $1900. We just got the offer and it is medical costs plus $1000. I was a graduate student and stay at home mom and it really limited me during that time. It interfered with school and taking care of my kids, let alone my husband having to take off work so I could attend appointments and physical therapy.

Would it be reasonable to counter asking for $4000-$5000 total (including medical bills)? I hadn’t contacted an attorney, since friends said it was too minor of a case. Should I? Thanks.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Ruth,

It is fair to say in any personal injury claim an experienced attorney’s advice and counsel can be invaluable. Most injury attorneys do not charge for initial office consultations. While your friends suggest the case may be “too minor,” you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by seeking the opinion of several personal injury attorneys in your area.

Most experienced attorneys can look at a personal injury claim and be able to tell rather quickly if the case is solid, and if s/he will be able to obtain a settlement amount high enough so that after attorney’s fees are deducted their clients will end up with more money in their pockets than if the clients handled the cases on their own.

Unfortunately, most victims in personal injury claims have no real leverage when negotiating with insurance company claims adjusters.  They may have perceived leverage, but that’s only because savvy claims adjusters can make them (the claimant)  feel that way.

No experienced attorney will accept a case knowing at its conclusion the client will receive less money than the client could have settled for on his or her own. That’s just asking for a disgruntled client.

If the attorney doesn’t believe the insurance company offer is fair, the attorney can always file a lawsuit. That is something claims adjusters do not want to happen. A lawsuit can take months to come to trial. In the interim the insurance company will be paying extraordinary sums in legal fees. It’s is a question of money – it always is.

Here are a few considerations. Did you know many “soft tissue” injuries such as sprains and strains to the back, neck, or head area may take several days, and sometimes longer before they fully manifest?

And your children might also have sustained soft tissue injuries whose symptoms may also be delayed. While the physician cleared them, without an MRI and other diagnostic tests, you will not be sure of the extent of the injuries.

As to the question of the settlement demand, your numbers are not unreasonable. Many soft tissue injuries settle for 1.5 to 2 times, and in rare cases 3 times the amount of medical bills. And that amount is all inclusive. You can certainly make a demand for $4,000 or $5,000, however it’s unlikely the adjuster will agree to that amount. Your numbers are a good starting point for negotiations.

You should realize that once the claims adjuster says, “That’s it,” you have no leverage. The insurance adjuster has all the cards, so to speak.

The adjuster may tell you what a great negotiator you are, or say something like, “We’ve never paid that amount,” or “I’ll have to go to my supervisor for that amount,” but when it come down to it, the adjuster already knows how much s/he will offer, and that amount will not change…that is, until they receive that dreaded letter from an attorney saying they’ve taken over the case.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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