Estimated Personal Injury Settlements
Personal injury attorneys learn very quickly the pitfalls of discussing estimated personal injury settlements with their clients. The value of your personal injury claim is dependent upon numerous factors. As a result, two cases with the exact same injuries may have very different results in terms of a personal injury settlement. Below are some common factors which affect your personal injury settlement.
The Facts – As you might imagine, depending upon the facts, two cases with the same injuries may have dramatically different results in terms of what they may settle for, or what a jury awards. For example, an individual who is rear-ended in a car accident and suffers a concussion has a different case than an individual who has a grocery store slip and fall and suffers a concussion. Strong facts which clearly establish liability or fault will boost the value of your personal injury claim. Weaker facts, for instance where each driver claims the accident was not their fault, may lead to complications unless evidence can be obtained firmly establishing the fault of the other driver. If your claim involves wrongful death, pedestrians, or passengers, the outcome will differ as well.
Contributory Negligence – You can’t discuss estimated personal injury settlements in North Carolina without discussing Contributory Negligence. We’ve written extensively about Contributory Negligence in our blog because it affects many North Carolina personal injury claims. Generally speaking, Contributory Negligence is an affirmative defense. It is a rule in North Carolina which says that if a jury determines the plaintiff is 1% or more at fault, the jury is instructed to give the plaintiff nothing. This is an outdated rule and one your personal injury attorney must wrestle with in order to prove your case. While most claims do not go to court, insurance adjusters commonly introduce Contributory Negligence into the settlement conversation, to remind the plaintiff that there is a very serious risk in litigating a personal injury claim in North Carolina if it’s possible the jury determines the plaintiff was even 1% at fault.
Pre-Existing Injuries – While you are entitled to be compensated for your injuries, you will find the insurance company for the at-fault party will diligently research whether you had a pre-existing condition before this accident. Even a note in your prior medical records indicating a simple complaint regarding back pain will be used to demonstrate you had existing back pain prior to this accident. The two sides will end up arguing over the extent to which this accident worsened the back pain, and assign a value to that.
Rule 414 – Rule 414 is a rule of evidence that personal injury plaintiff’s attorneys are familiar with. The rule says that the only evidence of medical billing which can be introduced into evidence in court, is medical billing that has actually been paid, and medical billing which is still owed or outstanding. In short, if you have $100,000 of medical treatment, and Medicaid pays $5,000 to the hospital unless there is a remaining balance, your attorney will only be able to enter $5,000 into evidence at trial as medical billing. Because juries use medical billing dollar totals to help them calculate what they believe is a fair settlement, you can see how this tends to under-emphasize the extent of your injuries at trial. Your lawyer will also need to determine whether you have any Medical Liens as a result of your claim and negotiate them as part of the settlement. Once again, two clients who have the same exact injuries but different insurance coverage may see very different jury results in their personal injury verdicts.
Standard of Care – Generally, a claim of negligence requires you to show that a standard of care was owed to you by another person and was not fulfilled. This is called a Breach of Duty, in the personal injury world. In many slip and fall claims, obstacles arise in proving that the standard of care was breached. For instance, you may be able to prove that there was water on the floor of the grocery store and that you slipped in that water. However, if the store can prove that another customer spilled that water on the floor three minutes before you slipped in it, they will prevail on their argument that the store did not breach its duty to you—there wasn’t enough time for the store to discover and fix the dangerous condition. While there is no set rule for the amount of time a hazard must exist, slip and fall cases routinely turn on who created the hazard (another shopper or an employee), whether the store knew or should have known about the hazard, and how much time passed since the hazard was created.
Pain and Suffering – Pain and suffering is essentially what you endure as a direct result of the accident. When reviewing your settlement, the amount attributable to pain and suffering is anything above and beyond payment for medical bills and lost wages. Your lawyer will submit a demand package as part of the personal injury settlement process. That demand package will outline your pain and suffering and you will have a chance to review it prior to its submission.
Lost Wages – Lost wages are part of your claim. They will need to be verified by your employer. Your attorney will provide you with a form for your employer to complete, indicating your rate of pay, dates missed, and total lost wages. If you are self-employed, you will need to provide copies of tax returns from prior years and other evidence that your lawyer will use to construct a lost wages claim for submission.
The Reputation Of The Personal Injury Lawyer – If your personal injury attorney has a reputation of following through on claims, thoroughly investigating claims, and negotiating claims in good faith, we believe that you are able to maximize your settlement offer in your personal injury claim. If your attorney has a reputation of threatening to file a lawsuit but never follows through on that threat, you can imagine the insurance company may not take that lawyer’s claims as seriously as they will a claim from another law firm. One way to check the reputation of your lawyer is to look at their Google Reviews. We are proud of our history with clients and thankful that they choose to leave reviews about their experience.
Hiring a personal injury attorney is key in successfully negotiating your claim. The attorney is not simply arguing over dollars and cents; instead, the attorney is building your case using all of the above factors. By persuading the insurance adjuster that the lawyer will succeed with their case, you are more likely to maximize the settlement offer from the insurance company. Estimating personal injury settlements prior to having all the facts, medical records, and billing in hand is a bad idea for both you and your personal injury attorney. This process will require some patience, but hopefully, your patience will pay off with a fair settlement or jury verdict.
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If this article about estimated personal injury settlements was helpful, you may find other helpful articles on our Personal Injury Blog. Thank you for visiting the website—we hope it has been helpful.