When the insurance company is ready to settle the guidance of an experienced personal injury lawyer can be invaluable in helping to make the determination if that proposed settlement is reasonable. Settlements are always tricky and depend upon some variables.
- What jurisdiction am I in?
- How long have I undergone treatment?
- What is the extent of my injuries?
- Am I fully healed at the time of the settlement offer?
- Have my property damage issues been fully resolved?
- What are the policy limits of the adverse party and my own uninsured motorist coverage? (if I have it)
Even these questions presuppose liability and causation issues. The simple answer is that there is no simple answer.
Always remember that a settlement is just that … “settling!” The insurance company probably is not going to be happy giving you the amount they do, and you probably will not be happy with the amount that you are offered. However, you can, at the very least, simply look at your case and get a basic understanding of what might be a fair offer from an insurance company.
First, what is the extent of your injuries?
If, as in most automobile accidents, you incurred soft tissue injuries, then you want to document the time and money you have spent treating for the pain you have undergone. This is usually just a matter of keeping a record of doctor visits as well as time off of work and, to some extent, time missed with your family and friends. This is, usually, easily quantifiable. As long as you are actively treating, a relatively conservative estimate for “pain and suffering” is $1,000.00 per month.
Special damages are those that are easily quantifiable – Medical and prescription bills, mileage to and from the doctor or pharmacy, missed work, etc.
General damages are those that are a bit more subjective – pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and/or loss of time with friends and family fall into this category.
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Second, be certain that you are at a state of maximum cure
Or, at the very least, a position that you are comfortable with regarding your physical health. If money is “on the table” so to speak, you do not want to settle your claim if you are not comfortable with the amount or degree of treatment that you have received. If you are, then great, if you are not – but want to pursue settlement as an option – be certain that you take into account the possible future medical costs as well as pain and suffering. Your doctor should be able to advise you as to the extent of your injuries and the possible future treatments necessary. Your attorney should be able to give you some idea as to what “future medicals” have been awarded for your particular injury in past cases.
Third, be certain that your property damage issues are settled properly
Never allow your vehicle to sit idly in a body shop or at a mechanic’s. These businesses charge storage fees, and those fees grow fast. Be certain that your insurer, or the adverse party’s insurer, promptly assess the damage to your vehicle and bring it to a location where storage fees will not be an issue. If the vehicle is considered “totaled,” be aware that the insurance companies almost always go by the NADA value of the vehicle in making restitution. If your vehicle has special or custom parts, be certain to advise the adjuster. Also, be aware that if the insurer wants to “total” the vehicle, you can ask for the cash value minus what is known as the salvage amount.
Also, always be aware that just because an accident is the fault of another person, that person’s insurer may not be able to cover all of your damages. In the State of Louisiana, drivers are only required by law to carry fifteen thousand ($15,000.00) dollars of liability insurance. These policy limits can add up quickly when a severe accident occurs. It is exactly for this reason that many drivers carry Uninsured / Underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage insures a driver and/or their passengers against the risk of serious injury and the inability of a liable party that is unable to meet the damages connected with the accident. Many people are unwilling, or even afraid, to utilize their UM insurance for fear of retribution from their own insurer. The fact of the matter is that Louisiana Statutory law prohibits any insurer from adjusting the premiums of their insured for use of their UM coverage.
Finally, treatment is key!
If you are injured, you need to go to the doctor, and you need to keep track of those bills. It is very difficult in this day and age, with all of us working long hours and trying to juggle work and family, to take the time to make and keep appointments. However, if you want to build a case, you have to treat. One cannot build a case and make a claim for damages without a showing of treatment. There is simply no other way to prove injury than to show that one has gone to the doctor.
Just remember that finalizing a case can be a very tricky business and the reasonableness of an offer depends on many factors. Your best course of action is to employ an experienced attorney to help guide you through all the pitfalls that one may encounter in attempting to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement. Morris Bart has over 90 experienced attorneys that can help you get the best settlement offer if you have been injured in a car accident. Call us today at 800-537-8185 to get a no obligation consultation.