5 Potential Ways to Maximize a Personal Injury Settlement
If you or a loved one was injured in a sudden accident, you know firsthand that a split second can derail your physical, emotional, and financial health. An important part of bouncing back from your injuries is having the financial resources to cover necessary expenses. Besides medical bills, you might also be able to obtain compensation for lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses.
When filing a personal injury claim, there are a number of steps you can take that might put you in a more favorable position to collect the highest possible recovery. Those steps include:
1) Don’t Rush to Accept a Settlement
It’s important that you are strategic regarding when you enter settlement negotiations and when you agree to a particular figure. If your case seems strong, the insurance company might try to settle quickly and offer a payout that undervalues or excludes certain damages. Once you’ve accepted a settlement, it is unlikely that you will be able to pursue further compensation from the insurer unless you can demonstrate that they violated insurance bad faith laws. Unfortunately, insurance companies are highly adept at paying low settlements without taking the risk of facing a bad faith claim.
One of the factors that should influence the timing of settlement negotiations is how your injuries are progressing. It is often advisable not to accept a settlement until reaching maximum medical improvement, which is a point in a patient’s recovery when their condition is not expected to improve any further. At this stage, your attorney will have a better understanding of the total cost of your medical care and other damages and therefore will be in a more ideal position to approximate a fair settlement figure.
Although accepting an early settlement could alleviate your financial burden in the near future, it can cause immense turmoil down the road depending on the circumstances. Most bankruptcies in the United States are filed due to medical debt. If you agree to a settlement that doesn’t cover your healthcare costs, lost wages, and other damages, the recovered funds may eventually run out and leave you in the grips of overwhelming debt.
2) Avoid Critical Mistakes
It should come as no surprise that your statements and actions can have a profound impact on the outcome of your case. Insurance adjusters are well aware of the common errors made by accident victims that open the door to disputes over liability, causation, or damages. In fact, the insurer might place you under surveillance to determine if you are following your doctor’s orders, or they might be monitoring your social media profiles for content that can be used to challenge your claim.
Below are a few specific errors you should avoid throughout the proceedings:
- Giving a Recorded Statement: Giving a recorded statement could prove extremely detrimental to your claim. What you post will probably be admissible in court. You may be asked questions by the insurance adjuster that are designed to elicit responses that can be used to deny or undervalue your claim. It is best to leave this correspondence to your lawyer.
- Discussing Your Case Online: Though posting comments, photos, or status updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media sites may seem tempting after a noteworthy event like a serious accident, remember that your posts may be seen by the insurance adjuster. A seemingly benign photograph or description of the accident could bring the severity of your injuries or liability into question.
- Deviating from Your Doctor’s Orders: It’s certainly not unheard of for personal injury claimants to be placed under surveillance. If you participate in activities that your doctor instructed you to abstain from—such as exercise or work—the insurer might contend that you have failed to mitigate the damages, which could result in a reduction of your financial recovery.
3) Preserve Evidence
The outcome of your personal injury case will hinge on the strength of your evidence. If you bring a claim against the liable party or their insurance carrier rather then your own no-fault insurance, you will have to prove liability in order to collect damages. Regardless of whether you bring a first- or third-party claim, you will also have to prove causation and damages.
Your attorney can gather evidence on your behalf, but you should preserve any evidence that comes into your possession. Examples include medical records, receipts for costs arising from your injuries, and financial records. If you took pictures of injuries, property damage, or the scene, be sure to store them in a safe place. Consider scanning them and saving digital copies. Also, if you had property that was damaged in the crash—such as a motor vehicle—do not get it repaired until your attorney says that it’s okay to do so. Your lawyer and an accident reconstruction expert might assess the damage to determine how the accident happened.
4) Keep a Personal Injury Journal
There are all sorts of challenges you might face on the arduous road to physical recovery. Serious pain, psychological trauma, and the emptiness that comes with not being able to participate in your favorite hobbies and family activities can make every day feel like a struggle. Although the impact of these intangible consequences cannot be objectively quantified, proof of these non-economic damages can contribute to the value of your claim.
Personal injury lawyers calculate pain and suffering using either the per diem or multiplier method. The per diem method involves assigning a dollar amount to each day from the injury until the victim reaches maximum medical improvement. The multiplier method involves multiplying the victim’s healthcare costs by a number that usually falls between 1.5 and 5.
A personal injury journal that documents how the accident has impacted your quality of life could influence the multiplier used to calculate pain and suffering damages. Stories of missed social and familial activities and debilitating pain might also make your case more compelling.
5) Try to Avoid Litigation
Sometimes filing a lawsuit and proceeding to litigation is a strategically advisable idea. But litigation does come with added costs. As a result, you may be able to obtain a greater net recovery if you are able to reach a fair settlement without filing suit.
How Can an Attorney Help with My Case?
The importance of finding a skilled personal injury lawyer to represent you cannot be overstated. The knowledge and experience of the attorney in your corner can make a world of difference when going up against the insurance company. No two lawyers are exactly the same, but if you find an attorney who has a track record of success in cases that are similar to yours, he or she will likely be able to anticipate disputes before they arise and take the necessary steps to mitigate or avoid them. Such a lawyer will also know the kinds of damages that might be obtainable given the circumstances and the types of evidence needed to strengthen your case.
If the opposing party refuses to pay a fair settlement, a seasoned litigator will be able to help you file a lawsuit. The mere threat of a lawsuit is often enough to incentivize an insurance company to pay reasonable compensation.
Besides helping you navigate the logistics of the claims process, your attorney can make the proceedings far less arduous. Having a knowledgeable advocate to answer your questions can reduce the stress that you and your loved ones are no doubt experiencing.
Your lawyer can also help you avoid mistakes that would derail your claim. We’ve already mentioned several of those mistakes in this article. Examples include providing a recorded statement, ignoring doctor’s orders, and overlooking certain damages. Your attorney can take over all correspondence with the insurance company, explain the importance of mitigating your damages, and account for all the losses you have incurred as a result of the accident.
If a medical lien is asserted against your claim, your lawyer might be able to get it reduced or waived outright. A lien could greatly lower your net recovery depending on the circumstances, but your accident lawyer can make sure any liens asserted against your potential settlement or verdict are valid and investigate potential ways to help you walk away with the highest possible compensation.
Call 772-266-5555 to Discuss Your Case with a Stuart Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident that another person caused, contact the skilled attorneys at Donaldson & Weston to discuss your case. We understand the devastating consequences that personal injuries can have not only on the victim but also on their family members. We will tenaciously fight for the compensation you need to move on with life.
Our lawyers have many decades of collective experience in personal injury and wrongful death cases. If you are not able to come to our office for the consultation, a member of our team can come to you.
If we don’t win your case, you won’t have to pay any attorneys’ fees. Dial 772-266-5555 or send us a message to schedule your free, confidential, no-obligation case evaluation today.