One of the most common questions asked by personal injury clients is “How much is my settlement worth?” The answer depends on a lot of factors.
Consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer can help your case — first, because lawyers understand what is necessary to successfully prove your claim, and second, because your attorney has the experience to determine whether a settlement offer from the other party is sufficient for your losses.
Factors that Determine Settlement Offers
Many personal injury cases don’t go to trial and instead are settled out of court. A settlement is a negotiation between the plaintiff and the defendant, who come to an agreement after a demand letter is sent by the plaintiff’s personal injury attorney or after the case is filed.
When valuing your case, your lawyer will consider the following factors:
- Whether you share some of the responsibility
- How extensive your injuries are
- The cost of your medical treatment and potential future care needs
- Whether you have recovered or will fully recover
- Any limits in the other party’s insurance policy
- Property losses you incurred
- Any loss of past income from missed work
- Loss of earning potential
Your lawyer also considers any non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering from your injuries and compensation for emotional trauma.
If your lawyer plans to seek punitive damages, however, because the defendant’s actions were egregious, it’s likely the case will go to trial and not settle out of court. Defendants rarely agree to pay punitive damages during settlement negotiations.
Valuing the Elements of Your Claim
Some parts of your personal injury claim are fairly easy to put a dollar value on, like the medical treatment you received after the accident or the cost of repairing or replacing a damaged vehicle. Your lawyer will simply tally up the bills.
Other components are more difficult to value. Pain and suffering, for example, or mental anguish, don’t have a price tag, but they are no less real than physical pain and damage.
Often, a multiplier is used by your lawyer (and the judge if your case ends up in court) to value these non-economic damages. The value of your economic damages is multiplied by the severity of your accident to arrive at a figure for non-economic damages.
For example, if you were injured in a car wreck and had $15,000 in medical bills and it cost $10,000 to repair your car, your economic damages would be $25,000. Your lawyer may use a multiplier (a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the worst) to calculate your non-economic damages.
The attorney selects a multiplier of 3 because while you aren’t permanently disabled, you did require surgery. They multiply 3 x $25,000 to arrive at $75,000 in non-economic damages. Your total settlement would be $100,000, and that’s what your lawyer will ask for in the demand letter they send the other driver and their insurance company.
Negotiating Settlements for a Personal Injury Claim
Sometimes you don’t have a very strong case. Suppose that in the example above — a car accident — your lawyer figures that while the other driver ran a stop sign, you were speeding and therefore share the blame.
The lawyer sends a demand letter for the full $100,000, and the other driver’s insurance company counter-offers with a settlement offer of $55,000, the maximum coverage of the driver’s policy.
Your lawyer can opt to take the case to trial, but with weak facts, you may not win. So your case could be settled for less than the demand letter, but the offer may be better than the nothing you may get if a judge rules in favor of the other driver.
Do you need help with a personal injury settlement?
If you’ve been hurt in an accident you didn’t cause, you may have a personal injury case and can file a lawsuit for damages. We can help. Hunt Law works with accident victims just like you in the northern New Mexico area. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your case.