If you are asking, “How do I maximize my personal injury settlement?” you might have already realized the financial burden a personal injury causes. If another party caused your injury, you have the right to file a claim for compensation. The problem is that people sometimes fail to get an adequate settlement for one reason or the other.
You only have one chance to get the compensation you need and deserve for your injury. If you’re like most of us, you don’t know a lot about the law or how your injury might impact your finances down the road. Trying to negotiate a settlement for your personal injury claim on your own almost guarantees you won’t get the maximum amount. Without expert legal guidance, you won’t know whom to sue, how much to ask for, or how to negotiate for your maximum settlement.
Figuring Out Whom to Sue
Whom do you sue to get the maximum settlement for your personal injury? The answer is not always as obvious as it seems. For example, if someone crashes into your car, simply suing the other driver might not be enough. If they were driving someone else’s vehicle at the time of the crash, you need to sue the car owner, too.
If the other driver was driving while intoxicated, the person who served them too many drinks might be liable. If the accident occurs due to a mechanical problem, some or all of the fault might lie with the mechanic or the manufacturer of a part.
A slip and fall is another type of personal injury. If you slip and fall in a store, liability does not stop with the store manager. You must find out who owns the business. You can also file a personal injury claim against government entities if their negligence led to your accident and injury.
Personal injuries are careless, reckless, or intentional acts or omissions of others. For you to establish and win your personal injury claim, the law requires you to prove that:
1. The person or business owed you a duty of care.
2. The person or business breached the duty through negligence.
3. The negligence caused your injury.
You can’t choose whom to sue randomly and win your case. You can’t make someone compensate you for something they didn’t do.
How Do I Maximize My Personal Injury Settlement If I’m Suing an Individual?
Sometimes people fail to file a personal injury claim because they don’t believe the other party can pay for their compensation. Regardless of whom you sue, it is rarely the person or business that pays. Usually, it is the insurance company that represents them. For example, a dog bite victim might not want to sue their elderly neighbor who owns the dog that bit them. But it is the neighbor’s home insurance policy that covers the claim.
It’s a mistake to assume that the at-fault party can’t afford to pay your claim. Another mistake is accepting the initial offer from the insurance company. It might seem generous at the time, or, they might not realize they have the right to negotiate for a better settlement. If you want the maximum settlement possible, don’t agree to the initial offer and don’t sign any documents provided by the insurance company.
How Do I Determine the Value of My Personal Injury Claim?
One reason that accident victims fail to get their maximum settlement is that they don’t know the different types of damages and losses they can claim. If you have medical bills piling up, you might want nothing more than to pay off your debt. But you aren’t limited to claiming compensation for a single type of damages.
There are three potential types of damages you might claim:
1. Special or Economic – These are the out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to your injury. They are the most identifiable and measurable type of damages. Special damages include medical expenses, loss of property, and any repairs for damaged property.
New clients often ask, “How do I maximize my personal injury settlement after an auto accident?” One way is to file a comprehensive claim that includes all of your costs. You might not realize the extent of your injuries and losses until you talk with an attorney. One example for car accident victims is to include any charges to repair or replace their vehicle, rental car fees, and the loss of the content of the vehicle such as tools they need for work.
Special damages also include the loss of future earning capacity. These damages are more speculative since they are a prediction of something that hasn’t happened yet. Your attorney might make an estimate based on numerous factors including your health, age, previous career prospects, and more.
California allows claims for special damages regardless of the type of personal injury claim you make.
2. General or Non-Economic – Unlike special damages, general damages are more subjective. It is more difficult to put a price on emotional or psychological injuries. California doesn’t impose standard values for different types of general damages. It takes a skilled personal injury attorney to assess the value of your general damages and to make a good argument for your case.
Types of general or non-economic damages include but are not limited to:
- Emotional distress
- A disability and/or impairment that affects your quality of life
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship/consortium
- General impact on the quality of life
California allows you to claim general damages in any personal injury case.
3. Punitive or Exemplary – Punitive damages differ from special and general damages in that they are not meant as compensation for your injury. The court awards punitive damages as a punishment to the at-fault party and as an attempt to discourage similar heinous behavior in the future. Courts rarely award punitive damages. When they do, they are typically for cases where the party acted intentionally, and the award is often a large amount.
There is no limit to how much the court might award for punitive damages in California. They consider several factors, including:
– How reprehensible the at-fault party’s conduct was
– Whether there is a reasonable relationship between the amount of punitive damages and your harm
– What amount is adequate punishment for the defendant and will deter them from similar conduct in the future
– The defendant’s financial condition
If the at-fault party for your injury acted in a particularly malicious, reckless, or wanton manner, your attorney might recommend asking for punitive damages. To get punitive damages, you must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the at-fault party acted with malice, fraud, or oppression.
How Do I Maximize My Personal Injury Settlement Through Negotiation?
The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before they go to court. In general, it seems like a simpler solution for everyone. Judges prefer out-of-court settlements for personal injury cases, as do the attorneys for both the plaintiff and the defendant. The biggest reason is that trials are a lot more expensive and stressful.
Negotiating a settlement also gives both sides more control over the final settlement. You don’t have to settle for an amount of compensation that the other side offers. When a judge or jury makes a ruling, the decision is final, whether it seems fair or not.
One of the biggest mistakes accident victims make is negotiating their personal injury claim themselves. Negotiating successfully requires an in-depth knowledge of the state’s laws and the ability to evaluate the value of your case. Without a skilled personal injury attorney, you could end up accepting an offer that is much less than your case is worth or still going to court. You might even end up receiving no compensation at all.
Insurance companies also have a lot of experience in negotiating. They rely on your lack of knowledge to prevent them from paying out any money. There are many tactics that insurance adjusters use to refute personal injury claims. The right lawyer knows these tactics and how to beat the insurance company on your behalf.
Building a Strong Case Starts Right After Your Accident
Don’t wait weeks or even days after you are injured to ask an attorney for help. Everything you do and say from the time of the injury matters.
At the time of the accident, your priority is to get the medical attention you need. Don’t schedule an appointment with your regular physician for two or three months down the road. Go to the emergency room if needed. Otherwise, get checked out at an urgent treatment center or another facility that offers walk-in services. The sooner you start recording the details of your injury, the better your chances of a fair settlement.
Your medical record is valuable evidence that both sides of the case will view. It will support your argument later about its severity and the impact on your quality of life and your future earning capacity. It also ensures you don’t have any additional injuries that aren’t presenting symptoms initially. It’s the best thing for your well-being and for your personal injury claim.
After you get medical attention, schedule an initial consultation with a personal injury attorney. Take all of the information you have with you to support your claim. They will use your medical records and any other evidence including witness testimony to determine the value of your case. They will also help you file a personal injury claim with your insurance company or with the at-fault person’s insurance company.
How Do I Know I’ve Got a Personal Injury?
A personal injury is an injury to a person’s body or mind caused by another party. It might be due to negligence through omission or from a willful act. The primary purpose of a personal injury claim is to recover financial compensation from the at-fault party. The money “compensates” them for their damages and losses caused by their injury.
People often think that personal injuries are those caused by car accidents. While auto accidents are the most common type of personal injuries, there are other types. Some types of accidents that most often lead to personal injury claims include:
- Commercial truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Dog bites
- Slips and falls
No personal injury is minor when it affects your quality of life. The high cost of medical care today means that medical bills add up quickly. Those without good healthcare insurance pay large sums out of pocket for their basic care. Add to that the large number of people living from paycheck to paycheck today. There simply isn’t any room for unexpected expenses in their budget.
Talk to An Attorney
Even if your injury seems minor, talk to an attorney about your case. Some injuries have a greater risk of developing complications that could end up costing you thousands of dollars. You might discover that you have more types of damages on top of your out-of-pocket losses.
File Your Claim
Don’t wait to file. In California, you have two years from the time of your injury to file. If the statute of limitations expires, you can lose your right to compensation altogether.
Build a Strong Case
Work with your attorney to build a strong case. Even though you might never go to court, you’re prepared in case yours is one of the few cases that do. It also gives you a bargaining chip in case the other side offers you an unacceptable settlement amount. Instead of saying that the offer is inadequate, you can show them the documentation to back up the value of your claim.
Stay Off Social Media
Most people love sharing their news on social media. Insurance companies know this too. Posting pictures of your accident or injuries or talking about their severity could hurt your claim. But that isn’t the only way social media can hurt you.
Pictures or discussions about you going four-wheeling or dancing until the wee hours of the night could disprove your claim altogether. It’s a good idea to avoid social media until you reach a settlement. Your activity might not prove you aren’t seriously injured, but the other side might use your words to persuade the jury otherwise.
It takes some patience, awareness, and a skilled lawyer to maximize your personal injury settlement, whether it’s for a few thousand or a few million. Don’t get impatient and take an offer that might not be enough. Your personal injury attorney will tell you when it’s the right time to accept a settlement.
Contact Kuzyk Law
If you’ve been injured because of another person’s negligence, contact Kuzyk Law right away. Maximizing your personal injury settlement starts by having the right legal representative on your side. We at Kuzyk Law have a long history of success in negotiating and litigating personal injury cases for our clients. Schedule a free consultation and get the settlement that you deserve.