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Valuing Your Injuries After a Personal Injury Accident
No one can tell precisely how much you should receive after filing a personal injury claim until you are through with all your medical treatment and your doctor has released you, or until the jury has rendered its verdict, settling the case. Several factors are considered when determining what your ultimate compensation amount will be. Only when your attorney knows these factors will they have a better idea of the range that the jury will likely award.
One thing that’s for sure is that attorneys want to recover as much as they can for you since their compensation depends on the percentage they will recover for you. Therefore, since they have the skills and experience from many other cases, they will apply them to get you the best probable outcome. This article aims at educating you. It doesn’t predict the amount to expect for your personal injury accident, but it explains the common guidelines used in evaluating a compensation claim.
The Worth of Your Personal Injury Claim
After going through this article, you may not agree with certain factors that affect how much compensation you are going to recover. You may wonder why a situation you cannot control plays a big role in determining the value of what you are going to receive. The feeling is understandable. Most clients feel it is unfair. However, it’s best you know the existent of these factors so that you know what to expect when filing a personal injury claim.
The worth of a person’s claim is the amount they can get when they file a personal injury case. For instance, a severe spine injury case whose medical bills and lost income costs you millions of dollars may be worth only $20,000 in case that is all you can collect from the party responsible. If the party doesn’t have insurance or assets, you may get nothing.
On the other hand, a broken knee resulting from an auto accident caused by an intoxicated driver that has several DUI convictions and an insurance policy worth millions may be worth $25,000 to 45,000 or even more depending on the seriousness of the injury, future impairment and lost income.
To get the best probable results as far as the worth of your claim is concerned, talk to a Jacksonville Injury Attorney. Let them represent you in the negotiations with an insurance adjuster in court. With the representation of an attorney, you stand a better chance of getting higher compensation since they are familiar with the negotiation and the court process.
The Type and Severity of Your Injuries Helps to Determine the Worth of Your Case
The nature and degree of the injuries you suffered in your personal injury case play a big role in determining how much money you will recover. The injury assessment and treatment cost you incurred is called  ‘special damages’ or just ‘specials.’ This amount is one of the main indicators in the general personal injury compensation formula used by insurance adjusters in settlement negotiations.
Normally, the hard part of determining damages for a victim of a personal injury is placing the value of a dollar on non-economic damages, like pain and suffering or emotional distress. Since this is, to a certain extent, what the compensation formula tries to do, the reasoning is that the more an injury is painful, the greater the multiplying value that gets plugged into the formula. Insurance companies evaluate non-economic damages by linking the nature of the injuries with their extent of pain.
However, the formula is not 100% scientific. This is because certain minor injuries have much pain than given major injuries. For instance, a severe ankle sprain can be persistently painful compared to a fractured ankle bone. Regardless, insurance adjusters will still use the nature of your injury as the beginning point in determining what values to plug into the compensation formula.
Soft Tissue Injuries and Hard Injuries
Insurance companies divide injuries into two major categories. That is soft tissue injuries that are considered to be less severe and hard injuries that are more severe. When it comes to soft tissue injuries, the major proof is the patient’s description of their pain. On the other hand, a hard injury is specifically detected when the victim goes for medical examination.
In case your injury is categorized as more severe injuries, the valuation done by the insurance adjusters can be advantageous to you. However, in case your injury is classified as less serious, you will have to prove through other ways that the injury did cause notable pain and suffering or emotional distress. A Jacksonville Injury Attorney may help you prove this by evaluating your medical records and any lost income so that you get the compensation you deserve.
Types of Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries include strained or sprained back, knee, ankle, or neck. These injuries involve soft connective tissue and muscles only; hence the name. Insurance companies consider them to be less severe compared to hard injuries. For this reason, the injuries are normally assigned a compensation formula multiplier ranging between one and a half to three times the special medical damages, unless other factors would raise the multiplier.
Insurance companies reason that these types of injuries are normally temporary and not dangerous irrespective of the extent of pain. Additionally, they know that if your claim ever gets to court, you may have a hard time proving what soft tissue injury you suffered.
Types of Hard Injuries
A hard injury is considered more severe and is awarded higher compensation (four to five times special medical damages, and sometimes, even more, depending on the factors at play) as compared to a soft tissue injury. Thus, in case your medical examination records can show anything substantiating that a doctor examined your injuries through tests or X-ray, or if the records describe your injury to be something else other than a sprain or strain( for instance a pinched or compressed nerve or a separation of the joint), your compensation value will go up.
Similarly, an injury that needs any form of intrusive examination or physical repair by a physician will increase the worth of your personal injury case irrespective of other considerations. Physical repair includes wound stitching or bone setting, while intrusive examination includes an arthroscopic examination.
Hard injuries include:
a). Head injuries- If you suffer a head-related injury, there’s a high chance that the effect of that injury will last much longer than it seems to be at first. Most insurance companies understand that head-related injuries can take long before they heal and that symptoms may reappear after the victim seems to have made a complete recovery. Usually, an injury to the head increases the worth of your claim. Moreover, this sort of injury often speeds up the process of negotiation since insurance adjusters want to quickly settle before huge bills resulting from the injury are incurred.
In case you sustained a head-related injury, cross-check the doctor’s report for any information explaining the injury. For instance, if there is a mention of a concussion, unconsciousness, dizziness, nausea, or disorientation. If there are any of these, make a specific mention of them in your personal injury claim even if the other injuries appear to be more serious. Additionally, if you are experiencing any long-lasting effects like dizziness or continued headaches, inform your physician and include in the claim your continued suffering from those side effects.
b). Wounds- In case you have sustained a cut, gash, or tear that is serious enough to require treatment, the worth of your compensation claim may slightly go up.
c). Broken Bones- When an X-ray result shows that your bone/bones are broken (even a slight break like a crack or chip) the value of your claim will move higher. Just like it is with other injuries if you can show that the break is serious (that is how serious the break impacted your living), you will receive more as compensation.
d). Vertebrae or spinal disk injury- The displacement or movement of your vertebrae or spinal disk is more severe compared to a strained back or neck. In most cases, insurance adjusters award higher compensation to victims that describe back or neck injuries in their precise medical terms other than describing them plainly by using common terms like ‘sprained’ even if it’s the same injury.
Orthopaedists and emergency rooms normally take X-ray pictures of the spine at the area where the injured victim complained of pain. It could be the cervical (upper) thoracic (middle) or the lumbar (lower) area of the spine. The X-rays can reveal slight abnormalities that could be in a spinal disk.
If your medical report mentions any of the abnormalities in a vertebra or spinal disk, let your attorney mention that diagnosis word by word during negotiations with the insurance company. This is one way of showing how severe the injury is, irrespective of how little or how much treatment you underwent.
e). Dislocations, separations, and cartilage or ligament tears- When your doctor describes the injury you sustained with a different name rather than a strain, bruise, or sprain, then that injury is more serious. This means that the injury will increase the value of your claim. Joint separation or dislocation gives an impression of much pain and delicate healing (whether it was serious or not) compared to a sprain. The same impression is also given when a person has a torn cartilage or ligament. Insurance companies consider a tear to be more serious compared to a strain, stretch or sprain, though the time of treatment and recovery may be the same for all the injuries.
Note that you also have to prove that the injuries you sustained resulted from the accident for a better chance of increasing the value of your claim. That is why it is important that you seek medical attention as soon as you are involved in an accident because a delay in seeking treatment creates doubt as to what caused your injuries.
Going to the doctor as soon as possible helps you to have a medical report indicating that your injuries occurred right after the accident. Thus, every hour, day or week that goes by without seeing a doctor will reduce the worth of your case since it makes it simple for the insurance provider to suggest that your injuries did not result from the accident. They may allege that something different happened to you after the accident and are simply putting the blame for your injuries on the accident.
The Percentage of Liability Plays a Role Too
The degree at which each party is to blame for the accident is also one of the most important factors affecting the amount the insurance provider will pay. The compensation formula provides a range of how much a victim’s injuries may be worth. However, you will only know the actual value of your damages after figuring out the percentage of fault.
Determining fault in a personal injury accident isn’t purely scientific. Nevertheless, in many claims, both the insurance adjuster and the victim will have a better idea of whether the defendant was entirely to blame, if the victim carries a little bit of the blame too, or if the victim was entirely to blame. Whatever the rough percentage estimate of the victim’s comparative fault may be, that is the amount by which the compensation formula total will be reduced for an ultimate amount of the victim’s compensation to be deduced.
Therefore, if the defendant was 100% to blame, the value of your claim will go higher than if the victim was partly to blame.
The Available Insurance Amount is Also Another Factor
The true worth of a personal injury claim is the amount you can be paid as compensation. In many cases, when the at-fault party is either a smaller company or an individual, realistically, the maximum amount that you can receive, irrespective of your injuries, is the insurance amount. It doesn’t make any economic sense for you to demand a higher amount than the insurance coverage amount the defendant has.
For example, if your injury has a judgment worth of $400,000, but the at-fault party only has an insurance policy worth $40,000, the options are, either you settle for $40,000 or go to court to claim the $400,000 judgment value. After settling with the $40,000, your case will be closed, and you cannot legally ask for more. In case you decline the $40,000 and take the case to trial for $400,000, the insurance company of the defendant will defend him/her throughout the trial.
Typically, if you go to trial to seek a $400,000 compensation, you will incur higher litigation costs. Even if you win the case and the jury orders the payment of the $400,000, the defendant’s insurance company will only pay the $40,000 policy limit, and the defendant will still owe you $360,000. It will be hard to collect the $360,000, especially if the defendant doesn’t have substantial assets.
Thus, in all cases, except for a few, the highest value of your claim is the amount of all the insurance coverage that’s covering the injury incident. Included in the amount is any given uninsured or underinsured insurance policy provisions you have.
Looking at the example above, in case the defendant only has $40,000 insurance coverage, the value of your case is $400,000, and your uninsured vehicle provision in the automobile insurance policy covering you is worth $400,000, you will be granted the $360,000 in coverage. In this case, the worth of your claim is, in reality, $400,000, since there is enough insurance to pay the entire total of the compensation.
That is why a Jacksonville Injury Attorney would recommend that you should carry high underinsured and uninsured motorist insurance coverage so that it protects you in case the accident is caused by a person who does not carry insurance or the one who has low insurance coverage that cannot pay your claim in full.
Note that if the at-fault party in the accident that resulted in your injuries is a big corporation that has millions of dollars in assets and insurance, it does not necessarily imply that the value of your case is huge. As much as insurance plays a role, the seriousness of the injuries you suffered and liability will equally be considered. If you have little or no injury, the value of your case won’t go any higher.
Other Factors Affecting the Value of Your Claim
Apart from the nature and extent of your injuries, liability, and availability of insurance, other minor factors come into play when determining how much compensation you will receive for your personal injury. They include:
The kind of witness you are
Whether a jury will feel sympathy towards you or not depends largely on whether they like you. If they like you much, they will be more sympathetic to you. Moreover, if they are compassionate, they will generally award more compensation.
The jury may have prejudices for and against you. These prejudices may affect what you receive for compensation if your case goes to court. Also, how an insurance adjuster perceives the jury’s prejudices will have an impact on the value of your claim.
For you to obtain the best possible outcome for your personal injury claim, your attorney has to present your case in a manner that the jury or the insurance adjuster will receive favorably.
The story of the defendant
It makes a huge difference who the at-fault party is and what they were doing when the accident occurred. For instance, if the party at fault is a drunk truck driver that was on his way to deliver construction materials and ran a red light at high speed, the jury will grant you a higher amount. On the other hand, if the party is an older person on their way to bring food to the less fortunate, who accidentally hit the rear end of your vehicle.
The Jurisdiction you are filing your claim
If your case doesn’t settle and your attorney files a lawsuit, the lawsuit filing has to be done in a court which has legal authority over the matter (the place the accident occurred) and the party you are suing (where the defendant resides). Different jurisdictions apply different laws in personal injury cases. Similarly, a court in one jurisdiction may have a different rule of evidence compared to a court in another jurisdiction. All these can affect the ability to substantiate your claim.
Therefore, the jurisdiction of your claim could make a big difference on the laws that the court will apply to your claim, the kind of damages you can recover and the evidence that can be used in court. Thus, the evidence and the law affect the possibility of you winning the case as well as the final award the jury will make.
The reputation and skills of your attorney
Who your attorney is and how well their skills of presentation are has a huge impact on the worth of your claim. Your attorney has to have good negotiation skills for the insurance adjuster to be compelled to settle for a higher amount. If your attorney has the experience and better negotiation skills, your case will not have to go to court.
Similarly, when your attorney has a good reputation, a fair settlement will come easily. Since lawyers with more experience have handled several cases in Florida, they likely have dealt with almost every insurance provider and maintained a good reputation. Thus, it would be best if you hire an experienced Jacksonville Injury Attorney for their reputation, not to compromise the value of your claim.
Final Thoughts
Even after going through the main factors that come into play when valuing your claim, you still may not have a clear answer of what your claim is worth. This should not worry you since so many other variables are considered when determining the worth. However, with certain parameters, your attorney can have a rough estimate of the ultimate worth of your claim. These parameters include:

  • The nature and extent of the injuries you suffered
  • How much in medical expenses you will incur
  • Whether you are going to make a full recovery or not
  • The jurisdiction of your case
  • The defense’s position as far as your case is concerned.

It may not be possible to give an accurate estimate of what your case is worth. In certain cases, only a few factors come into play while in others, most of the variables are present. Your case has to be reviewed by an experienced attorney who knows what variables a jury would consider and the best probable value they would award.

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