Settling your personal injury claim brings many advantages. For example, you can avoid the uncertainty of a trial, where you might lose and get nothing. A settlement also allows you to receive your compensation much faster, which can help you pay medical expenses and other bills. But don’t go into settlement negotiations blind. Instead, you need to know how much your injuries really cost you before you can analyze any settlement offer. Calculating damages is a complex process, however, so you need a skilled personal injury lawyer by your side.
The legal term for injuries is damages, which refers to any type of injury for which you can receive monetary compensation. Generally, personal injury victims can recover compensation for the following damages:
- The cost of medical treatments and rehabilitation services
- The cost of psychological counseling
- Lost wages as you recover from your injuries
- Lost future earning capacity if injuries permanently disabled you and you can no longer work the same job—or any job at all
- Pain and suffering
- The loss of intimacy with your spouse
You might suffer some or all of these damages, so go over your case with a qualified Clearwater, Florida, personal injury lawyer today to find out what compensation you can expect.
The Parties to a Settlement and Their Goals
Typically, two parties negotiate for a settlement—the injured victim and either the person at fault for the injury or the insurance carrier. In a slip and fall case, for example, a business owner commonly carries insurance, which means you’ll negotiate with the insurer.
The person at fault (or the insurer) has the opposite goal—to minimize the payout. They want to settle the suit for the minimum the victim is willing to accept. A victim who settles cannot go to court and sue for damages caused by this accident.
Calculating Your Damages
Before you can settle, you must know how much you would receive if you sued in court and won. Remember, you may go to court until you sign your settlement agreement, so both the victim and the insurer will try to calculate how large of a judgment to expect if they go to trial.
Some damages—called economic damages— are easy to calculate because they result in bills for specified dollar amounts. For example, if you had to pay for a doctor’s visit, then you should receive a bill with the cost on it. A settlement can reimburse you for medical expenses, including rehabilitation and mental health treatments.
Other injuries—non-economic damages—are harder to calculate. Pain and suffering damages compensate the victim for both physical and mental pain, fear, embarrassment, depression, and anger. Many factors go into determining pain and suffering, including:
- The severity of the injury
- The length of recovery
- The prognosis for recovery
- The type of medical treatments received
- The injury’s impact on your life
A serious physical injury that prevents you from pursuing your favorite hobbies or from going outside without embarrassment can result in a lot of compensation.
A lawyer who calculates your damages will then need to make adjustments based on the circumstances. For example, it’s unlikely that an accident victim can take an insurer to the cleaners. After all, you need to give the other side a reason to settle and not go to court, so you might only recover 90 percent or so of the cost of your injury. This is the amount you need to give up to settle and quickly receive your compensation.
The victim may also bear partial fault for the accident. In Florida, such a victim can still win compensation for injuries, but the amount will shrink according to the proportion of negligence. For example, a victim whose injuries cost $300,000 in damages but who was 33 percent responsible for the accident will only receive $200,000 from the defendant. Your lawyer will need to assess the circumstances of the accident to determine whether a jury would find you partially to blame for your injuries.
The Initial Settlement Offer
After calculating your damages, your lawyer will need to send a letter to the other side and propose settling the claim for a certain amount of money. Don’t be surprised if your lawyer proposes a high number. For example, a lawyer who calculates that your injuries cost you $150,000 may make an initial offer to settle for $200,000.
Your lawyer expects the other side to counteroffer. Going in high gives some room to come down. For example, the insurer might counter by offering only $100,000. Both sides will then negotiate until they can meet somewhere in the middle. If settlement negotiations go well, you should end up settling for about the amount that your lawyer initially calculated your injuries caused.
If you never bother to calculate the cost of your injuries with an experienced attorney, you might feel tempted to take an insufficient settlement offer.
Contact a Clearwater, Florida, Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Calculating your damages is best left to the professionals. At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we’ve helped people injured in accidents get the compensation they deserve. Call us at (727) 451-6900 for a free consultation today, or complete our online contact form.