What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
One of the first questions most people have about filing a personal injury claim is how much their car accident case is worth. After all, no one wants to talk to an insurance adjuster or go to court unless they know they have a case worth pursuing. Unfortunately, attorneys don’t have a magic equation to determine what your case is worth. The value of a claim depends on many variables. All of these variables determine how much a jury would award you, if your case went to court.
The insurance company’s goal is to keep your case out of court, and to minimize the amount they have to pay you. Because of this, they constantly consider what a jury’s opinion of you and your injuries might be. The adjuster will make an offer based on how they think a jury would react to your case based on the evidence. Keep these variables in mind if you’re trying to settle a car accident case without a lawyer.
Who Is At Fault?
Often, in the event of a car accident, fault is usually fairly clear-cut. When fault is obvious – for instance, if the other driver rear-ended you while you were stopped at a red light – insurance companies are usually more willing to settle because a jury won’t have trouble determining who is responsible for the damages.
However, when fault is not obvious, your settlement negotiations will probably be more difficult, and the insurance company will probably not be sending you a large check. This is because juries often have trouble with cases with a lot of grey area. So if your accident was at a four-way intersection with no witnesses to testify as to who was at fault, you may want to call a personal injury lawyer for advice.
One thing to keep in mind is North Carolina’s contributory negligence law. This is a strict law that bars anyone from filing suit for car accident damages if they were even slightly at fault. This is true even if the victim contributed only 1% to the damages. So if another motorist struck your car and injured you, but your injuries resulted from your failure to wear your seat belt, the insurance company could deny your claim based on your contributory negligence. (another good reason to always buckle up.)
Reckless Driving By The At Fault Driver
If the insurance company represents someone who they think will be a liability in front of a jury, they’ll go to much greater lengths to keep you from going to court. The at fault driver’s actions, personality, or driving record can drastically increase the value of your claim, if it means minimizing their risk in the court room.
If the other driver’s actions were reckless, malicious, or egregious, a jury is much more likely to be sympathetic to you. They may even award you punitive damages should your case go to trial. Any past major accidents or injuries the defendant caused may weigh the jury’s opinion in your favor, even if fault is ambiguous.
How Severe Are Your Injuries?
In general, more severe injuries make for a more valuable claim. Not only will you need to pay medical bills and make up for lost wages, but also your injuries may require long-term treatment and a longer path to recovery. However, more severe injuries also make for a more complex case. Pre-existing injuries can also complicate your claim. It might be in your best interest to talk to a car accident attorney before trying to handle your personal injury case without a lawyer. Car accident injuries that require surgery or that result in short-term or long-term disability are often best handled by an experienced lawyer. As most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and only get paid if you do, it can’t hurt to run your case by an attorney to see where you stand.
If your injuries were minor, you may still be able to recover some compensation, though the amount will reflect how minor your damages were. The good news is that you may not need to involve in attorney if your claim is small. This means that you can keep any settlement money left over after you pay your medical bills, saving you from paying attorneys fee’s in the event that its unnecessary to hire a lawyer.
Have Your Serious Car Accident Injuries Caused Disability?
Your injuries may have profoundly impacted your life, whether temporarily or permanently. Your earning potential may have been forever reduced because your back injury makes you unable to perform the physical labor you once could. You may just have several broken bones that make you unable to perform normal daily tasks.
Juries tend to be sympathetic when people cannot work through no fault of their own. They also sympathize with people who need the help of family members or others when they are too hurt to go about their regular routine. If you were too disabled to work or care for yourself because of your accident, the value of your claim is significantly increased.
Are Your Injuries Covered By An Insurance Policy?
Because of North Carolina’s auto insurance requirements, most drivers carry liability insurance. If you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist, you can collect from your uninsured motorist policy, which is also a state requirement. For these reasons, it’s pretty easy to find the money to pay for car accident damages if you can recover it.
However, what if you were injured on someone else’s property? Do they have homeowners’ insurance or a personal umbrella policy? If you were injured in a non-motor vehicle accident, you may find it difficult to get the money you need to cover your expenses. This is because in these cases, there is usually no insurance company to pay out for your losses, and the at-fault person probably does not have enough assets to cover significant medical bills.
Have You Hired a Personal Injury Lawyer?
When you try to negotiate a complex case with the insurance company, you’re already showing a little of your hand if you go in without a lawyer. The insurance adjuster knows that you probably don’t have much experience negotiating claims, that you probably don’t have an idea of your claim’s possible value, and that you are likely unfamiliar with legal concepts like contributory negligence, punitive damages, or pre-existing injuries. Most importantly, they know that you probably will not file suit if you don’t have a lawyer.
Hiring an attorney may significantly increase the value of your personal injury lawsuit. Their experience in negotiation and their legal knowledge give you more leverage, and make the insurance company more likely to pay out enough money to cover your current and future bills.
You may think that you cannot afford a car accident attorney’s services. However, most personal injury attorneys take car accident cases on a ‘contingency basis’. This means that if your case does not result in a settlement or a jury verdict in your favor, you do not pay any attorney’s fees. If you do win, your attorney’s fee will be one-third (33%) of your settlement or judgment (40% for cases that go to trial). This usually leaves plenty of money in your pocket after your bills are paid.