How Do I Know the Value of My Claim?
When you suffer any type of injury and file a claim with your insurer, you typically can expect a fairly prompt response. The insurance adjustor may even offer you a settlement within days or weeks. They’ll tell you that they’re trying to be responsive to your immediate needs, but you should beware. Your insurer is a for-profit company, with shareholders who want maximum value from their investment. Insurance companies typically accomplish this goal by minimizing the amount they pay out on claims. So how can you know whether the settlement you’re offered is fair?
How Will an Insurance Company Evaluate Your Claim?
When your insurer assesses the value of your personal injury claim, they generally look at these factors:
- Your total damages anticipated as a result of the accident;
- How much it will cost to defend any claim you make against the insurer, including legal fees and the cost of expert witnesses, if necessary;
- The extent to which you may have contributed to your injuries;
- Whether you had a preexisting condition that made you susceptible to injury; and
- Whether you’ve retained experienced and aggressive legal counsel to fight for your recovery.
How Are Damages Calculated?
The damages available for a personal injury fall into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those that are tangible and easily calculated, including the following:
- Lost wages and income, both now and in the future,
- Present and future medical expenses,
- Property damage,
- Nursing care, and
- Funeral and burial expenses.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to ascertain and usually include loss of enjoyment of life (hobbies and other activities), loss of companionship or consortium, emotional distress, and physical pain and suffering. Calculating pain and suffering can be particularly difficult. Many courts use a “multiplier” procedure, in which the jury determines the amount of tangible losses (medical expenses, lost wages, etc.) and simply multiplies that amount by a factor (usually between 1 and 10) to determine compensation for pain and suffering.
The Importance of Retaining Legal Counsel
Unlike representatives of the insurance company, your attorney will have a vested interest in maximizing your recovery. You should hire an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as practicable after an injury.