Determining how much your car accident claim is worth can be a complicated process. After all, you can’t simply throw a number at the insurance company and expect a check for the same amount. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way.
If you think your claim starts and ends with your economic damages, your insurance company will be thrilled. However, this may mean you’re neglecting to ask for non-economic damages. Breaking down your car accident settlement doesn’t always rely on the total of your receipts and bills.
To help better inform and guide you, here’s a look at the other factors involved, along with what your attorney may claim.
Who Determines Compensation Amounts
Yes, you play a large role in determining your car accident settlement amount, but you’re not the only one involved in the process. Hopefully, you’re working with a personal injury attorney. If not, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation.
If you’re worried about attorney fees, you should be able to relax. Most attorneys offer free case evaluations, and this gives you a chance to discuss fees.
Working with an attorney has a few benefits. Your attorney will look at factors you may not consider. For example, instead of simply totaling up your bills and receipts, an attorney will also consider the type and severity of your injuries.
For example, a broken arm may not be worth as much as a spinal injury. This isn’t just in terms of medical expenses but also the effect the injury has on your life. An attorney is also a skilled negotiator, and this will come in handy when it’s time to work with the insurance company.
The other entity determining your compensation amount is the insurance company. You and your attorney will submit a claim and the insurance company will respond with a counteroffer. Unlike your attorney, the insurance company is going to pay more attention to the total costs of the supplied bills and receipts.
They’re going to work hard to reduce the amount of your non-economic damages. Your non-economic damages include the severity of your injuries, along with things like pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Since it’s impossible to put a price tag on non-economic damages, be prepared for a lot of back and forth with the insurance company.
Don’t Forget Lost Wages
Are you missing work due to the car accident or are your injuries too severe to allow you to continue with your career? If so, your car accident claim should include lost and/or future earnings. This can make a huge difference in your settlement amount.
Don’t forget, your car accident settlement should cover all of your expenses relating to the accident. The settlement should also be enough to cover ongoing expenses. If you’re unable to return to work, your settlement needs to reflect this damage.
Don’t be surprised if the insurance company balks at covering lost current and/or future income. If you have personal injury protection (PIP), lost income is included in the coverage. However, PIP has strict caps and there aren’t any exceptions, which means the add-on policy may not adequately cover all of your damages. This exact kind of situation is when the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage kicks in.
However, once again, you’ll need to prove your injury is preventing you from returning to work. You’ll also need to show proof of your earnings. Pay stubs and financial statements are usually enough to get the ball rolling.
Determining Your Economic And Non-Economic Damages
If you’re feeling a little confused about how to calculate your non-economic damages into your car accident claim, you’re not alone.
As mentioned earlier, it’s almost impossible to place a dollar amount on your pain and suffering. However, it’s necessary if you want to receive fair compensation. Ignoring your non-economic damages is a mistake and it will affect the value of your claim.
There are two ways to calculate non-economic damages, and one method isn’t necessarily better than the other. Sometimes, it depends on your unique situation.
If you decide to go with the percentage-based method, total up all of your economic damages. These include any future damages like long-term medical care or a loss of future earnings. Next, assign a number to your non-economic damages. The numbers typically range from one to five.
A good place to start is with your injuries. An example is a broken arm versus a spinal cord injury. Your broken arm may be assigned a number two and a spinal cord injury can rank as a five. This is just an example, you may rank your injuries higher or lower.
Now take the assigned number and use it to multiply your total economic damages. The sum is the total amount of compensation you’re asking to receive.
Per Diem Based
You don’t need to be proficient in Latin to understand the per-day (per diem) method. This method is often best if your income is considered to be at the higher end of the pay scale. Remember, you’re adding in lost current and/or future earnings into your economic damage total and this affects your non-economic damages.
So, to get the per diem total, you calculate a specific dollar amount for each day you’re injured—this amount is typically based on your daily pay. After adding up the total for the injured days, include all of your economic damages.
Chances are, the total claim amount will be more than enough to compensate you for all of your damages. However, don’t be surprised if the insurance company comes back with a counteroffer. Paying for each day you’re injured is something insurance providers rarely like to do. However, the counteroffer is often enough to ensure you’re not stuck with additional expenses.
Don’t Forget About Your Attorney
Many personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, which can be particularly advantageous for clients. It means that your attorney’s payment is contingent upon the successful settlement of your case, with their fee being a predetermined percentage of the settlement amount.
This setup not only alleviates the burden of upfront legal fees but also aligns the attorney’s financial incentive with your best interests. Therefore, even when factoring in the contingency fee, enlisting an attorney’s services remains advisable to maximize the likelihood of receiving full and fair compensation for your car accident claim.