Personal injury claims almost inevitably involve insurance policy issues where the fine print of any policy is closely examined to determine fault and – perhaps even more importantly – the quantum of any settlement amount.
After an accident you will be finding ways to recover from your injuries, property damage, and the repercussions of the incident, whatever form or type if may be. Your normal life activities like going to work, exercising, and spending time with family will be interspersed with doctor appointments, therapy, and conference calls with lawyers and insurance companies.
You may file a claim under your insurance cover with the insurer seeking reimbursement from the insurer of the faulty party, or you may be in a position where you file a third party claim against the at-fault party involved in the accident.
In either case, the insurance company will be focused on minimizing costs and risk and will be seeking to reach a settlement short of going to court so that the insurer and the defendant are not liable in respect of the injuries incurred in your accident.
All of which creates a key issue for yourself as injured party: what is a ‘fair’ settlement and what are the key issues you need to consider when looking at any insurance settlement.
There are a raft of variables to consider with any insurance settlement issue relating to a personal injury claim.
As Colorado lawyers, we know that the Colorado Department of Transportation were 121,922 total traffic accidents in 2018 alone and the need to closely consider insurance settlements in our home state along with those in any other are extremely important.
Major Points to Consider Before Settling
Before making any quick decisions you need to carefully collate and prepare yourself by getting all the claim-related material you can such as medical accounts, repair accounts, property damage estimates and anything else related to your personal injury claim.
You need to work out your actual and out-of-pocket costs, but then there are the more difficult to determine costs relating to pain and suffering, emotional distress and other issues.
Often an insurance company will u se some multiplier to calculate the ‘general damages’ that encompass such loss, which will involve (for instance) multiplying the number by any thing from 1.5 to 5 depending upon the nature and seriousness of the injuries sustained, the fault issues, the prospects ofd recovery and so forth.
Here are some of the key points that attorney Todd Bovo recommends that you consider before entering any insurance settlement:
Settlements are Final
Any settlement that you arrange with your insurer will include a clause that releases them of liability. This release of liability means that they are no longer responsible for paying for anything outside of the settlement amount.
You, the victim, have to ensure that you’ve recovered from all of your injuries and expenses because once a settlement is reached, you won’t be able to receive any additional compensation or take them to court. Sometimes unforeseen complications arise, or victims underestimate the total value of their claim and that’s why it’s important to practice patience before settling.
Don’t Settle Before You Fully Recover
The full extent of your injuries may not come to the surface immediately and if you arrange a settlement before you’ve fully recovered, then you may miss including something in your settlement arrangement that you will have to cover yourself. It’s important to understand how your injuries will affect the following before arranging a settlement:
- Current and future employment opportunities
- Activity levels and mobility
- Mental and emotional health
- Quality of life
- Physical health
- Ongoing treatment needs
A physician will determine when a personal injury victim has reached their maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning that the impairment has healed as much as it is expected to and any remaining injuries or complications are permanent. Accepting a settlement before you’ve reached MMI could be detrimental to your ability to recover.
Settlement Offers Aren’t Now or Never
Rejecting a settlement offer, no matter what the insurance company says, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to receive compensation in the future. Experience personal injury attorneys recognize that the initial settlement offer is only the beginning of the negotiations and is normally much lower than what the case is worth.
Insurance companies want to spend the least amount of money possible by offering low settlement amounts and resolving cases quickly.
What A Good Settlement Offer Looks Like
The settlement offer that you consider accepting will take care of your health needs created by the accident and help you recover your quality of life. A settlement offer worth accepting will account for recovery of the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Costs of prospective medical treatments and therapies
- Vehicle repairs and property damage
- Alternative transportation
- Outsourcing of daily and household tasks
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages and future lost income
- Loss of enjoyment in daily life
Going through these considerations and working with a personal injury attorney who understands the importance of making a full recovery, advocates for maximum compensation on your behalf, and has experience working with victims similar to you can help you decide when a settlement is right for you given the nature and scope of the injury you have sustained.
Bryan Hamill is a freelance writer dealing with a variety of legal, social and other issues affecting consumers.