Our law firm has seen many people who come in with certain expectations of how a car accident claim may turn out. The people may be truly injured and have a strong case against another driver, or they may have just been a part of an accident and think that this gives them an opportunity to make some “easy money.”
Put simply, the process of fighting an insurance company (which is the case in most motor vehicle accident cases) is long and difficult. So before you move forward on starting a case for a recent motor vehicle accident, consider these common myths of the value of car accident settlements:
Myth 1: Insurance companies would rather pay you a large sum of money, even for small injuries, than have to deal with court costs.
Insurance companies have spent a lot of time and money tracking cases and juries so that they can best predict outcomes. This means that if the insurance company feels confident they’ll win a case (and they have the data backing up their reasoning), then they will take on litigation costs to fight your claim. They’ve done extensive work to know when and if a case is worth contesting. So do not believe that you can file a claim for small or non-serious injuries and just get a check in the mail.
Myth 2: You can figure out how much money you’ll be given by doing a simple math problem, like multiplying medical bills times two or three.
Be cautious of those online case calculators. There are so many factors that go into determining the value of a car accident settlement that there is no “easy” way to figure it out.
In deciding on your case, a jury will consider:
1. Extent of injuries and medical bills
2. Conduct of the at-fault party
3. Income lost from missing work and/or losing a job
4. Property loss (destroyed car or other property)
5. Emotional distress, pain and suffering
While it may be rather straightforward to figure out how much your medical bills costs, the other items are harder to calculate. A good personal injury lawyer will be able to help you determine the value of your lost property and wages, and a value to place on pain and suffering (which is not just “bills times three”). Your lawyer will then make a strong case for this amount, but a jury and judge may then disagree. Hence, there’s no easy way to know what a case may settle for.
Myth 3: Any compensation you earn will include payment for the time and effort you put into the case.
Many people believe that court settlements include payments for the time and effort (in other words, the hassle and annoyance), that you and/or your family put into the case. It is just not that easy. While emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life generally can be included in a case, they are determined when a lawyer is able to show “proof” of the distress, like medical notes detailing pain, or a psychologist’s report on the effects of suffering. What is more challenging legally to bring up is the time or effort you put into a long court case.
So when deciding whether or not to go into litigation with an insurance company, know that it’s very difficult to get any consideration for the hassle and annoyance of the experience itself. That said, a good lawyer should handle most of the details so you don’t feel like you are spending all your time on your own case.
In summary, there are few clear-cut rules for how car accident cases work. Your best plan is to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case. He or she will help you decide if the case is worth pursuing, and then the dollar amount that would be reasonable to expect. Don’t go into a motor vehicle accident lawsuit thinking you’ve hit pay dirt – but rather go in knowing you’re entitled to be fully and fairly compensated for the injuries, property loss and income loss you’ve sustained due to another’s fault. That’s the type of case worth fighting for.