Most people think their injury case is worth more than it is. The problem is insurance companies won't agree with you most of the time. The prism they use to analyze your case is different from yours. You will view your case from a very subjective point of view. They use software, statistics, analytical charts, and tons of objective data. They know what juries in your zip code will award on most days. So while you may be correct in your analysis, they are betting on software and statistics in making you their offer. Remember, the insurance company's job is to KEEP its money. Insurance adjusters don't really like paying out on claims. There are many factors affecting the value of any personal injury case, and many exceptions to what I'm about to say, but we are going to simplify matters for purposes of this blog post.
Here are 5 main reasons your case may result in a lower settlement:
1) The extent of your injuries is not that bad. If all you have is aches and pains (sprain/strain), then your injury will be categorized as a "soft tissue" case. Generally speaking, insurance companies aren't impressed with soft tissue cases. Frankly, most jurors are also unimpressed. Remember, 90% of jurors have aches and pains every day. If you ask 12 members of the jury to miss work for two weeks to listen to your case in court, you better have something better to offer them than "aches and pains" because most of them have the same issues every day of their lives (without being involved in an accident).
Your injuries drive the value of your case. In short, the more significant your injury is, the higher the value of your case will be. Many clients come to my office and tell me about their aches and pains after an accident. I totally understand how frustrated they are. After all, who wants to have aches an pains when you didn't have them before an accident. However, then I tell them about my client who had a brain injury and uses a walker for the rest of his life, or my client who lost 50% of his vision, they begin to understand. Once they hear of these more "significant" injuries, they start to put things in perspective. Even if you have lingering aches and pains that don't resolve, if nothing shows up on an xray, MRI or CT scan, it's going to be an uphill battle. I'm not trying to belittle my client's injury, but I assume they want facts and candid advice when they come to see me. Simply put, fractures, surgeries, and permanent injuries tend to be worth more than simple soft tissue cases.
2) Damage to your vehicle is relatively minor or hard to see. After over 20 years of working on both sides of the fence (plaintiff and defense), I've come to accept the basic truth that minor damage (or damage that is hard to see) is a tough sell when it comes to convincing others you were injured. If you need to explain the damage to your vehicle, that is a warning sign your case may be valued less than someone who has photos of horrific vehicle damage. The truth is many people have minor damage but significant injuries, and vice versa. However, the unfortunate truth is that juries and insurance adjusters aren't impressed with minor damage. So while you may indeed be injured, you need to understand that minor damage is going to be a problem for your case.
3) Limited insurance. In some cases, your case may be worth a great deal, but if the person who caused you injury only has limited insurance (i.e., $15,000) and you don't have any additional insurance available to you under your auto policy (i.e., underinsured motorist coverage), then you may be out of luck. Remember, you don't get to keep the entire amount. You may have liens that need to be paid, other outstanding expenses, attorney fees, etc. While you theoretically can go after the responsible party in court, you will have to weigh and balance the potential expenses and time involved in doing so against the likelihood you're going to collect anything from that person. Does it make sense to spend $20,000 in an effort to recover an additional $20,000 on your case? And that assumes the responsible party has any funds to give you in the first place.
4) Low medical bills. Simply put, the lower your medical bills, the lower your settlement will be. Higher medical bills generally result in higher settlements. This is not true in every case. For example, if all you have is a neck sprain and you go get $50,000 in massages, no insurance adjuster or jury is going to award you that amount. Just because you have the bills, that doesn't mean they are reasonable. However, if you have a serious injury, and all you have is a $250 urgent care bill, that may be a problem for your case. That is not to encourage you to go get high medical bills, but just to impress upon you the need for active treatment after an accident. If you don't get any medical care, the insurance adjuster will simply assume you're probably not hurt. Also, remember the amount of your bills is not relevant...it's what the health care provider accepted as payment in full. So for example, if your bills are $100,000 but your health care providers accepted $20,000 as payment in full, then the latter number is what matters. You cannot present the higher amount. Therefore, if you have Medi-Cal, you can imagine your bills will be very low because Medi-Cal pays a fraction of your bills and providers cannot bill you for the balance.
5) What kind of medical treatment you received and how you went out doing so. If you have a significant injury but wait 4 months to do anything about it, the insurance company is going to give you a hard time. They will argue your injury was unrelated, or you wouldn't have waited 4 months. That's why I always tell clients you need to be proactive with your medical care. If your care is sporadic and inconsistent, don't be surprised if the insurance company offers you a paltry sum. The sooner you treat, the better.
Again, the previous points are simply general in nature. There are many exceptions. If you want candid advice about your personal injury case, please feel free to contact our office. Call (661) 414-7100.
There are several factors that may affect the value of a personal injury case. That being said, there is no exact science to the evaluation of any accident case. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you analyze your case. This discussion assumes you were actually injured in an auto accident.
Here are some factors that might influence the evaluation:
1) The severity of the impact and the amount of property damage. If you have to squint to see the damage to your vehicle, you will have an uphill battle getting any sympathy from an insurance company - even if the impact felt huge! In short, if have minimal property damage, most insurance companies won't believe your injury. As a general rule, the more visible property damage you have, the more the insurance company will believe your injury.
2) The severity of the injury. Minor soft tissue sprains and strains don’t impress adjusters or juries. Therefore, if all you have is a minor soft tissue injury, you shouldn't expect a high valuation of your case. Of course, there are "degrees" of soft tissue injuries, but as a general rule, insurance companies are more likely to fight soft tissue cases. The inverse is true - the more serious your injuries (fractures, surgery performed, etc.), the more value your case will usually have. Also, how the accident affected your daily life may be considered by some insurance adjusters.
3) Your age. Simply put, the older you are, the more susceptible you are to injury. Younger people generally have a harder time convincing an adjuster they had appreciable injury. Most insurance companies believe that younger claimants are more resilient and therefore more resistant to injury.
4) Residual injury. If you have injuries that won’t resolve and are projected to last a long time (or indefinitely), it may affect the value of your case. Also, permanent injuries can affect the value of your accident case as will anything requiring surgical intervention. Injuries that appears on xrays, MRIs, CT scans, etc. may also affect the value of your case assuming they are indeed related to the accident. Pre-existing injuries to the same body parts may also affect the insurance company's opinion.
5) The Insurance Company/Adjuster - I hate to say this, but some insurance companies are notoriously stingy. Unless your head popped off your body and rolled down the street, they will almost always give you a hard time. Similarly, the insurance adjuster assigned to your case may factor into the valuation. Simply put, some adjusters are cynical and suspicious folks who think everyone is trying to scam the system while other adjusters can be more reasonable.
There are other factors, but in my experience, these are among the top considerations. If you would like an evaluation of your car accident case, give our office a call at (661) 414-7100.
I met with a client today, and that was the very question we discussed. He was in a relatively minor accident but was feeling a little stiffness in his neck. Because there was very little visible damage to his vehicle (and not much to the other vehicle either), I was not inclined to represent him. I was very honest with this gentleman. I told him that his case wasn’t going to be worth much because of the minor damage. I explained that most insurance adjusters generally equate minor damage with minor injuries (or not at all). While I encouraged him to seek medical care for his condition, I explained that bringing a claim for personal injury requires work. You can’t just sit there at home and expect your claim will be successful. For this particular client, the incident was so minor that he decided it wasn’t “worth it” for him to bother. Bringing a personal injury case isn’t always warranted, and in some cases, may not be the best thing for the client to undergo. Bringing a claim requires active participation.
Answer: If you’re calling me right after your accident, then I don’t know.
I got a call today from a client who got hurt about 3 days ago. His ankle was fractured, and he asked, “How much is an ankle worth?” Truth is, there is no open market for body parts so I couldn’t tell you how much an ankle is worth so early on in the case. We still don’t have all the facts. This is not like calling Walmart and asking, “How much for a basic toaster oven?” If a lawyer promises your case is worth a certain amount so early in the case, that lawyer is not giving you a fair or accurate evaluation of your case. My recommendation to the client was to keep visiting with his doctors and make sure his health was top priority. After he is done treating, he will be in a better position to approach valuation of his case.
Short answer: None.
Longer Answer: I have bad news for some folks. There is no magic formula that exists when determining the value of your personal injury case. I certainly wish there was. It would make my job easier. The BIGGEST misperception by far is that one only needs to multiply their medical bills by a multiple of three. Therefore, if they have $3000 in medical bills, their case must be worth at least $9000. Unfortunately, that is not the formula, nor is there any magic formula for determining the value of a personal injury case.
The value of a personal injury case depends on many different factors that are too new numerous to mention in this blog entry. It has to do with where you live, jury sentiment, the economy, your likability (yes, unlikable people who rub insurance adjusters the wrong way don’t do as well). Suffice it to say there is no magic formula or secret recipe of any sort when it comes to determining the value of a personal injury case. Some factors, however, can influence the amount. Those include the severity of the impact, how bad the pictures look, the severity of the injury, the age of the individual, whether or not there were any lost earnings, whether or not the client will continue to suffer from the injury, and whether or not there was any residual injury and how long that injury might last. There are many other factors, but please know there is no magic formula.
For a longer discussion of what goes into valuing your personal injury or accident case, visit our library page.
Talk to an experienced lawyer who will let you know if you have a case worth pursuing. In short, imagine if someone was telling you the same story while you were sitting on a jury. Would you feel compelled to provide them with compensation or would you simply say, “So what?” I got a call from a client who bumped his head on a door at McDonalds. I asked him if he had any significant injury. He said he only got a slight bump on the head. He wanted to know if he had a case. I told him to imagine a whole bunch of resentful jurors (who’d rather be doing anything other than jury duty) sitting for a week in trial for him to tell them about his little bump on the head. I asked him, “Now do you think they’d want to give you anything for that?” He said, “Probably not.” I replied, “Then that is your answer.” Some people think they have a case simply because something “happened.” That alone does not mean you have a case.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,