If you have sustained an injury due to someone’s negligence, you have the right to receive compensation for your losses. With the help of a personal injury attorney, you may be able to settle the claim before going to court. This is usually the simplest option, since it saves time and effort. But if the defendant balks, or if there are mitigating circumstances, it may be better to let a judge or jury determine your personal injury settlement. Either way, we will guide you through the process.
Are you seeking a personal injury settlement? Call Russell & Lazarus APC at (949) 851-0222. We can help you negotiate a fair settlement, and advocate on your behalf.
How Do I Get Started?
Your first step is to seek medical attention. It’s important to have a doctor determine what type of injury you suffered, how bad the injury is, what kind of treatment you will require, and how much it will cost. Only then can you proceed with the case. At that point, we’ll help you move forward with the legal process. Below, we outline some of the steps you will have to follow:
1. Calculating Special Damages
You first have to calculate special damages, also known as economic losses or “out-of-pocket loss.” A significant injury will almost always limit or preclude your ability to work effectively, and the loss of a breadwinner can be devastating. Special damages may include the following:
- Lost income, especially if the damage is permanent or your family lost its primary breadwinner.
- Property damage.
- Medical bills.
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation costs.
- Funeral and cremation costs.
You also have to calculate future economic losses. This can be difficult to determine, especially regarding future medical/rehab expenses and lost income due to decreased earning capacity. Your personal injury attorney may hire an expert to help make these calculations and determine how your injuries or loss will impact your future. This can depend on many factors, including the economic forecast, your previous income, salaries of comparable workers, your industry, your life expectancy, and your retirement age.
2. Calculating General Damages
Step two involves calculating general damages (non-economic losses), which are primarily quality of life situations. These may include the following:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Mental anguish.
- Loss of companionship.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of reputation.
Because they provide only a rough compensation for your injuries, general damages awards typically amount to up to five times the special damages.
3. Adjusting the Claim Value
Next, you need to adjust the previously calculated amounts, based on the following factors:
- Liability. It’s easier to win a case and get a higher settlement when the defendant is clearly at fault. For disputed cases, or cases where investigators have assigned you some blame, we may need to adjust the value downward.
- Other defendants. When the case includes multiple defendants, we must decide how much each needs to pay.
- Your characteristics. The jury may consider the “characteristics of the plaintiff,” including your age, employment, prior medical history, and even your likeability.
- Venue. The location of the trial may affect the size of your settlement. Conservative juries, or those located in more rural areas, tend to award lower personal injury settlements than juries elsewhere. Insurance adjusters will also seek the lower their payouts.
- Mitigating Factors. The defendant may try to reduce your settlement based on conditions at the time of the accident (for example, a slick road due to rain) or because you failed to seek immediate medical care, causing the final medical costs to rise.
4. Making Your Offer
The fourth and final step is to present your settlement offer to the defendant’s lawyer or insurance company. After some negotiation, your injury attorney and the insurance company may come to a voluntary agreement on the settlement amount. If not, your case will have to go to trial, where a jury or judge will make the determination of damages and assign a settlement amount.
We Can Help You Negotiate a Personal Injury Settlement
Determining a value for your claim that is fair can be both difficult and complex. If you need help negotiating your personal injury settlement, call Russell & Lazarus APC at (949) 851-0222 today.