Without the help of a personal injury lawyer in Orange County, it can be difficult to understand the true value of your claim. Frequently, insurance companies offer excessively low settlements to unrepresented workers– hoping that they will accept a lowball offer and waive their rights to additional compensation. It’s important to understand how insurance companies formulate their offers– and how you can increase the settlement value of your personal injury claim.
What Damages Does an Insurance Company Have to Pay?
California is a fault-based state. If you are negligent and cause someone’s injuries, you and your liability insurance company are financially responsible. This rule applies to motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, products liability, and other California personal injury claims.
An injured person’s damages can be split into three categories:
- Special or economic damages: compensation for the financial losses associated with an accident, such as lost income, wage earning capacity, medical expenses, and property losses.
- General or non-economic damages: compensation for the emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other non-monetary losses associated with an accident.
- Punitive damages: compensation that aims to punish the negligent party. Punitive damages are rarely available in California personal injury cases.
There is never a cap on your economic damages– California negligence law aims to help you recover all of your financial losses. And, unless you have a medical malpractice claim, California typically does not set a cap on your non-economic damages either.
To recover damages, you must file an insurance claim and sometimes a lawsuit. And, you must have evidence of your damages, such as receipts, statements from your doctors and employer, and proof of your general damages. Since this is difficult to tabulate, you might undervalue your claim if you do not consult with a personal injury lawyer in Orange County.
How Does an Insurance Company Value a Personal Injury Claim?
Insurance companies frequently use software programs, such as Colossus and ClaimIQ, to evaluate their personal injury claims. While the calculations vary from company to company, there are some common elements. The software typically:
- Estimates the cost of your medical treatment throughout the lifetime of your claim,
- Multiplies your medical expenses by a pain and suffering or severity multiplier. For minor cases, you might have a multiplier of 1.5 or 2. For catastrophic cases, your multiplier might be 5 or more.
- Computes your lost income and anticipated loss of wage earning capacity.
Based on this information, the software recommends a low and a high value for your claim.
However, this calculation is more of an art than a science. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses– their goal is to limit costs and deny claims. You should never assume that their calculations are correct or fair. And, there is evidence that insurance companies manipulate their data in Colossus to justify excessively low claim and settlement payments.
Insurance companies will never give you their calculations– and you can’t simply access Colossus online. For this reason, it’s important to consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer in Orange County. A lawyer can help you increase your claim’s value by:
- Building an evidentiary record that supports your claim,
- Proving your entitlement to additional damages (such as loss of consortium),
- Strengthening your case with expert witnesses,
- Providing a detailed rundown of your financial losses, especially your future medical expenses and lost earning capacity, and
- Rebutting the insurance company’s legal defenses.
Unlike the insurance company’s representatives, your lawyer will work to maximize your recovery and protect your legal rights.
Comparative Fault in California
Sometimes, the insurance can reduce your damage award. California is a comparative fault or comparative negligence state. If you were partially responsible for the accident, your award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, suppose you were 30% responsible for a car accident and you have $100,000 in damages. Your damages award would be reduced to $70,000 ($100,000 x 0.3 = a $30,000 comparative fault reduction).
Insurance companies and injured motorists frequently disagree on comparative fault issues. Your insurance company may overestimate your comparative fault and offer you insufficient compensation for your injuries. If you disagree with the insurance company’s assessment, contact a personal injury lawyer in Orange County right away.
A Personal Injury Lawyer in Orange County Can Assess Your Claim’s Value
Before you accept a settlement or close your claim with an insurance company, contact a personal injury lawyer in Orange County. While the insurance company wants to reduce costs and minimize your claim’s value, the lawyers at Russell & Lazarus, APC, are on your side. They will work with you to build a compelling case and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.