Personal injury settlements are a common way to resolve California liability claims. However, you should never take the decision to settle lightly. Before you negotiate a settlement, make sure you understand your claim’s value — and what you will be giving up. Learn more about California personal injury settlements below.
When Should I Settle a Personal Injury Claim?
The timing of a personal injury claim is important. If you settle too early, you might undervalue your claim’s worth — especially if your recovery takes longer than expected. But, if you wait too long, your claim’s value might decrease — or you might miss the statute of limitations and lose your right to compensation. It can be difficult to properly time settlement negotiations on your own. If you are interested in a settlement, you should consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer who can help you craft a settlement strategy that maximizes your claim’s value.
Once you settle, you cannot go back and reopen the claim and demand additional compensation. For this reason, it’s important that you take the decision to settle seriously. You might benefit from a settlement if:
- Your injury-related conditions are stable and you are tired of dealing with the insurance company,
- A lump sum will help you pay your bills or have financial stability, or
- There is conflicting evidence and you don’t want to risk losing your case.
And, sometimes settlement isn’t in your best interests. An experienced lawyer can help you assess your claim and help you decide whether a settlement is a good option.
Valuing Personal Injury Settlements
The value of your personal injury claim depends on its strength and the extent of your damages. It’s important to remember that insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They view you as a claim rather than a person § and typically base their settlement offers on mathematical equations and software algorithms. When you and your lawyer assess your claim’s settlement value, you should keep this in mind.
How Strong Is Your Claim?
California applies comparative negligence principles in personal injury cases (your recovery is reduced by your percentage of fault). Thus, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your personal injury claim before you make a settlement demand. If you have strong evidence that the other party’s negligence caused your injuries, the insurance company will be more eager to settle your claim. For example, suppose you are legally crossing an intersection when another driver runs a red light.
However, many personal injury claims are complicated by pre-existing conditions, conflicting medical evidence, comparative fault issues, and other problems. Since the insurance company will try to use these issues to their advantage, you must take them into consideration during settlement negotiations.
What Is the Extent of Your Injuries?
Most people do not have access to expensive software programs that insurance companies frequently use to value settlements. Instead, they rely on an experienced personal injury lawyer to quantify and compute their damages. Your damages might include compensation for:
- Wage loss,
- Medical expenses,
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of enjoyment,
- Disfigurement, and
- Permanent disabilities or limitations.
Your lawyer will help you compile your accident-related expenses and establish your non-economic damages.
The Settlement Process
Typically, the insurance company will start the process by either requesting a settlement demand or issuing a settlement offer. Then, you will negotiate back and forth until you reach a compromise. The insurance company’s first offer is usually very low and doesn’t reflect its full settlement authority. During these negotiations, you might engage in alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation. Your personal injury lawyer will help you prepare and navigate these hearings and the related negotiations.
Once you and the insurance company agree on a settlement amount, you will sign a series of documents. It’s important that you carefully read them. You should never sign a legal document that you do not understand. If you need help understanding the insurance company’s proposed settlement documents, contact a personal injury settlements lawyer immediately.
Working with a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Improve Your Settlement Value
Personal injury settlements are dependent on the strength of your evidence. Unfortunately, many people do not have the skills and legal knowledge to prepare and develop a personal injury claim for litigation. Unless your claim is very simple, you should always consult with a personal injury lawyer before settling your claim.
The benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer are significant. Your lawyer will:
- Obtain all the relevant evidence in your claim,
- Decide whether expert testimony will help increase your claim’s strength and value,
- Organize and properly compute your damages,
- Present compelling arguments during mediation or other alternative dispute resolution processes,
- Educate you about your legal rights and options — allowing you to make good decisions about your claim,
- Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf — ensuring that you receive fair compensation for your injuries, and
- Review and explain all of your settlement documents — ensuring that they are in your best interests.
Without a lawyer, you might undervalue your settlement and give up your right to further compensation. And, once a settlement is finalized, it is very difficult to cancel it.
Consult with a Personal Injury Settlements Lawyer
At Russell & Lazarus, APC, we work with our clients to maximize their personal injury settlements. If you have questions about a settlement, contact us for a free consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.
Don’t Settle with the Insurance Company Until You Know the Full Extent of Your Orange County Auto Accident Injuries
It is completely understandable that you would want to settle with the other driver’s insurance company as soon as possible after an Orange County car accident. After all, you want to be done with the hassle so you can recover and get back to a normal life. However, don’t be too quick to negotiate a settlement offer. It’s usually in your best interest to wait.
You Simply Don’t Know the Full Extent of Your Car Accident Injuries Until You Have Recovered
The simple truth of the matter is that you won’t know how much your injuries have cost you physically, financially, and emotionally until the recovery process is completed. While you may be tempted to settle with the insurance company as soon as possible after an Orange County auto accident, it’s important to wait until you know if there will be any surgical intervention, scarring, worsening, or other complications and if you will be able to eventually return to work and normal day-to-day activities.
Don’t Accept the Insurance Company’s First Offer after an Orange County Car Accident
The insurance company’s first offer is rarely their best offer, and they will often attempt to minimize the extent of your injuries or settle before you’ve had a chance to determine any long-term complications. Before you have consulted with an Orange County auto accident attorney, it’s best to avoid discussing a potential settlement offer with the insurance company in order to protect your rights.
An Orange County Auto Accident Attorney Can Help You Get the Settlement You Deserve
An Orange County auto accident attorney can be instrumental in helping you get a fair settlement that covers the full extent of your injuries—both now and in the future. Your attorney can help you collect evidence, build a strong case in your favor, and handle all of the details for you. If you have questions, we’d be happy to meet with you in a completely free and confidential consultation to talk about your options and your rights. Give us a call today.
Insurance Companies May Pressure You into an OC Accident Settlement
It should be simple to get the compensation you deserve after you have been injured by another driver’s negligence, but it doesn’t often work out that way. Many auto accident attorney victims or their families are pressured or “tricked” into accepting a settlement offer that is too low and that does not cover the actual costs of their injuries and losses related to the wreck. Here are some tricks and tactics the insurance company may use to get you to settle for less:
- Trying to settle too soon
- Threatening legal action against you
- Threatening not to settle if you don’t do what they want
- Harassing you for information you’ve already given or that isn’t relevant to your claim
- Using irrelevant or inaccurate information
- Shuffling your claim to other insurance adjusters
And this is hardly an exhaustive list! Accident victims shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of pressure after they have been injured in an Orange County accident, but it’s an unfortunate reality for many. Especially after accidents in which the fault was clear, victims expect the personal injury claim settlement process to be easy, but they are often left disappointed, frustrated, confused, and unsure where to turn for help.
Contact Orange County Auto Accident Attorney
Before you have consulted with an Orange County auto accident attorney, it’s best to avoid discussing a potential settlement offer with the insurance company in order to protect your rights. Reach out to Russell & Lazarus today to learn more and schedule a completely free, no obligation case review.
Long Beach Personal Injury Lawyers Discuss Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Our Long Beach personal injury lawyers at Russell & Lazarus APC understand that dealing with insurance company adjusters can be a frustrating experience. Insurance claims adjusters are professional negotiators who deal with reducing settlement payouts on a daily basis.
Their goal in every situation is to get the claimant to either except a low settlement offer to eliminate the claim quickly or look for reasons to extend the claim for a long period of time as a method of forcing the client to settle because of financial hardship. The insurance company that is responsible for covering damages has no real obligation to an injured claimant other than providing funds for their negligent client. Because of the typical negotiation protocol and financial goal of the insurance company, dealing with an insurance company adjuster is no undertaking for a novice injured claimant and should always be handled by your Long Beach personal injury lawyers.
Understanding Your Damages
Most auto accident claim cases involve compensatory damages that cover medical bills and expenses accrued while seeking medical treatment as an initial reimbursement request. Rental vehicles can often be a part of this calculation, and this is also a component of coverage that should begin immediately. When an insurance company adjuster refuses to provide rental transportation while waiting to pay a property damage claim your Long Beach car accident lawyer can force the company to act immediately or face a separate legal claim for bad faith negotiations.
Insurance companies are required by law to provide coverage as quickly as possible in obvious coverage cases for their client, and failure to provide replacement transportation can often justify that claim. Bad faith claims require the insurance company to pay damages above and beyond the maximum insurance coverage for their responsible client, and having experienced and aggressive personal injury lawyers can help you take inventory of what is needed immediately as well as what your total claim value may be. Always have a dollar amount in mind when dealing with the insurance adjuster.
Never Accept the Initial Offer
Your initial settlement offer is never what you expect it should be. This is done by prescribed negotiation policy for the insurance company adjuster. In addition, especially if the claim includes medical bill recovery and and non-economic pain and suffering compensatory damages, the insurance adjuster will assuredly be seeking a full release from ongoing medical coverage obligations. Your Long Beach personal injury lawyers will advise you to never sign anything until the final settlement is provided in writing. Always require the insurance to company to submit the offer in documentation, along with reasons why the claim may be so low. State auto insurance coverage requirements are typically very low, and many times the injured claimant is entitled to the maximum amount of damage coverage.
Questioning a Low Offer
The first offer from the insurance company adjuster will always be less than the maximum coverage amount. Though the adjuster may not reveal the actual amount of coverage their negligent client may carry on their auto insurance policy, your Long Beach attorneys from Russell & Lazarus can request information from the insurance company regarding all specifics of the respondent’s insurance coverage. When the injured claimant attempts to handle the claim personally there could potentially be much more money available than the typical state minimums for auto insurance coverage.
In addition, there are regularly multiple negligent responsible parties when adjudicating an auto accident, and the insurance adjusters for each party can attempt to deflect responsibility or lessen the comparative negligence percentage of their client. The more insurance companies involved, the greater the complications in most cases. Dealing with these negotiation complications is where your Long Beach personal injury lawyers earn their fee, as your attorney is a professional negotiator also.
Explaining Why Your Settlement Should Be Higher
Anytime an insurance adjuster makes a low offer, it is important to ask for the reasoning behind the inadequate amount. Be prepared to explain to the adjuster in emotional detail why the offer is not sufficient, including reduced ongoing earning capacity and details of how the injury will impact the remainder of your life. Many auto accident injuries are severe and will often result in the injured plaintiff being place on disability or change to sedentary employment, which is often a much lower income level.
Calculating a settlement for non-economic pain and suffering is usually where the value of a claim can be enhanced, and letting your Long Beach car accident lawyer handle the negotiations will often result in a much higher settlement, especially when multiple negligent parties are included. The potential for dealing with multiple insurance companies is also likely in many auto accident injury cases, including claims for defective automobile equipment causation. In addition, the insurance company may also embellish your personal comparative negligence involvement in the accident, which can also be disputed by your legal counsel. Always let the professionals handle your negotiation if you are after a maximum damage recovery.
Contact a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer
Anyone who is dealing with an insurance company regarding a claim settlement should contact Russell & Lazarus APC and let them handle your negotiations with the insurance company adjusters.
4 Steps to Negotiating a Personal Injury Settlement
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. 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 likability.
- 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 today.
Guide to Insurance Company Settlements
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.
Our Orange County Personal Injury Attorney Discusses Settlements Before Trials
Most legal claims of personal injuries do not go to trial in civil courts, according to our Orange County personal injury attorney. The parties resolve the typical case earlier in the litigation by negotiating a settlement. Sometimes they settle the claim informally before filing any lawsuit. Through settlement, the plaintiff or claimant agrees to waive the right to pursue the claim further in exchange for receipt of a sum of money or other consideration from the defendant. In some cases, instead of or in addition to paying money, the defendant agrees to undertake or to cease and desist from certain action.
In considering whether to accept an offer to settle a legal personal injury claim, it is always important to consult with an attorney for a thorough evaluation the case and for an opinion on the settlement offer.
What Should Be Discussed During Consultation?
- Worth or value of the case
- Outcomes on verdicts and settlements in similar cases,
- Probability of favorable result at trial,
- Practical problems of trial,
- Evidentiary strengths/weaknesses, and
- Opposing party’s evidentiary strengths weaknesses.
- Money and damages
- What the Orange County personal injury attorney consultant thinks the case value may be in damages a trial jury could award the plaintiff,
- The minimal amount the plaintiff would accept to settle the case without a trial,
- The liability limits of the defendant’s insurance, and
- The defendant’s financial resources.
- Considerations for the plaintiff
- How much of the settlement amount will pay legal fees and case costs? In most personal injury lawsuits, contingency fees pay the lawyer. The plaintiff pays no legal fees unless and until success at trial or a satisfactory settlement.
- How will the settlement proceeds affect the plaintiff’s income taxes? Most settlements are income that taxpayers must report on their returns. The taxable percentage depends on circumstances.
- Consider what to give up in order to settle the case. Generally there must be some compromise by both parties to negotiate a settlement they both accept.
- Think about a partial settlement that resolves easy issues first while negotiations continue over the more difficult, and
- Decide whether to accept a consideration besides money.
- Privacy concerns
- Trials are in courts open to the public and to media coverage and scrutiny.
- Sensitive information that a trial or further discovery could reveal.
- Possible disclosure of business trade secrets;
- How soon the court is likely to call the case for trial and how long it may take.
- Negotiation tactics of the opposing party’s lawyer, and
- The probability that the opposing party will be unwilling to negotiate.
Your Attorney Can Help You Determine Whether or Not to Accept an Offer
As a party to the dispute, only the plaintiff personally can decide whether to accept a settlement offer. But counsel for the opposing party has a duty to get the best possible result by offering the plaintiff as little as possible, so is the offer a good deal for the plaintiff, too? A seasoned attorney is in the best position to analyze and answer that question.
Consult Our Orange County Personal Injury Attorney
It is important to understand the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant’s insurer. They are not allies. Insurance claim adjusters ask claimants or plaintiffs lots of questions to acquire lots of information but not to protect the plaintiffs. Insurance companies are not in business to pay claims. They want to pay as little on claims as possible. They want to adjust plaintiff claims only one way, down, to zero if possible. And they can be masters of deceit and delay. They will use stall tactics to run out the clock if they can until claims are out of time and claimants are out of court.
There is nothing for an injured claimant to gain from unnecessary delay. Let the skilled and experienced personal injury attorneys at Russell & Lazarus APC negotiate with the defendant’s insurer and see how fast the case moves to a settlement offer. Contact us today to schedule a free initial case consultation.
Our Riverside Personal Injury Law Attorney Discusses Lowball Settlements
As a private entity with money in mind, it is not surprising that insurance companies would do whatever it can to maximize their profits. One way is by getting you to accept a ridiculously low settlement offer. With extremely effective negotiation tactics, some insurance companies are successful in settling personal injury cases at a low number. Experienced Riverside personal injury lawyers are prepared to answer these tactics to ensure you receive a fair and reasonable settlement.
Insurer Negotiation Tactics
The first offer is rarely fair. After being involved in an accident, you are vulnerable and may be inclined to accept any money. Knowing this, insurance companies take advantage of your vulnerability by offering to settle at an unreasonably low amount.
How do you know whether the offer is reasonable or not? A fair settlement will cover the following costs (depending on the policy):
- Medical expenses
- Property damages
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident and/or your injuries
- Lost wages
- Future medical expenses and lost income
If the offer does not cover these expenses or, if not, is not the maximum policy limits, then the offer is too low. Some reasons for the lowball offer are:
- Your settlement demand was unreasonable
- The insurance company is conservative and prefers to litigate
- Offer is based on computerized system that identifies payouts of similar accidents in your area
- Poor documentation of your claim
- Adjuster is new and/or has little authority to settle for a higher amount
- Refusal to pay for some, or all, medical costs upon belief that you were not really injured or your injury was pre-existing. This often occurs if you did not go to the emergency room immediately following the accident, you missed treatments, or you stopped treating.
- Adjuster overstated the amount you were at fault for the accident
What to Do
There are several things you can do if you receive a low offer:
- Ensure that the adjuster received all documents related to your expenses and whether the adjuster needs additional information.
- Ask questions to determine how the insurance adjuster calculated his or her estimate of your damages, what costs went into the calculation, etc.
- Attempt to renegotiate. You may ask if the adjuster has room to move up. If so, then your Riverside personal injury attorney can reduce the initial demand to perhaps the mid-high range of what your case is worth. If the adjuster jumps to a more reasonable number, successful negotiation may be possible.
- Initiate litigation.
Contact Riverside Personal Injury Lawyers
Before you attempt to settle with the insurance company, seek a seasoned Riverside personal injury attorney with Russell & Lazarus APC today.
Our Riverside Personal Injury Lawyer Offers Tips on Understanding Case Settlements
Our Riverside personal injury lawyer receives numerous questions from clients about the economic aspects of settling a case or taking it to trial. The following information might help you as you make a decision about what direction to proceed with your case.
Adjusters and the Authority to Settle a Lawsuit
The attorney for the insurance company will usually be able to provide you with settlement information although he or she might act like they do not know much about these details. In fact, opposing counsel will generally say that he or she needs to seek permission from the insurer prior to settling. However, they probably have already discussed this together and arrived at a reasonable settlement amount.
Your Riverside personal injury lawyer can pose the question to the other attorney and ask what he or she would do if they were in the same situation of trying to place a value on the case. Opposing counsel should be able to provide an estimate of what they believe the case is worth. Your lawyer can then add between 50 and 100 percent to that figure, depending on the extenuating circumstances of the case. The settlement offer might increase in value as the case nears trial, but the defense team looks for ways to reduce costs, in part by settling cases or by winning trials.
The Philosophy of Settling a Case
The other law firm is not trying to befriend your Riverside personal injury lawyer and will only offer a settlement that is in their best interest. They might also consider a settlement if they think that you will win at trial. But if they think that a judge or jury will rule in their favor, then they might gamble with the odds of a trial. In smaller personal injury cases, it’s usually in your best interests to settle the case instead of fighting for a possible ruling in your favor in court. You and your attorney can weigh the value of your time, energy and emotional and physical strain with a potential win or loss in court. When these intangibles are considered, you might be better off to settle a case for $18,000 instead of winning a $20,000 award in court after two or three years.
Call Our Riverside Personal Injury Lawyer
Our Riverside personal injury lawyer at Russell & Lazarus APC can address your concerns about the financial aspects of your lawsuit. Call today.
Do I Need to Pay Taxes on My Settlement? Our Riverside Personal Injury Lawyer Answers
If you are working with a Riverside personal injury lawyer to obtain a settlement, you may be wondering about the tax consequences for any award you receive. The good news is that, most of the time, settlement awards for these types of lawsuits are not considered taxable income. Some exceptions do apply, however. Settlements often include compensation for multiple types of awards, so it is important to understand what your settlement award actually covers. Here is a brief primer to help you understand which types of settlement awards or court judgments are subject to income tax.
Awards Generally Not Considered Taxable Income
In general, you will not be subject to taxation when you are compensated for injuries, illness, or property damage. The purpose of these types of settlement awards is simply to restore you to the position that you were in before your accident. Therefore, from a tax perspective, you are not earning income or profits by collecting these compensatory awards. A Riverside personal injury lawyer can explain to you whether your settlement includes these specific types of damages.
Compensation for property damage is perhaps the most straightforward example of a non-taxable settlement. Examples of property damage might include a damaged or totaled car following an automobile accident, real estate damaged through someone else’s negligence, and any personal items that are damaged in either scenario. In the case of an automobile accident, you may also be entitled to collect compensation for property damage for any rental car you required following your accident. Settlements for property damage in a personal injury lawsuit will not be subject to tax.
Compensation for illness and injury can be slightly more complex. These costs may include medical expenses, rehabilitation, and any other costs you paid or incurred to treat the injury or illness that arose from the accident. These costs can also include compensation for pain and suffering, and even emotional distress that arises as a result of your injury or illness. Again, this type of compensation is generally not taxable, with one exception. Certain emotional distress claims that are independent of an accident-related injury or illness may be subject to tax. Contact a Riverside personal injury lawyer if you have a question about your emotional distress claim.
Awards Generally Considered Taxable Income
The above examples describe the most common types of settlement awards for personal injury claims. However, depending on your claim, you may also receive other types of compensation that count as part of your overall taxable income. These awards fall into two general categories: lost wages and punitive damages.
You may receive compensation for lost wages if you had to miss work because of the injury or illness you suffered in your accident. If you receive this type of award, you will be entitled to the equivalent of any salary or wages, including tips, that you lost during your recovery period. If you had continued working, you would have been required to pay taxes on your normal wages. For that reason, when you receive a settlement for lost wages, you must also pay taxes on that portion of your award. A Riverside personal injury lawyer can explain your settlement breakdown, including which portion of your settlement, if any, is devoted to lost wage compensation.
Punitive damages are a less common type of settlement award intended specifically to punish defendants for acting negligently or recklessly. These awards occur most commonly where a judge or jury wants to discourage a defendant from behaving similarly in the future, and the award amounts can thus be quite large. Because these awards are really directed at punishing the defendant, rather than restoring you to your pre-accident state, punitive damage awards are generally considered taxable income.
Contact a Riverside Personal Injury Lawyer
The tax code is complicated. And your individual tax liability depends on a number of factors including the type of settlement you receive. A Riverside personal injury lawyer can help explain your settlement to you, including which parts of your settlement are dedicated to particular types of compensation. If necessary, your personal injury lawyer can also refer you to a tax specialist to help you understand your tax liability. For further assistance, contact a Riverside personal injury lawyer at Russell & Lazarus, APC.
Personal Injury Settlement, Trial, and Appeal: A Few Key Facts Every Plaintiff Should Know
As a plaintiff in a Newport Beach personal injury case, you must be aware of certain facts and options for carrying out your case. It may be possible to skip the expensive trial by reaching a settlement and you may be able to request a retrial after the jury returns an unfavorable verdict. Learn more about these facts and others in the following slide deck.