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 noneconomic 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.