Every year approximately 32 million people were treated in an emergency for an accident or injury in the United States. An antibiotic could cause you to break out in itchy hives, or a drunk driver could slam into your car, leaving you with an agonizing whiplash. In a heartbeat, your happy lifestyle can be dramatically changed, and you may be stuck with expensive car repairs and huge medical bills. The following is a guide to provide information about injury law and to give you pointers about the entire process from filing a claim to receiving an insurance settlement.
Index for Quick Jump
In the event you are seriously injured, you can only file an injury claim if your accident was someone else’s fault. Personal injury law governs the rules to compensate for the pain and distress you sustained from a traumatic car accident or injury resulting from someone’s negligence.
The settlement award is meant to compensate the injured party financially, and to make the injured person as “whole” as possible again. This means adding up actual damages such as medical bills and property damage, which are fairly easy to calculate, and estimating damages in the form of physical pain, emotional distress or loss of enjoyment, which are more abstract and can be difficult to measure.
You may not realize the dangerous risks you face every day just driving to work or walking through your neighborhood. Some of the many ways you might get injured are:
Since the party who bears the most blame for the injury pays most of the damages, it is important to figure out which party was the most careless or negligent. If you were in a car accident and you were driving too fast, your injury damages might be reduced, depending on the degree of fault. If the other driver ran a red light or was high on drugs, he or she may be blamed entirely.
Everyone who has lost a loved one because of a drunk driver wants justice; a personal injury attorney can help you know whether you can get punitive damages, which are awarded as a punishment.
One of the biggest cases in history with a punitive damage award was In 2002 against a cigarette manufacturer. A woman claimed smoking cigarettes caused her lung cancer; the company was well aware of the risks of smoking, but kept silent. The jury ordered the tobacco company to pay a whopping $28 billion. Drug manufacturers are notorious for hiding the risks and side effects of prescription drugs, and consequently pay massive amounts in punitive damages.
Product liability law involves a faulty product, such as in 2014 when a major car manufacturer built cars with faulty ignition switches that could shut off the engine while it was running, and cut off power steering and brakes. At least 13 people died, and the car company set up a $400 million fund to compensate victims.
The individual who caused the accident, or the company that owned the property where the accident occurred, may be blamed because of legal duty to take precautions so that no one gets hurt. Drivers shouldn’t speed, and a restaurant has to take care that any spills are mopped up quickly to avoid falls. Some examples of legal duty are:
If you have been injured and think you might have a case, consider some of the different ways damages may be compensated:
Right after your accident, the insurance company might come knocking at your door waving a settlement offer. The main goal of an insurance company is to offer you as little as possible to settle your case; the insurance adjuster will never voluntarily give you the full value of your claim.
As soon as possible order the incident or accident report and try to write down everything that you remember about the accident, including the names of any witnesses. Be sure and take pictures of your injuries and your smashed up car, and of the accident site.
If you have been involved in a car accident or some other kind of injury, you may be overwhelmed with your pain and intimidated by the insurance company. Here are some concrete steps to simplify the complex process:
Insurance companies use actual costs such as medical bills and car repairs, along with a multiplier of 1.5 to 5% for injuries such as whiplash or sprains, to more debilitating injuries, such as brain injury or loss of limb, to place a value on the physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and discomfort. However, motor vehicle accidents or a serious injury that tragically leaves you in a wheelchair, or with horrible scars, or even ends in death, may be multiplied by up to 10 times.
The Multiplier used is 1.5 to 10% X Medical Expenses + Loss of Income = Insurance Settlement
Example: If you had $4,000 in medical bills and $800 in lost wages and you had severe whiplash, the multiplier might be 5%, and your settlement value would be approximately $24,000.
The best way to receive the maximum amount of insurance settlement from the insurance company is with the help of a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will initiate the litigation, contact the adjuster and stress the severity of your suffering, using graphic photos of your injury or damaged car, placing as much blame as possible on the other party.
The adjuster will automatically counter with a lower offer, so the first offer is almost never accepted. Your attorney will come down slightly, and the dickering will go back and forth several times until a settlement amount is reached, usually somewhere in between.
In the event of a large settlement, consider financial advice to safely manage your settlement, including estate planning. Planning for the future is a wise idea for clients, not just the rich, to have plans in place should something happen to you, so that your home, business and other belongings are left to the right person.
You also want to provide the best care for your young children, and you can purchase insurance for yourself if you, unfortunately, become disabled. The two main types are income replacement insurance and long term care such as rehabilitation facilities or nursing homes.
After a personal injury settlement has been reached, the insurance company will send a settlement check in exchange for a release from you. Generally, the insurance company will send two separate checks; one for the attorney for his fee and expenses, and one for the injured party. If the two checks are combined, the attorney will place the check in trust and wait for it to clear before he can issue a check to you.
If you have been injured, be sure to consult an attorney to determine if you can file a claim, helping you to receive the best possible settlement from the insurance company.