Insurance companies rely on the fact that you do not know the true value of your personal injury claim. They will try to tell you what your claim is worth and attempt to settle the claim with you before an experienced attorney reviews your claim, and can give you an opinion regarding the value of your claim.
Chances are, an experienced claims adjuster knows a lot more about your injury than you do. Remember, the insurance company is motivated to settle your case as quickly and as cheaply as possible before you realize the true extent of your damages or injuries.
Experienced claims adjusters want to minimize the risk of paying claims, therefore, they will try to offer an injured person a quick but unfairly low settlement in exchange for a full release. If an adjuster can persuade you to sign a release, you will be prevented from making any future recovery, even if your injuries turn out to be much worse than you expected.
There are generally three important factors that go into establishing the value of every personal injury claim. I like to compare it to a three-legged stool. If your stool is missing any leg, then you don’t have a strong claim.
The three legs required to have a personal injury claim are:
Let’s address liability or fault first.
If you are involved in an accident and it is 100 percent the other person’s fault then this certainly increases the value of your claim. Even if you are partially at fault, or even more than half at fault, you still may be able to make a recovery, but the value of your claim will generally be reduced by your percentage of fault.
This is why insurance companies want to take a recorded statement of you, and get you to say things like: you don’t know whose fault it is or how fast someone was going, or get you to say the accident was partially your fault before you have all the facts. They can then use your words against you to reduce the payment of your claim.
The next leg of the three-legged stool that determines the value of your claim is what are your damages
In other words, if you didn’t go to the doctor, then there’s no documentation that you have an injury. If you haven’t missed a lot of work, or the accident hasn’t affected your life in any meaningful way, then the value of your claim is quite low.
On the other hand if you’ve suffered severe and permanent debilitating injuries that require ongoing medical care and treatment, and you’ve shown a pattern of going to your health care providers on a consistent and regular basis, and your doctors indicate that the crash has affected your ability to work and/or earn income, and that you’re going to have future as well as past medical bills that are expensive, then the damages in your claim are very high.
The third and final leg of the three-legged stool to determine the value of your claim is how much insurance coverage is there to compensate you for your injuries.
If your accident is a result of an uninsured motorist and you don’t have any uninsured motorist coverage on your own vehicle, you may not be able to make any recovery.
Regretfully, about 50 percent of the cars in Florida do not carry bodily injury insurance.
If you get into a crash with an uninsured vehicle and you don’t have adequate uninsured motorist coverage, it probably isn’t worth going after the driver and the owner of the car. It does not make good business sense to pursue a claim.
However, if a large corporation or a company owned the vehicle, or a driver with good insurance causes an accident there may be bodily injury insurance to pay for all of your claim.
Or, we may look to your own automobile insurance policy to see if you have uninsured motorist coverage, which is designed to protect you in the event you’re in a crash with someone who doesn’t have any or adequate insurance.
Generally speaking, if the insurance coverage is low, then the value of your claim will be capped by the low policy limits despite severe damages and clear liability.
And just because there is a big policy of insurance, this does not mean you have a big case. There could be millions of dollars of insurance coverage, but your claim will be based upon your injuries, and the liability.
So ultimately, the value of your claim is a combination of these three important factors. An experienced trial lawyer who focuses the practice on personal injury cases will be able to give you a good estimate on the true value of your claim.
At Powell & Espat, we fully explore any and all insurance which may be available to help compensate you for your losses.
We also investigate as soon as possible if any other person or parties may be responsible for the accident.
In catastrophic cases, we often times hire experts who help us quantify and explain the huge financial losses caused by an inability to return to work, or to help explain the future medical needs and costs that will be needed to help our client manage his or her medical needs in the future.
Every case is unique, and if you have any questions, please call our office and ask to speak with Matt Powell.