"How much is my personal injury case worth?" is the question most clients ask us upon our first meeting about their injury case. Of course, the answer is complex and dependent upon many variables. But for our purposes here, it is easy: It's impossible to know the value of any claim on day one. So RUN from any attorney who tries to tell you the value of your personal injury case on day one. They are just guessing, and you need solid legal representation, not a lawyer pretending to be Nostradamus and trying to divine what the future holds. Within this article, we will guide you through the process of getting a fair personal injury case settlement.
Every claim is unique, even if they appear similar at first glance. For example, even when two individuals are involved in the same car accident and seem to have common injuries, there is a genuine likelihood that the value of their claims will be different. We tell our clients that 1000 factors will come together to help us figure out the value of a case.
If there is one thing about personal injury claims that you must know, it is this: Never settle with an insurance company … before speaking with an injury attorney. An unrepresented injured party is like blood in the water for the insurance company sharks. For example, recently, a severely hurt person in an auto accident came to consult with us.
Still, he had already signed a general release and accepted a payment of $500.00 from the insurance company for his accident. This person's case would have been worth tens of thousands of dollars, but he is out of luck because little did he realize, by signing the release and accepting this small sum, he signed away all of his rights – before speaking to us.
A personal injury attorney will listen to your story, ask you some questions about your situation and injuries, and give you an idea about what type of offer the insurance company should make. Then, in very short order, a personal injury attorney can let you know if you should accept the settlement or retain an attorney to fight for the compensation you rightly deserve.
How do You Determine the Value of a Personal Injury Case?
There are many factors that we look at before coming up with our best advice – some of those factors:
- Injuries – Looking at the extent of the injuries sustained, permanency of those injuries, and likelihood of full recovery.
- Liability – How substantial is the weakness in the particular personal injury case against the party that caused the injury.
- Trial Statistics – Examining other jury verdicts and settlements with similar injuries cases.
- Money and Damages – How much do we feel the particular personal injury case may be worth at trial vs. the offer on the table for settlement.
We used these metrics to make a well-informed estimation on the value of the personal injury case, then ALWAYS discuss it with our clients (remember it's your case, don't let any lawyer tell you differently). The injured client always makes the final call as to settlement or not, we will certainly give you our opinion as your injury lawyers, but you get the final say.
What Is Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) and Why Does It Apply to My Personal Injury Case?
To fully understand the extent of your injuries, we must wait until you achieve maximum medical improvement (MMI) to proceed with your case. MMI means that either you have fully recovered or the injury has stabilized to a point where no further recovery is expected. By waiting for MMI, we benefit from understanding the total cost of your medical treatment and any ongoing physical limitations that may exist.
Why Shouldn't I Settle with the Insurance Company?
Below are five reasons you should never settle with an insurance company. Although the insurance companies use their size, money, and strong-arm tactics against people daily, understanding these tricks will help. Read over these reasons before you consider a settlement offer and keep them in the back of your mind as you speak with the insurance adjuster.
- The insurance adjuster is not your friend. They may seem sympathetic and compassionate, and they may even genuinely feel bad that you were injured, but ultimately, they don't have your interests at heart. The adjuster's job is to get you to settle quickly and for as little as possible. Often, at least initially, the adjuster will present an extremely caring demeanor to bond with you. Then they give the settlement amount almost as if they are doing you a favor. Always remember their job: to get you to settle for as little money as possible.
- The insurance company trains its adjusters to be manipulative. They may lie to you, twist the facts, and deceive you any chance they get. They will tell you this is their final offer, that you will receive less money if you retain an attorney, that they are doing you a favor. They will try everything to trick you into accepting a low settlement because this is their career. They get paid to get you to take exceedingly low and often insulting settlements.
- Once the insurance adjuster realizes that you will not quickly settle, they may demean and insult you. Suddenly your friendly insurance adjuster will become grumpy, insulting, and downright mean. They will insist that you are attempting to get more money than you deserve and that you are exaggerating your injuries. They will accuse you of being deceptive. They may avoid your phone calls, getting back to you and giving you "their last final offer." Again, as before, they will do everything they can to get you to settle.
- The insurance adjuster will trick you and mislead you whenever you speak to them. Everything you say can be used against you when you talk to the adjuster. If they call and ask how you are doing, and you casually answer, 'fine,' they may write down, "Injured party reported on 5/12/2021 that they feel fine." These unfair tactics are par for the course for insurance adjusters. They may try to get you to give a recorded statement or answer questions that they can later twist and use against your case.
- People who retain an attorney receive more than twice as much in their settlements. A study by the Insurance Research Council found that individuals who hired an attorney to help them through the personal injury process received payments more than twice as high as those who chose to go it alone.
These five reasons you should never settle with an insurance company should be enough, but there are countless other games that the insurance companies play to make your life hell after an accident. Don't go through this yourself.
How Do Insurance Companies Rig the System?
Insurance companies have spent millions of dollars to develop a computer program called Colossus, whose primary focus is to find ways to reduce payments for injury claims. So how can Colossus do this? Initially, the programmers studied how insurance adjusters made decisions on injury claims and created the program to aggregate the data through questions and spit out a value range. Colossus looks at many factors: the severity of the injury, settlements for the same type of injuries, and verdicts.
The program seems fair and logical on its face, but here is the catch: insurance company executives are inputting the data. Those executives have a mandate to increase the bottom line, and this is done by paying less for injury claims. They are at the controls of Colossus, which means that they can and will skew the data to spit out lower valuations for claims – thus increasing profitability.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer Jonathan Marx discusses the Top 3 insurance company tricks used when trying to minimize the value of your personal injury case. Understanding these tricks can only help when trying to get a fair settlement on your personal injury case.
- Insurance adjusters try to rush you to settle immediately.
- The 3 D’s: Delay, Deny, and Defend.
- Bully Tactics – Adjusters telling the injured “We are going to close your file unless you cooperate”.
What Does the Personal Injury Case Settlement Process Involve?
Your attorney will work with you to collect your medical bills and records, confirmation of lost pay, and physician statements about any physical limitations you may face. Then, your attorney will provide all of that information together with a settlement demand to the insurance company. This is called a Demand Packet.
The demand packet will provide a narrative of the accident, information concerning why the other party is at fault, how you have suffered, the ongoing effects of your injury, and an initial settlement figure. The insurance company will generally review this information and counter with a lower settlement figure. This often lengthy process can continue back and forth for several months.
What Happens if a Settlement Cannot Be Reached?
If your attorney and the insurance company do not agree upon a settlement, your case will be tried. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on personal injury trials is two years. That means that if you do not file your suit within two years from the date of injury, you cannot recover. Rest assured, if we have not achieved a top dollar settlement, we will file a lawsuit on your behalf, making sure you do not miss this deadline.
Unlike some other personal injury law firms, at KaplunMarx, we are not afraid of seeing cases through to trial if we are not offered a satisfactory settlement. In many cases, we often file suits to put added pressure on the insurance company. Our trial attorneys are prepared to go to Court to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
The answer to how long it will take to settle your injury case varies, but rest assured, if you are with KaplunMarx, we will work to get a fair personal injury case settlement. To set up a free consultation with a Personal Injury Lawyer attorney, call 215-939-4895 or contact us online.