How to Determine What a Reasonable Settlement Would be for Your Car Accident, Work Injury or Other Personal Injury Case
If you have been injured in an accident because of the negligence of another, you may be wondering what a fair settlement would be for your personal injury claim. The answer to that question is largely determined by what “damages” the incident caused you. Money damages is a legal term that defines what harms and losses you are specifically able to recover money for under West Virginia law.
Another way to measure your damages is to add up what the accident has cost you monetarily, physically and mentally. It’s fairly easy to add up your past medical bills. However, if you will likely require future medical treatment and/or may lose additional wages, calculating future medical costs and future lost wages and other losses is essential to fairly evaluating your West Virginia personal injury case.
Who is Responsible for Paying Your West Virginia Personal Injury Claim?
In a personal injury case, the person, corporation, employer, government or other entity who is legally responsible for your personal injury claim is called the defendant. The person injured by the defendant’s negligence or other misconduct is called the plaintiff. However, your personal injury claim will most likely be paid by the defendant’s insurance carrier, not defendant directly.
Typically, the defendant’s insurance carrier pays for a plaintiff’s personal injury claim either in a personal injury settlement or after a court trial. Because of insurance laws, bankruptcy laws, and other factors, individual defendants rarely pay out of pocket for the harms and losses they cause plaintiffs. One important exception to this generality is when the defendant is a corporation that fails to maintain sufficient liability insurance.
West Virginia Personal Injury Settlement Formula
Many factors can affect the value of your personal injury case regardless if your case involves a car accident, medical malpractice, work injury, or a slip and fall. However, the basic formula below will give you some guidelines to help you estimate how much many personal injury case is worth.
Warning: Some personal injury case values cannot be fairly estimated with the formula below. For example, if your accident was caused by a drunk driver, punitive damages are justified and should have a significant impact on how much your personal injury case is worth. There are also many other factors not discussed in this article that may greatly affect the value of your case, which is why it’s best to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before settling your case.
The Personal Injury Settlement Formula
Past Medical Bills
Future Medical Bills
Past Lost Wages
Future Lost Wages
Pain and Suffering (Past & Future)
= Approximate Value of a West Virginia Personal Injury Claim
Pain & Suffering (and Emotional Distress, Loss of Enjoyment of Life, and Annoyance & Inconvenience)
Pain and suffering is one of the most difficult elements of damages to quantify. Medical bills and lost wages are straight forward and exact. On the other hand, pain and suffering is subjective and difficult to measure. West Virginia law also provides no rule that tells an insurance adjuster or jury how to measure a plaintiff’s pain and suffering.
Compensation awarded for pain and suffering is generally left to the sound discretion of the jury if a personal injury claim is not settled and has to go to trial. However, the vast majority of personal injury cases settle without the need for a jury trial.
That said, an experienced personal injury lawyer is aware of the ranges a jury would likely award you for pain and suffering if the insurance adjuster doesn’t offer you a fair settlement amount. An average range to consider for estimating the value of pain and suffering is 1.5-5 times your past and future medical bills.
The pain and suffering amount of an actual settlement could fall outside this range. A jury may also award you an amount for pain and suffering far above or far under this range. There are many factors that could affect how much you will likely be compensated for your pain and suffering, including whether you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer. However, 1.5-5 times your medical bills is a reasonable estimate of how much an insurance adjuster will likely pay for your pain and suffering.
Past Medical Bills Related to Accident
Under West Virginia law, past medical bills is the total amount you were charged for all the medical treatment you received up to the present date related to your car accident or other personal injury claim. Sometimes, however, the defendant’s insurance company may argue that some or all of your medical treatment wasn’t related to your accident. If that’s the case, the defendant’s insurance company may refuse to pay for some or all of your medical bills.
If the defendant’s insurance adjuster attempts to argue that your treatment was not related to the accident, then the insurance adjuster will likely offer to pay you less than fair value for your pain and suffering. For example, sometimes insurance adjusters will try to argue a personal injury victim’s medical treatment was related to a pre-existing condition, not the underlying automobile crash.
Another tactic insurance adjusters sometimes use is to exaggerate any gaps or delays in your medical treatment and argue you weren’t really hurt. Or they may argue that you suffered an unrelated injury during your gap in treatment that required you to seek additional treatment. In either event, the insurance company may try to deny paying for any of your medical bills that were incurred after your delay in medical treatment.
If you believe the defendant’s insurance company is using any of these tactics unfairly against you, we strongly urge you to call an experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. West Law Firm offers Free Consultations, and we will tell you whether we think we can help you or not.
Past Lost Wages Related to Accident
Your past lost wage claim is generally determined by how much income you lost because of the accident. Often, personal injury victims will use sick and/or vacation days if they need to miss work for medical treatment or because their doctor took them off work. Under West Virginia law, you may still have a lost wage claim even if you used sick or vacation days and you technically didn’t lose income. This is because the defendant’s negligence caused you to lose work benefits, which have real value.
Some tactics insurance companies use to deny lost wage claims include the same as mentioned above. Specifically, insurance companies may try to argue that you missed work for some reason other than the accident. For example, if an insurance company tries to argue that some or all of your medical treatment was related to a pre-existing medical condition instead of the underlying accident, then they may also argue that any work you missed because of the treatment was not related to the accident.
Future Medical Bills
Proving the cost and need for future medical care related to your accident almost always requires the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. In fact, under West Virginia law, your injury lawyer may even need to hire an expert to help prove your need for future medical treatment and the cost of such treatment. For example, West Law Firm works with forensic economists, accountants, world class medical doctors, and other experts to ensure our clients recover full and fair compensation for the past and future harms and losses they sustained because of the defendant’s negligence.
For example, if a person has suffered a back injury and needs facet joint injections, epidural steroid injections or other treatment well into the future, that person’s future medical bills will likely be more than their past medical bills. Therefore, if you have suffered a permanent or chronic injury, proving your need for future medical treatment is essential for helping you recover full and fair compensation.
Future Lost Wages
Proving future lost wages involves similar difficulties that proving future medical bills does. An experienced attorney is usually needed as well as hired experts like economists and sometimes accountants. Moreover, under West Virginia law, proving future damages requires meeting a higher burden of proof than proving past damages. So, again, if you suspect you will continue to need future medical treatment, contacting an experienced attorney who offers free consultations will help ensure you don’t settle your case for less than what is fair.
Past and Future Pain & Suffering
Pain and suffering damages are considered general damages under West Virginia law and are often the largest category of money damages in a personal injury case. Pain and suffering damages include the physical pain, emotional distress, anxiety, discomfort and loss of enjoyment life the incident has caused you. Medical bills and lost wages are considered special damages and are much easier to calculate and quantify than general damages like pain and suffering. However, an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to help you quantify your pain and suffering.
If you were injured by the defendant and can prove he acted with actual malice against you or that he acted with reckless disregard for the health, safety and welfare of others, then you may also be able to recover punitive damages under West Virginia law. Punitive damages go above and beyond the damages which are intended to directly compensate you for your injuries and other losses.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are intended to benefit the community by deterring and preventing future reckless conduct like that of the defendants thereby providing your community safety and freedom from harm.
Auto Insurance: How it Affects Your Automobile Crash Claim?
As mentioned above, the defendant’s insurance carrier will be the entity that likely pays for you personal injury claim. Unfortunately, West Virginia law only requires drivers to maintain $25,000 in auto insurance and many drivers fail to purchase additional coverage. Purchasing sufficient underinsurance and uninsurance motorist coverage is one of the best ways to protect yourself from this danger. However, if you have already been involved in an automobile accident, whatever insurance you had at the time of the crash is the coverage that will apply to your claim.
Insurance coverage is another issue that often requires the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to navigate. Sometimes an experienced attorney can find additional insurance coverage. He or she can also investigate whether the defendant has additional sources of money and insurance to cover any losses that exceed his auto insurance policy limits.
Ask an Experienced West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
We hope this article helps you get a better idea about how much your personal injury case is worth. We also hope this article helps you determine whether you need to speak with an experienced attorney about your case. If you do or are still unsure, we invite you to call one of our experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyers for a Free Consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-943-9378 (WEST), and there’s No Fee unless and until you recover compensation for your losses. West Law Firm is in Charleston, West Virginia, and we serve clients located throughout the state and country who have been wrongfully injured in West Virginia.