Being injured by another’s negligence is a frightening, confusing experience. The process of receiving compensation is often frustratingly long. To make sure you get the settlement amount you deserve, you need an aggressive personal injury lawyer fighting for your rights.
At LJ Law Group, we know how hard it is to recover from an injury caused be someone else’s negligence. Our highest priority is helping you and your family navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Common Outcomes in Personal Injury Claims
There are five common outcomes in personal injury claims. Not every case goes to court, and there are many reasons why.
The Case Is Dropped or Dismissed
In some cases, the plaintiff may decide not to pursue their personal injury claim after they have filed their suit. There are many reasons why this happens, for instance:
- They May Realize That Their Case is Weak
- They Cannot Get a Key Piece of Evidence
- They Have No Chance of Winning
- The Plaintiff Can Drop the Case
- The Defendant May Be Successful in Getting the Case Dismissed
- They May Be Able to Demonstrate That the Plaintiff’s Claim is Flawed
Two reasons for why this happens comes to mind. In Florida, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury case. If the plaintiff missed the deadline, their case might be dismissed. Or, they may determine that there are no legal grounds for liability. In both these instances, the plaintiff can file a motion asking to have the case dismissed. Whatever the reason for the dismissal, the plaintiff receives no compensation.
The Case Is Settled Before It Goes to Trial
Not all personal injury cases go to trial, in fact, most of them settle out of court. This is the most common outcome of personal injury claims. A formal contract between the defendant and the plaintiff, the settlement details a deal where the injured party agrees to drop the case in exchange for appropriate monetary compensation. These settlement agreements are presented to a judge who makes it legally binding. It is important to note that no two settlements are the same. The same or similar injury can affect two people differently, and their situations may also be different. Therefore, they will be compensated differently. However, there are some generalities among settlement awards, such as:
- Coverage of past, present, and future medical bills
- Coverage of lost wages, if the plaintiff missed work due to the injury
- Coverage of repairs or replacement of property damaged in the accident
- Coverage for pain, suffering, and emotional distress
The Injured Party Wins at Trial
Once a case goes to trial, there are two possible outcomes: either the plaintiff wins or the defendant wins. If the injured party wins in court, this means that they will be compensated for their injuries. This compensation usually covers things like lost wages, medical bills, property repair or replacement, emotional distress, and pain and suffering. Depending on the type of injury and where it happened, there may be other consequences. For instance, if a doctor is judged guilty of medical malpractice, their medical license may be revoked.
The Defendant Wins at Trial
If the defendant wins, the plaintiff is not awarded compensation for their injuries. Also, the plaintiff will be required to pay what is known as the taxable costs of the defendant. These costs can include:
- Court fees
- Witness fees
- Attorneys’ fees
What If There’s an Appeal
If you win your case at trial, the defendant has the right to appeal. This may take more than a year. The appeal must be prepared, filed, considered by the court, and then judged. The appellate court will either:
- Uphold the trial court’s judgment (you win)
- Reverse the trial court’s judgment (you lose)
- Send the case back to the trial court for a new trial
However, an appeal cannot be filed just because the plaintiff doesn’t like the outcome. There must be a legal basis for the appeal. Here’s a quick look at the process. Once the notice of appeal is filed, the clerk of the lower court sends the trial record to the clerk of the appeals court. This record contains the trial transcript along with all the documents filed during the trial. This generally occurs within 10 days of filing the appeal. The person filing the appeal, or their attorney, must submit a written brief explaining the trial court’s error and why the outcome should be changed. You will have an opportunity to respond. In some cases, an oral argument may be scheduled. This gives both parties a chance to present their side of the case to a judge and answer questions. There is no jury. The court then issues a decision.
How Is the Money Distributed When Settling a Claim?
Once you get a settlement, it is well and truly over. You cannot reopen it if you have a flare-up of symptoms or a more serious condition related to your injuries develops after the settlement. The insurance company will have you sign a release of all claims to them related to the accident to ensure that you cannot resurrect the claim. Once this is done, you will receive your settlement check. This check will be in the total amount of the bodily injury claim. It will not itemize which amounts are for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Everyone who is owed money is paid from that amount.
The Release & Other Settlement Tasks
The release is exactly what it seems like: a document the defense attorney prepares that details the settlement terms. There is no legal requirement that the document be lengthy. However, it usually is. This is because some defense attorneys and insurance companies insist on a ten or fifteen page document filled with legalese. The release is sent to your lawyer for your approval. The more complicated your case, the longer the release will probably be. Your lawyer will peruse the release to evaluate the language and ensure that the terms are acceptable. You are required to sign the release in front of a notary, and sometimes in triplicate. Read it thoroughly, ask any questions, and discuss any issues with your attorney to make sure you understand the document and that all your questions are answered. This is important. Once the document has been signed and returned to the defendant’s attorney, it is binding.
Other Settlement Tasks
Before your lawyer can distribute your share of the settlement to you, any personal injury liens must be resolved. A lien is a legal right to someone else’s assets. A personal injury case usually involves two types of liens: medical liens and governmental liens. Medical liens are held by health insurers and healthcare provides who paid for any medical treatment connected to the accident. Governmental liens are held by Medicaid, Medicare, or a child support agency. In most cases, liens must be settled before the injured party can get any monies from the settlement.
Factors That Affect the Outcome of Your Personal Injury Case
You may be tempted to take the first offer you get from an insurance company, especially if you are unsure whether it is worth it to try to get additional compensation. Before you make any decisions, consult with your attorney so that you know all your options. Here are some factors that can affect the outcome of your personal injury case.
Evidence of Liability
Your case must be able to demonstrate who was liable for your injuries and then prove that that person’s actions caused your injuries. Your claim may be denied if the insurance company feels you don’t have enough evidence to prove liability.
Classification of Medical Expenses
The classification of your medical expenses is important, since insurance companies often claim that they are not reasonable or are excessive and refuse to pay them. This is just one reason, and it can’t be stressed enough, that you seek medical attention immediately after an accident. Even if you think you weren’t hurt “that bad.” This can neutralize the ability of insurance companies to deny payment of your medical bills.
If there were multiple victims in the accident that caused your injuries, it could affect your ability to collect damages or lessen the amount you can recover. When there are numerous victims, insurance companies quickly reach the amount of their maximum coverage. If this happens, you will have to prove why you are entitled to more compensation than the other victims in the accident. In most multiple victim cases, the victims end up getting less compensation than they would have otherwise gotten if they’d been the only plaintiff.
What If the Defendant Has No Insurance
Florida is a no-fault state, so the majority of your claim will be paid by your car insurance company. Insurance companies usually cover about 80% of expenses for personal injuries. This includes bills for medical treatment and other expenses related to the injury caused by the accident. When the other driver is at fault, the remaining 20% of your expenses relating to the accident are covered by the other driver’s insurance company. If the other driver has no insurance, the only option is to sue them. However, often the uninsured driver is not in a financial position to pay back the damages they caused. In this instance, a payment schedule can be set up, that includes:
- Garnishing the uninsured driver’s wages
- Putting a lien on their non-homestead real estate
- Garnishing their bank account
- Seizing personal property via a levy
You may also try to suspend their driver’s license until the settlement is paid in full.
Calculating an Injury Settlement Amount
Injury claims are calculated by adding up the cost of your damages. These are tangible and intangible losses you sustain from an injury.
Personal injury damages can include:
- Cost of medical treatment past, present, and future
- Replacement or repair of damaged property
- Lost wages, vacation days, and bonuses
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Services such as housekeeping and childcare
- Burial expenses
Insurance companies categorize damages in two ways:
Special damages – measurable hard costs such as medical bills, lost wages, and any out-of-pocket expenses. Keep all wage statements, invoices, and receipts to document your special damages. General damages – paid in addition to hard costs to compensate for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment. These are subjective. The most common way to calculate the amount of a personal injury settlement is to add up the hard costs, then add 1-5 times more than that amount for pain and suffering. The most difficult part of calculating a fair settlement is justifying your general damages and accurately adding up your special damages.
Accurately Count Your Hard Costs
Without accurate documentation of medical treatment, your injury claim won’t go very far. Treatment records and medical bills show how severe your injuries are and help justify your claim of pain and suffering. You must use the full amount of your medical bills to get the full value of your medical expenses. Even if some or all of them were paid by your health insurance. Be sure to ask for complete medical records and bills.
Easily overlooked medical expenses include:
- CT Scans, X-Rays, and MRIs are often billed from the facility and a separate bill is sent from the doctor who interpreted the results
- Emergency room treatment often results in a bill from the emergency room physician and a separate one from the hospital
- Ambulance fees
- The cost of medical equipment such as crutches, boots, and slings, even if insurance covered them
Support Your Pain and Suffering Claims
It’s your job to convince the adjuster or judge to accept your demand for pain and suffering. To do this, use evidence in your medical records and emotional language to communicate your distress.
Describe emotional distress such as:
- How distressed you are at not being able to hold or lift your baby
- Detail your fears of losing your job when you couldn’t work because of the accident
- The humiliation you felt when you needed help with personal hygiene
- Sleeplessness because of pain
- Sadness over missing special events and holidays with family
Realistic Assessment of Your Case
In order to get the highest settlement possible, you need to be realistic about your claim and its compensation potential. This doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. It means to be realistic about what it is worth, so you don’t mistakenly undervalue it or think it is worth more than it is.
Factors That Affect Settlement Amounts
Several variables go into determining your settlement amount. Every case is different, but there are a few common denominators than can increase or decrease the amount of compensation you are awarded.
Factors That Affect Your Multiplier
Most formulas that set the value of a personal injury claim use a multiplier to determine how significantly you were affected by the accident. It takes into consideration the nature and extent of your injuries, the medical treatment required, and the amount of “pain and suffering” you experienced. The following factors might make your multiplier higher include:
- Broken bone, joint injury, head injury, vertebrae injury, nerve damage
- Medical expenses for treatment by a medical doctor, clinic, or hospital
- Medication prescribed for your injury
- Long-term treatment period for your injury
- Length of recovery period
- Permanent injury such as a scar, weakness, stiffness, or loss of mobility
- Emotional or physical distress resulting from the injury
- Disruptions to your daily life such as missed vacation or recreation, missed school or training, canceled special event.
Factors that might make your multiplier lower include:
- Soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, or bruises
- Most of your medical expenses are for diagnosis and not for treatment
- Medical treatment by non-doctor providers
- No medication prescribed for your injury
- Brief medical treatment
- Short recovery period
- No permanent injury
- No emotional or physical issues other than the original injury.
How Attorneys Can Boost Injury Settlements
After the formula is applied, the opposing party will review other legal and practical issues that affect the strength of your case. Factors that may increase your settlement include after the formula is applied:
- No shared fault for the accident on your part
- Your professionalism and organization in connection with the entire process
- The other side is not sympathetic or credible
- There are witnesses to bolster your case
Factors that might lower compensation after the formula is applied include:
- Shared blame for the accident or your injuries
- Impatience or disorganization on your part
- The other side is seen as sympathetic
- No witnesses to bolster your case, or witnesses for the insured.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Pompano Beach
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, and are considering suing for damages, contact a personal injury lawyer in Pompano Beach right away. LJ Law Group will work tirelessly to get the settlement you deserve.