Whenever someone is hurt in an accident, whether it is a car accident, a slip and fall accident, or some other personal injury incident, there are consequential costs that negatively impact the injured person. When the accident occurs as a result of another person’s negligence, the injured person may seek damages related to their injury. When this happens, it can be difficult to assess what amount constitutes a fair settlement.
Usually the claim for damages is handled by the insurance company that covers the person or entity that bears liability for the accident. Unfortunately, many insurance companies notoriously propose low-ball settlement offers to cover claims. Before blindly accepting an offer, it is wise to do research on elements that affect personal injury settlements.
A fair personal injury settlement incorporates both economic and non-economic issues. The settlement should include all costs incurred as a result of the injury, including medical bills for hospitalizations, surgeries, medications, follow-up therapies, and more. Other economic concerns also include lost wages or loss of future earning potential. These measurable economic damages are known as special damages.
The calculations will likely include non-economic factors as well. Things like pain and suffering, loss of companionship, or emotional distress are types of non-economic considerations that can be part of a personal injury settlement. These subjective, non-economic damages are referred to as general damages.
Often, a settlement amount is based on special damages, which are concrete and demonstrable. A common way of determining a fair personal injury settlement is to combine all special damages and multiply that figure by a factor of one to five to produce an amount for general damages.
The most important factor in determining a fair settlement amount after a personal injury accident has to do with fault, or more specifically, who is liable for the conditions that caused the accident. If one has no way to prove that liability lies with the other person, then it is unlikely that one will be able to collect anything. If, on the other hand, one has a strong case that proves the culpability of the individual or entity, one is in a much stronger position to collect compensation from them.
One major thing to keep in mind has to do with the concept of comparative negligence. In comparative negligence states, the damages involved in personal injury cases are limited to how much fault the injured person bears. For example, if a person was hurt in a car accident and they were found to be 20 percent responsible, they would only be able to collect 80 percent of the full amount.
Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state. Strict comparative negligence means that the courts would award damages without limit based on the percentage of fault. In Pennsylvania, and other modified comparative negligence states, options to collect damages are only viable if one is found to be less than 50 percent liable for an accident. Most states use this modified version of comparative negligence.
By contrast, a few states adhere to the theory of contributory negligence, any liability for the accident in question disqualifies the injured party from any claim to damages for the injuries sustained in the accident.
There are several factors that influence the amount of compensation that constructs a fair settlement, including the following:
Severity of the Injury: In general, the more serious the injury, the more significant the settlement. Severe injuries require more medical intervention, more time to heal, and more ongoing treatments.
Serious injuries are also more likely to cause emotional trauma. More serious injuries can also lead to disabilities that may impact employment viability and quality of life.
Duration of Recovery: The length of time it takes to recover from an accident may impact the settlement amount as well. The longer it takes to heal and return to normal life, the more substantial the settlement will have to be to support the injured person through their recovery period. If the injury is permanent, the settlement will have to be enough to cover those losses indefinitely.
Disruption: Even in cases where the injury is not permanent, there may be a period of time when the injured person experiences serious disruption to their life. A back or neck injury might make it difficult to get around or even sit or stand comfortably. Such a disruption would also affect a person’s ability to work.
Expected Legal Costs: While a settlement focuses on addressing the damages incurred by the injured person, it may also factor in the costs of a possible trial. Legal costs can add up, so a smart settlement offer may take into consideration the costs of court battles.
Insurance Policy Limit: Some settlement offers are restricted by insurance policy limits. These limits may not be negotiable for the policy holder, but a personal injury lawsuit might mean that other alternatives will be explored to satisfy a larger settlement.
In order to pursue a fair personal injury settlement, a lawyer must be obtained. After an accident, it is important to speak to a lawyer right away to start the legal process.
An accident can be a life-changing event. You may suffer great physical pain, you may have your life interrupted, or you may never fully recover. People injured in accidents need fair compensation for their financial losses. Our Pittsburgh personal injury lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. are committed to obtaining fair settlements for our clients. Contact us online or call us at 412-765-1888 for a free consultation. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.