At Hastings & Hastings, we understand that experiencing an accident is one of the most confusing, stressful, and difficult things you can go through in life. It is something we hope never happens. Or if it does happen, it happens very rarely. Unfortunately, this is just not the case. Every day, thousands of accidents occur. In 2014, 32,675 people were killed in automobile accidents. Even when every precaution is taken, accidents may be unavoidable.
If you have been involved in an accident, you have rights to financial compensation. We always recommend speaking with a qualified, experienced, legal professional before you begin any dialog with an insurance company. Insurance providers WILL want to minimize any payments they may have to make. At Hastings & Hastings, we fight to make sure you receive every bit of compensation you deserve. In our blog today, we will discuss many of the factors that may play a role in determining the value of your personal injury claim.
Determining the Nature and Extent of Injuries
The most important thing to consider following an accident is your personal health. It is vital that you seek out medical attention immediately, even if you do not believe you have suffered major injuries. Every dollar you spend having your injuries diagnosed, assessed and treated will be categorized as medical special damages.
Beyond the direct expenses associated with caring for your injuries, you deserve compensation for any pain or suffering you have incurred. Calculating the value of pain and suffering is not as straight forward as adding up all the expenses associated with diagnosing and treating your injuries.
Typically, an insurance adjuster will place your injuries into a category with which they have associated a certain amount of pain and suffering. This could have a massive impact on the value of your personal injury settlement.
Having your injuries categorized as “major” will work in your favor, however, often injuries which have been categorized as less serious can still result in major pain and suffering, and thus deserve an appropriate degree of compensation!
Insurance adjusters typically place injuries into one of two major categories: hard injuries, and soft tissue injuries.
Soft tissue injuries are inflicted on muscles or soft connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, etc). These are considered less severe by insurance adjusters even if they are extremely painful. This is in part because they may be less permanent or because the severity of pain may be difficult to prove in court.
Hard injuries are considered to be more serious and may be valued four or five higher than soft tissue injuries. A hard injury could be a broken bone, a separation, a dislocation or tear, an open wound, or an injury to your head, neck or spine. Essentially, hard injuries are much easier to prove than soft injuries, because there is observable damage.
Special Damages and General Damages
Damages are separated into two major categories, special damages, and general damages. Special damages are sometimes termed economic losses. Special and general damages are differentiated by one major idea – money is considered a reasonable, or direct substitute for what was lost with special damages while money is only considered a rough substitute, or an approximate substitute for general damages. Typically, the value of general damages is higher than the value of special damages.
Standard special damages include property damage, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, medical expenses (which we have discussed), funeral/burial expenses.
To further subdivide things, when considering special damages, we must consider past losses and future losses.
It is important to keep detailed records of every cost or damage following an accident. These documents will be used to establish all past losses. This is the easy part. It is harder to establish future losses.
If your ability to work has been negatively impacted by the accident, potential damages will be calculated with a number of factors in mind, including life expectancy, retirement age, tax returns, projected income, and even the state of the economy and your industry.
Standard general damages are more abstract than special damages, and may include: emotional distress, loss of reputation, shock and mental anguish, humiliation, and pain and suffering.
As you can see, the division we previously made, between hard injuries, and pain and suffering come into play here. Hard injuries fall into the special damages category while pain and suffering falls into general damages.
General damages have to potential to be valued at 1.5 – 5 times as much as special damages. They are also harder to establish. When it comes establishing general damages, you almost always need an experienced attorney by your side, helping you establish your case.
When it comes to proving general damages, documentation again becomes important. If you are experiencing emotional distress, make sure you speak with your doctor about it. They may encourage you keep a daily journal documenting how you feel, and citing what impact the accident has had on you.
The same is true for pain and suffering. Document how you are feeling. Write down details regarding your pain. Open up a dialog with your healthcare provider. Be consistent in the way you speak about your pain.
Finally, a few additional factors may play a role in determining the final value of your claim. Known these factors can help you maximize your settlement.
In Arizona, liability plays a factors with the comparative negligence rule. Your compensation can be adjusted if you are found to be partially liable for the accident. For example, if you are found to be 30 percent liable, your settlement could be reduced by 30 percent.
Additionally, mitigating damage may be a factor. If you did not seek out the proper medical treatment and your injuries are worse because of that, the size of the claim may be reduced.
Putting it in the Hands of the Professionals
As you can see, personal injury lawsuits are often very complicated. For this reason, you almost always need a professional to help you coordinate, organize, and manage your case. Getting the highest level of compensation possible takes experience.
If you have been involved in an accident, contact Hastings & Hastings today to schedule free consultation and begin exploring your legal options.