Every year, many people deal with personal injury law because of unexpected accidents. Winning a fair settlement can be a challenging process, often riddled with legal jargon and intricate negotiation tactics. This guide aims to demystify this process, offering sensible and effective strategies to maximize your personal injury settlement. Whether you’re just starting on this journey or are already working with a personal injury lawyer, these tips can provide valuable insights and potentially lead to a more favorable outcome.
Understanding the Basics of Personal Injury Law and Your Claim’s Value
Before discussing specific strategies to maximize your settlement, it is essential to understand the basics of personal injury law and how it pertains to your case.
What is personal injury law?
Personal injury laws are designed to provide legal rights to individuals who have been injured due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions. These cases can involve auto accidents, slip and falls, pedestrian accidents, product liability, etc. State laws and civil codes govern personal injury law, and hiring an experienced personal injury attorney in your state to represent you and guide you through the legal process is essential.
What damages can you claim?
After being involved in an accident, you may be entitled to claim various damages, including:
- Economic damages: These are damages that you can quantify, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages: These damages are subjective, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of quality of life.
- Punitive damages: These damages are awarded to punish the defendant for intentional or particularly reckless behavior.
It is essential to document all the damages you’ve suffered due to the accident. Medical bills, receipts, witnesses’ statements, and police reports can all help you build a strong case.
How is your claim value determined?
Several factors determine the value of your personal injury claim, including:
- The severity of your injuries and the degree of pain and suffering you experienced.
- The nature of the accident and the extent of the property damage.
- The economic losses you incurred due to the accident include medical bills and lost wages.
- The insurance company’s policy limits.
- The degree of the defendant’s negligence in causing the accident.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine the value of your claim and negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement.
The Importance of Documentation: Medical Records, Incident Reports, and Future Expenses
Having the right documentation is essential in maximizing your settlement. The more detailed and accurate records you can provide, the better your chances of securing a fair amount. Here are some tips for keeping comprehensive records:
Medical Records: Words alone can’t prove the extent of your injuries. That’s why it’s important to get medical attention immediately and keep complete records of:
- Every medical visit
- Treatment and diagnosis records
- Surgery records and receipts
- Medication prescriptions
- Any mental health counseling records
- In-home care records and receipts
All this information will be crucial in proving your injury claims, especially if future medical expenses need to be calculated.
Accident Reports: It’s important to file an accident report with the police or relevant agency, such as a business or school. Even if you feel fine, you never know when injuries will emerge after the shock of the accident has worn off. The report should contain as many details as possible about the accident, such as the time and date, weather conditions, contact information for witnesses, and a detailed account of everything that happened. If possible, take photographs of the accident scene as well. These details will be important in establishing liability for the accident and demonstrating the extent of damage caused.
Future Expenses: Getting a proper settlement depends on presenting a well-supported case. This means being able to calculate future medical and other expenses related to the injury. Future medical expenses include treatments, medications, and for some permanent injuries, assisted living arrangements that you anticipate needing in the future. Future lost wages, and the cost of caring for dependents and loss of enjoyment of life should also be accounted for. All these costs add up over time and can have financial implications that need to be addressed. Gathering this evidence can help you prepare a strong case to present at trial or negotiate a settlement.
By hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer and having extensive documentation, you are in a better position to maximize your personal injury settlement.
The Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
Whether it’s a car accident, slip and fall, product liability, or any other kind of personal injury, a knowledgeable attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process, fight for your rights and maximize your compensation. Here are some of the benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer.
Understanding your rights and fighting for you:
Personal injury law can be complex and confusing. A personal injury attorney has the knowledge and experience to help you understand your rights and protect them. They can investigate the accident, gather evidence, interview witnesses, build a strong case, and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. They can also represent you in court if the need arises. Their legal expertise can help you maximize your compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Saving you time and reducing stress:
Hiring a personal injury attorney can also save you time and reduce stress. Dealing with insurance companies, medical bills, and legal procedures can be overwhelming. Having an attorney handle these tasks allows you to focus on your recovery and healing. Your attorney will handle all the paperwork, deadlines, and legal requirements, which can reduce your stress levels and make the process smoother.
Expertise in settling claims:
A personal injury attorney has experience in settling claims for their clients. They understand how to negotiate for a fair settlement, much higher than you might get without an attorney. They also know how to skillfully deal with insurance companies, who may use tactics to reduce your claim or deny it altogether. Having an attorney on your side can greatly increase the chances of a successful outcome.
Obtaining maximum compensation:
One of the primary benefits of hiring a personal injury attorney is that they can help you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the case, take witnesses’ statements, gather evidence, and hire experts to support your claim. They will also be able to calculate how much compensation you are entitled to, which can be very difficult for someone unfamiliar with the law. This will ensure that you receive the fair compensation you deserve.
Effective Strategies for Maximizing Your Settlement
Obtaining fair compensation for your accident injuries is an important first step to putting your life back together again. There are several strategies you can use to help your attorney and you present the strongest case possible:
- Seek Medical Attention for Your Accident Injuries Right Away: Don’t delay or turn down medical attention after your accident. It’s normal to be disoriented in the aftermath. Even if you think you’re fine, you may still have dangerous internal injuries and not know it. Also, adrenaline can mask injury symptoms for several hours. Immediate treatment of injuries can make the recovery process go much more smoothly. Plus, if you wait, the insurance company will question the severity of your injuries or if they were even caused by your accident.
- Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer: One of the most effective ways to maximize your settlement is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer right away. These attorneys negotiate with insurance company lawyers for a living, most people do not. They can effectively deal with the insurance company, build a strong case and handle deadlines on your behalf so you can concentrate on feeling better.
- Be Organized: Keep all of your accident and medical records in a safe place. Your personal injury attorney can help with all documentation, but having everything organized goes a long way towards helping your claim and makes your attorney’s job easier
- Avoid all Social Media: Don’t share any information on social media for the duration of your case. This may sound extreme, but the insurance company can and will access your social media accounts for any damaging information. There’s no law against it and it can seriously hurt your chances of obtaining the maximum compensation if you do post something damaging. For example, even a seemingly innocent post that shows you laughing and smiling at a family get together after your accident can be used against you if your attorney has stated you’re in constant pain from your injuries.
- Keep All Medical Appointments: Your personal injury attorney will stress the importance of keeping all of your medical appointments. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to miss appointments. Defense attorneys will jump at the chance to use this against you in an effort to try and reduce your compensation. If you miss several appointments, it can even sink your case.
Don’t Fall for Insurance Company Scare Tactics
Insurance companies will try to scare you into not hiring an attorney. Their adjusters will incorrectly say a lawyer will only complicate matters and drag things out. They want you to sign on the dotted line and close the books on your claim, saving them time and money. Will you save time? Probably, but you’ll also likely miss out on the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in damages that you and your family need to put your lives back together again.
It’s essential to resist the temptation to take any offer and instead hire a personal injury lawyer who will fight for a settlement or verdict that represents the full extent of your losses. Remember that patience and persistence are vital to this process. Be prepared to remain patient until you get a fair and just settlement. By hiring an experienced personal injury attorney, you’ll help maximize your chances of getting the full compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Personal Injury Case Pitfalls to Avoid
It’s important to be aware of common pitfalls that could reduce the amount of compensation you receive for your accident injuries. Here are some to avoid.
Pitfall 1: Being Your Own Attorney
Failing to hire a personal injury lawyer can greatly harm your case. Most people who do this believe they’re saving money. The opposite it true. Insurance adjusters are not your friend. They are employees who are trained to settle claims quickly and for the least amount possible. They will use your lack of experience against you during negotiations to get you to take a low offer, unfair as that may seem. This is not the time to DIY, you’ll likely leave much-needed money on the table when you most need it if you do.
The vast majority of personal injury law firms work on a contingency basis. That simply means they get paid from a percentage of your final settlement or verdict. You don’t have to deal with any out-of-pocket expenses. And once the insurance company sees you’ve hired a personal injury attorney, they will take your claim much more seriously.
Pitfall 2: Giving the Insurance Adjuster a Recorded Statement
Unscrupulous adjusters will tell you they need a recorded statement from you regarding your accident. This isn’t true. There is no California law that states you must do so. Not only must you avoid doing so, you shouldn’t communicate with them at all, especially after you’ve hired a personal injury lawyer. If they do call you, be polite but don’t speak to them. Certainly don’t inadvertently give them any information such as stating that you’re feeling better. Simply tell them to call your attorney instead.
Pitfall 3: Underestimating Future Damages
Many accident victims focus on the costs they’ve already incurred related to their injuries; they forget to consider their future expenses. Once you sign a settlement agreement, it closes the chapter on your injury claim. Estimating your future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering are important factors for calculating your final compensation.
Pitfall 4: Thinking You Can’t File a Claim Because You Share Part of the Blame for Your Accident
California is a comparative negligence state. That means you can share part of the responsibility for your accident and still file a personal injury claim. You can do so even if you’re found to be over 50% responsible.
One note on this; accidents happen quickly. What you think happened may not be correct, especially if you were injured. Don’t let your doubts stop you from consulting with a personal injury law firm to see if they can help. Most offer free consultations so you have nothing to lose. And if they can help, they’ll fight for the maximum compensation you’re entitled to.
Pitfall 5: Failing to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Another way people try to save money is by hiring an attorney who’s a relative or family friend. Unless they specialize in personal injury law, that’s a mistake. Just as you wouldn’t go to a pediatrician for a toothache, you shouldn’t entrust your accident injury case to a tax law attorney.
At The Dominguez Firm, we aim to ensure that each of our clients receives the fair settlement they deserve for their injury accident. With over 35 years of experience and a 96%* success rate, we can help you navigate the legal complexities of personal injury law, negotiate with the insurance company and maximize the value of your claim. Contact us today for a free consultation at (800)818-1818.
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— Ashley Magana
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