Putting a Value on Your Personal Injury Claim
Your doctor or chiropractor has released you from treatment for your car accident and enough time has passed that you are about to sit down with adjuster Henry Hard-Nose. His employer is Rock Solid Insurance, the company that insures Fred Fuddle, the guy who slammed into your butt, crushing you in a tremendous crash that was responsible for your injuries plus the “Pain and Suffering” you’ve had to endure.
In order to receive proper compensation for what you’ve been through, you must have accumulated what is identified in the world of insurance claims as “special damages.” That’s your medical bills, your lost wages plus every dollar paid to help you with your recovery. When building the value of a personal injury claim, there are several key elements to consider:
LIABILITY: In the vast majority of car accidents it is clear who was at fault. Assuming Fuddle hit you hard in the rear (rear-end collisions account for more than half of the car accidents that occur in the United States each year), yours is a case that needs to be solved. (Final statistics show that in 83% of accidents in 2003 it is clear who was at fault)!
The highly doubtful liability case has little or no settlement value. If that is the situation, you should get the services of the local Legal Beagle who does a good job of that, Attorney IM Greedy. But, if he does, be very careful when you sign Greedy’s “Contingency Fee Agreement.” Read it closely. Don’t sign anything that allows them to charge you a dime in addition to your normal fee. Do not–in no way–let him chisel any money from you, for his out-of-pocket expenses. All Greedy is to be compensated for (if he is successful in losing some of the Rock Solid money) is his fee and is to be no more than the locally published generally accepted percentage of the total recovery.
TYPE OF INJURY: If there are serious injuries (representing only ten to fifteen percent of all car accidents), you should obtain the services of an attorney. But, if you’ve had minor injuries like whiplash, bumps, bruises, sprains and/or strains (and you’re clearly not at fault), you can handle and settle the claim yourself.
KIND OF PERSON YOU ARE: Qualify yourself and be brutally honest. You are most likely an average motor vehicle owner/driver leading a normal life. But, if you’ve spent any time behind bars, have a criminal record, or a history of character flaws that often land you in hot water with local law enforcement (and this is well known), you need to be aware of those facts. by forming expectations about what your case is worth.
THE KIND OF PERSON FRED FUDDLE IS: The better Fred Fuddle looks, or the “entity” (Fuddle’s business or company, etc.) looks, the better for Rock Solid. But, if Fuddle is a known bookie or drug dealer, they are into deep “stuff”. On the other hand, if Fuddle is a well-liked philanthropist, that may be to Rock Solid Insurance’s advantage. Or if the vehicle that hit him was a pickup truck driven by Pastor Frederick Fuddle, and the named insured is The Fuddle Camp For Lost Souls, that may be to Rock Solid’s advantage.
But, if the “entity” that hit him was a dilapidated junk heap on wheels operated by Fred “Goof-Ball” Fuddle, and the named insured is The Fuddle Rotted Cow Manure Corporation, that obviously won’t pan out to Rock Solid.
DAMAGES: There are “special medical damage” expenses, “special non-medical damage” expenses, and/or your “property damage” expenses.
SPECIAL MEDICAL EXPENSES FOR DAMAGES: These typically include the cost of ambulance, emergency room, hospital and/or clinic charges, chiropractor and/or dentist, over-the-counter and/or prescription drugs, laboratory fees and services, blood tests, Diagnosis: X-Rays and CT Scans, Prosthetic Devices or Surgical Devices (Lifts and Crutches), Physical Therapy, Registered Nurse and/or Practice Fees, Bandages, Gauze Pads and Adhesive Tapes, Heating Pads, Creams, Lotions, Ointments, Balms and Ointments .
When it comes to listing your medical special injury “expenses,” don’t overlook a single dollar because, when it comes time to settle your claim, that dollar can increase the value of your “Pain and Suffering” payment by a multiplier. of four. or even five! (Yes, that means a $20.00 bill can be worth $80.00 to $100.00 more, in your pocket, from Rock Solid Insurance, at settlement.)
SPECIAL NON-MEDICAL DAMAGES: These typically include lost wages and earnings, lost vacation time and/or sick leave, travel expenses (car rentals, public transportation, expenses incurred to get to and from your chiropractor and/or hospital and/or physical therapy) treatment” of any kind) In-Home Help During Disability and/or Child Care. Be sure to get written proof of such “non-medical” special damages.
LOST WAGES: Income you lost, because you were unable to work, is an area where adjusters take terrifying advantage of the typical claimant because they know so little about it.
Commissions and overtime can make a big difference in lost income. Be sure to get a letter from your employer, on their official letterhead, explaining this in detail. Or, if you’re self-employed, get this information on your accountant’s letterhead.
Time missed from work (thus money you may have lost) is calculated and this item constitutes what is known as “Lost Wages” or “Missed Time Verification”. In most situations, you are entitled to compensation for lost time and profits, even if you don’t have an actual loss of money! Like, for example, when your salary is paid for by your employer’s insurance coverage, or by taking sick leave, or some similar arrangement.
Even if you are salaried, you must obtain a written “Loss of Earnings” or “Verification of Time Loss” on your employer’s letterhead.
IF YOU ARE SELF-EMPLOYED: To prove lost income, you may need to collect inside information for Hard-Nose. If you don’t like the idea of presenting documents to you privately, in the privacy of your home or office, just think how you would feel presenting them in the non-private setting of a courtroom. When a case goes to trial, and if you want to prove your damages in order to collect adequate compensation, that is your only option.
TWO CRITICAL AREAS REGARDING LOST WAGES: Did the injury necessitate a job change or employment at a slower rate? Or did the injury allow you to go to work but only part time? If the answer to any of the questions is “Yes,” it would be wise to ask your employer to document these facts on their letterhead.
IT’S ESSENTIAL THAT YOU KNOW: Even if you have been paid while you were out of work, you can still calculate time lost from work as “Lost Wages” .
PROPERTY DAMAGE EXPENSES: These typically include motor vehicle repair, damaged clothing, broken glass, cost of rental substitute cars, towing, and storage. Make copies of all bills related to any of your property damage expenses. Keep the originals. Make sure you have these in your possession when you and Hard-Nose dive into “Talking Turkey.” Photocopies are enough to give you.
YOUR AGE: Due to their apparent innocence, insurance claim accident victims, up to the age of 12, generally have excellent settlement results. Those in their late teens and early 50s fall into a fairly normal category because they are generally considered to be at the height of their physical endurance. Those over 60 generally do very well; mainly due to the sympathy that is often invoked, from a judge or jury, due to general attitudes regarding frailty and the elderly.
MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER: The information Hard-Nose places in your file plays a significant role in the final value of your claim. Never underestimate the importance of your impressions and conclusions! If, one day, your case ends up in front of a judge or jury, what Hard-Nose sits, watches, and then reports in your Rock Solid file about you, your insured Fred Fuddle and/or potential witnesses, etc. , (in addition to the information you’ve documented for him) could have a big influence on the value of his claim, especially if Fuddle is a loser and dead wrong. At that point, the only thing stopping a deal is the amount of money it will cost to get rid of you.
And, if your file ends up in the hands of the local Rock Solid Insurance defense attorney, all the positives about you, your injury, and liability will make him gasp, “Hey, what’s going on here? My legal fees will be Higher than the hundreds of dollars more you can throw this one away for.”
The bottom line: Your properly recorded and submitted out-of-pocket expenses, your properly documented injury information, and your clearly stated lost wages will seriously increase the dollar value of your personal injury claim.
QUESTION: How does Dan know this is true? ANSWER: “Because for 38 years Dan was right there, where he saw and did that”!
Copyright (c) 2005 by Daniel G. Baldyga. All rights reserved
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this “How To” insurance claim article “PLACE A VALUE ON YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM” is to help individuals understand the auto accident claim process. Dan Baldyga makes no warranty of any kind, NOR is it intended to render any professional or legal service, NOR is it a substitute for an attorney, insurance adjuster or claims consultant, or the like. Wherever such professional assistance is desired, it is the RESPONSIBILITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL to obtain such services.
Dan Badlyga has published 3 “How To” insurance claims books, the latest being AUTO ACCIDENT PERSONAL INJURY INSURANCE CLAIM (How to Assess and Settle Your Loss) which can be found on the internet at http://www.caraccidentclaims. com or http://www.autoaccidentclaims.com.
This book explains, in plain language, “How” to handle your motor vehicle property damage and/or personal injury claim. It also contains BASE (Baldyga Car Accident Settlement Assessment Formula). THE BASIC FORMULA will explain how to determine the value of the “Pain and Suffering” you endured – – because of your car accident injury!