Paul W. Ralph
How To Calculate an Injury Claim's Value
How is the "value" of an injury claim calculated? Once the dust settles after a fall or auto accident or other injury causing incident, you may find yourself pondering this very question. If the at-fault party's insurance carrier contacts you, how do you know what to say about the settlement value of your claim? If it's too soon, you really don't.
First - Time is On Your Side
One trick of the trade among insurance companies is to get the injured party to commit to a settlement (always a small one) before anyone really knows the full nature and extent of the injuries suffered. In this way, the insurance carriers are able to cut-off medical expenses and other damages before they have really accumulated. For example, just recently this office settled what originally looked to be a "soft tissue" automobile accident with relatively modest damages. Early on, it looked as though the claim might have a value under $25,000.00. However, after a number of months and unsuccessful, conservative treatment of the injured party's right shoulder, an arthroscopy (shoulder surgery through a scope) was deemed necessary by the client's treating orthopedist. After surgery and a short course of physical therapy, the damages were firmly established, and the case settled for $170,000.00, prior to the filing of a lawsuit. Imagine what the client would have lost had she settled her claim shortly after the accident and before the shoulder surgery was even discussed by her doctor. Waiting to resolve an injury claim until the damages are well-established is almost always a good idea.
Too Much Time Can Work Against Your Claim
In some cases, the passage of too much time can work against the value of the claim. When there are delays in medical treatment or gaps in care, the connection between the accident and related care tends to weaken. The passage of too much time can make it appear the injuries are either degenerative in nature (things that occur as we age) or related to some other event/accident in the claimant's life. For example, if an injured party goes for 4-5 months without receiving any treatment for their accident-related injury, any care provided after that gap would likely be perceived as unrelated. Insurance adjusters and juries tend to look for a temporal relationship between injuries and medical care. Too much of a gap in time between treatment and/or doctor visits tends to weaken the credibility of a connection.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to calculating the value of an injury claim. However, an experienced injury attorney has that fund of knowledge necessary to compare and contrast one case from another to determine the fair value. If you have been injured in an accident, don't let an insurance company adjuster talk you into a quick settlement. Contact an experienced lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.