If you were hurt in an accident and can establish that your injuries were caused by the negligence of another person or entity, you probably have a solid personal injury claim. But having a solid claim does not guarantee you a large settlement from the insurance company of the at-fault party. The amount of money you ultimately receive depends on what type of injuries you sustained in your accident.
If you suffered soft-tissue injuries in your accident (such as whiplash or a minor strain), the insurance company may not be willing to settle your claim for much more than your total amount of special (or economic) damages. If you sustained more serious injuries (such as broken bones, herniated discs, or organ damage, for example), you may be able to secure a much larger settlement that accounts for the pain and suffering and permanent injuries you experienced. To learn more about the types of damages that may be available for your injuries, visit:
This page discusses the differences between soft-tissue injuries and serious injuries for the purposes of negotiating a personal injury settlement with an insurance company. It may not apply to you, and is not a substitute for consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Only a licensed attorney in your area can give you legal advice about your situation.
Personal Injury Damages
Damages is the legal term for money awarded to compensate an injured person for the harms they suffered following a traumatic injury caused by someone else. If you file a personal injury claim, your settlement may include damages that take into account the following types of harms and/or losses:
- Medical bills you incurred in treating your injuries;
- Physical pain, emotional suffering, and mental anguish caused by your injuries;
- Wages you lost because you could not work while you recovered from your injuries;
- Reduction in your overall earning capacity as a result of your injuries;
- Disability accommodations for your vehicle and home;
- Diminished quality of life; and
- Loss of companionship and support.
In order to recover the highest possible settlement, you should be realistic about how much your personal injury claim is worth. This does not mean that you should settle with the insurance company for less than your claim is worth. It means that you should avoid thinking that your claim is worth much than it is, or mistakenly undervaluing your claim in your demand letter and settlement negotiations.
You should not waste your time trying to convince the claims adjuster that you are entitled to five (5) times the amount of your special damages if you only sustained a sprained ankle and minor swelling in your accident. The insurance company will not take you seriously if you significantly overvalue your claim. Instead, you should enter settlement negotiations with a strong sense of how much your claim is worth and ample support for your settlement demand. One way to get a sense of the value of your claim is to categorize your injuries as either soft-tissue injuries or serious injuries.
In general, soft-tissue injuries include injuries to your muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Abrasions and contusions fall into this category of injuries, as do minor sprains, minor burns, and herniated disks that do not require surgery. You may experience mild to moderate pain and discomfort as a result of symptoms like swelling and bruising. Some soft-tissue injuries, especially herniated disks or bulging vertebrae, can cause extreme pain.
The amount of your personal injury settlement depends on the amount of actual pain you experienced and the evidence you have to support your settlement demand. The more evidence of medical treatment and other losses you have, the higher your settlement is likely to be. As a general rule, you should not expect to receive more than three (3) times the amount of your special damages for pain and suffering if you sustained only soft-tissue injuries.
Serious injuries, sometimes called “hard” injuries, can range from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries. If you suffered broken bones, a traumatic brain injury, permanent scarring, organ damage, severe lacerations or burns, or injuries that required surgery or extended hospitalization, you are more likely to secure a large settlement from the at-fault party’s insurance company. You may be able to convince the claims adjuster that your pain and suffering is worth between three (3) and five (5) times your special damages (using the multiple method discussed in greater detail here).
Even if your injuries are significant, you must convince the claims adjuster that you deserve a large settlement. Remember to back up everything you ask for in your demand letter with evidence, which may include:
- Police accident reports and witness statements;
- Medical records and letters from your medical and mental health care providers;
- Bills and receipts for medical treatment and out-of-pocket expenditures;
- A recovery journal that describes your pain and how your injuries negatively impacted your life after the accident; and
- Pay stubs and/or a letter from your employer discussing your inability to work and the amount of wages you lost as a result of your accident.
Every Personal Injury Claim is Unique
Because no two injuries are exactly alike, it’s impossible to assign a precise settlement value to a personal injury claim. You must prove that you deserve the amount of money damages you’re demanding. If you support your settlement demand with medical records and other credible evidence, you are more likely to get a higher settlement offer from the insurance company.
When calculating your settlement demand, keep the following questions in mind:
- Did you suffer soft-tissue or serious injuries?
- Is it obvious that the other party is liable for your injuries?
- How much are your special damages worth?
- How high of a pain and suffering multiplier should you use?
If you are unsure about how much your personal injury claim is worth, contact a personal injury lawyer before sending a demand letter. You can hurt your chances at securing a fair settlement by undervaluing or overvaluing your personal injury claim.
When to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
While it is possible to settle some personal injury claims own your own, it is best to consult with a personal injury lawyer after an accident. Most reputable personal injury lawyers offer potential clients free initial consultations, and your chances of receiving a fair settlement for your personal injury claim greatly increases if you are represented by a lawyer. You have nothing to lose by asking for help from a licensed attorney in your area.
You should always consult with a personal injury attorney if you have suffered a very serious injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or loss of a limb. In the event of a very serious injury, representing yourself in negotiations with an insurance company is not in your best interests. Mistakes made during the settlement negotiation process can have serious financial and legal consequences, and may jeopardize your legal rights.
Disclaimer: Information provided on this site is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always get a formal case evaluation from a licensed attorney if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.