Remember: Settlement is a compromise, not a win-or-lose situation.
The amount of compensation an injured victim may receive in a personal injury settlement depends on a variety of factors. Injury severity, hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, emotional trauma, and most importantly, insurance coverage, all play a part in determining the final dollar amount in an injury settlement.
In a car accident, for example, financial compensation heavily depends on the auto insurance coverage of the person who hit your vehicle. On the other hand, if the person who struck you doesn’t have car insurance, then you may need to rely on your uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage to cover expenses.
Without experience in personal injury law, it can be difficult to know what your rights are when seeking compensation for your injuries. It’s better to have a legal team at your side who is sympathetic to what you are going through and knows the process inside and out.
Gary Martin Hays & Associates has recovered more than $1 billion in settlements for personal injury victims in the state of Georgia. We handle a range of cases, from small accidents to life-changing disabilities.
Here’s how we help our clients estimate what kind of settlement they might receive after a crash or other painful incident…
Tallying Up Medical Expenses and Other Damages
Once the client has recovered from their injuries, our team initiates the demand phase of the claim. Before this, we help the client keep records of essential items such as:
- List of injuries and documentation of pain
- Doctor visits and contact information
- Medical bills and charges
- Prescription drug costs
- Medical support items (i.e. wheelchair, bandages, etc.)
- Transportation mileage and parking costs for getting to and from appointments
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to the incident
Documentation of medical costs is an important element in the personal injury settlement process. This hard evidence is included in the demand package sent by our lawyers to support their injury claim.
If a client is unable to work due to their injuries, we will also collect information about their lost wages, including pay stubs, contracts, and tax returns. Other damages that may require compensation include car repair costs and consideration of medical costs that may come up in the future for continuing medical care.
Sending Off the Demand Package
Once our legal team has all the required documentation, we prepare a demand package to send to the insurance company. No two demand packages are the same because every accident and injury is different.
Most demand packages, however, will include the following information:
Facts about the wreck. This is where we describe the wreck for the insurance adjuster. We explain what happened, and let them know how their insured’s negligence caused the wreck and our client’s damages. We may include citations to Georgia law advising what traffic rules the defendant violated. A copy of the police report is also attached. If we have taken recorded statements from any witnesses, portions of the transcript may be included too.
A timeline of medical treatment. From the very first treatment to the last, we highlight the medical history of our client. We discuss the major diagnoses, the medical tests, and the findings that occurred. It is our goal to present this information in a summary that an adjuster can easily understand. Further, if there are any permanent injuries or impairments, or if the doctor anticipates future medical treatment, we include that in this section.
Itemization of special damages. The next section lists the monetary charges that our client incurred with all of the healthcare providers and diagnostic imaging facilities. We include any charges for prescriptions, as well as out-of-pocket co-pays and mileage/transportation costs. Added to the medical damage is a listing of the lost wages for the client due to the incident.
An explanation of pain and emotional suffering. On a case-by-case basis, we either write down all of the pain and suffering the client endured (and possibly still endures) or discuss the issue with the adjuster on the phone or during mediation face-to-face.
Specifying dollar amount. Before we send a demand package, we always call our clients and discuss its contents, as well as whether or not we will be asking for a specific settlement sum. We make sure our clients understand that sending the demand starts the settlement negotiation process. Unless there is a time limit for the insurer to respond, the adjusters normally take up to 30 to 45 days to review the materials before sending back a counteroffer.
Negotiating a Personal Injury Settlement
When we send a demand to resolve a personal injury claim with an insurance company, our experience in handling thousands of personal injury cases over the years gives us a range of what to expect per client. There is a common misconception that insurance companies will settle a case for two to three times the amount of money lost to medical bills and repairs. This is simply not the case. The actual process for determining the final settlement amount is nuanced.
The insurance company almost always starts the negotiations with a low-ball settlement offer. Right or wrong, this is just the way it happens. Some adjusters have even shared with us that their supervisors require them to make two or three low offers before they can start negotiating within a “fair” range.
Insurance companies know that if someone has a pile of unpaid medical bills filling their mailbox each day, along with other “past due” bills because the injured victim was not able to work, they can often dangle a small financial carrot in front of that person and they will be forced to take it.
There is no secret formula to a successful negotiation for a personal injury settlement. Our legal team knows that to beat the insurance company at its own game and reach an agreement that fairly compensates an injured victim, it requires tenacity and patience.
As a general rule, small-dollar settlement negotiations are nowhere near as long or complicated as higher-dollar settlements.
It is important to remember these factors though when negotiating a claim:
- If you are the plaintiff, you have the burden of proving what your case is worth.
- Jury verdict and settlement research can help determine the range of proper compensation.
- There is often a difference between what you are willing to settle for and what the insurance company is willing to pay.
- Most adjusters and defense attorneys are honest and fair people, but the system in which they work makes it difficult for them to be reasonable.
- Try to distance your emotions from the negotiations during the process — always listen to your attorney and keep the discussion factual and objective.
If a claim cannot be resolved through direct negotiations with the adjuster, then there are a couple of alternative solutions to consider before filing a lawsuit:
Mediation: This is where both sides sit down with an independent, third party that is experienced in personal injury claims. The mediator will hear both sides of the claim, and try to bring the parties together and bridge the gap. Everything that is discussed between the parties and the mediator is completely confidential. The mediator cannot be subpoenaed to trial if you can’t get the case settled at mediation.
Arbitration: In this system, both parties agree to present their cases to an arbitrator (or a panel of arbitrators). These are independent, third parties with experience in personal injury claims. They will hear the evidence in a less formal setting than a courtroom and will render either a binding or non-binding award in the claim. If the parties have agreed the arbitration award is “binding,” then the award that is rendered serves as a final disposition of the claim. Sometimes parties will ask for a “non-binding” award so they can get an independent valuation of the claim after someone hears all of the evidence.
If negotiations still fail, then our legal team would present two options: 1) settle the claim for the adjuster’s top offer, or 2) file a lawsuit and present the case before a judge and jury.
It is important to stress that when a claim is settled, it is final (unless there are extraordinary circumstances).
Consult With an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
No one is prepared for their life to turn upside down after a serious injury. For the first time, you may be dealing with insurance company bureaucracy and receiving thousands of dollars of bills in the mail. The best decision you can make is to consult with a personal injury attorney regarding your rights and the insurance company’s responsibilities.
Our legal team has a proven track record of successful personal injury settlements. Gary Martin Hays and Associates has recovered more than $1 billion in settlement offers for clients injured in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, and other incidents.
You have enough on your plate. Let us take on the insurance company and their lawyers so you can focus on making the best recovery possible. Contact us for a free consultation today.