If you’ve been injured in a car accident and you want to maximize the settlement amount, seeking immediate, documented medical care is the #1 most important thing you can do.
Delays in seeking medical treatment tell the insurance company that your injuries are not serious. This may prompt the insurance adjuster will lowball your case. In short, medical treatment delays are a settlement killer.
“I Feel Fine, I Don’t Need a Doctor”
After many minor car accidents, many people report feeling just fine. This is typical. You may not feel any whiplash or other minor car accident injuries until a couple days later. Your muscles need time to relax and actually feel the result of the collision in areas such as your neck, back and jaw. You may also experience headaches at this point.
Bottom line: Don’t trust what you think your body is telling you. See a doctor immediately and document the visit.
Avoid Gaps in Your Treatment Plan
It is very important to stay within the guidelines of any treatment plan a doctor gives you. Any deviation, such as missing appointments, will be seen as a weakness by an insurance adjuster. Additionally, if you wait weeks or months to seek care, an insurance adjuster will characterize this as a gap in treatment, thus greatly reducing the opportunity for settlement.
Ask About Medical Treatment Through Settlement Without Charge
Attorneys often have relationships with doctors and chiropractors. These relationships allow them to set up medical treatment on a contingency basis. The attorney promises to the medical provider that, if they treat the patient through settlement without charge, the doctor will be paid at the conclusion of the case. This alleviates the immediate financial pressure on you – the injured party.
Inputs to Calculating Your Settlement
All attorneys will use a formula to calculate a proposed settlement amount. It will usually be based on proven success in past cases.
Inputs to the formula include medical bills (ambulance, emergency room, doctors and chiropractors), property damage and wage loss as a result of the accident.
A Pain and Suffering multiplier is usually part of the calculation as well. It typically ranges from 2.5 – 5 times the amount calculated from the medical bills and wage losses described above.
As an aside, be careful about seeking non-traditional care such as massage therapy because sometimes these bills will be denied by the insurance adjuster.
Aim High With Your Settlement Estimate
Remember, you cannot go back and ask for more, so it’s important to start higher recognizing that an insurance adjuster will likely come back with a counter-offer. The good news is that 95-96% of cases settle before ever going to trial. So a skilled demand letter often yields the highest possible results in terms of settlement value.
Personal Injury Settlement Calculator from alllaw.com
A great resource to give you a rough idea of your possible settlement amount is this personal injury settlement calculator from All Law. One caveat: the calculator should only be used to get a general idea of what you can expect for your settlement. The ultimate settlement amount may vary considerably based on a wide variety of factors. You should use the calculator to determine if it even makes sense to pursue a personal injury claim and whether it makes financial sense to use a lawyer to handle the claim.
This is where you input all your medical bills even if you didn’t pay them out of pocket. If you didn’t seek any medical attention you should still enter an amount here by using the daily rate method. Don’t forget to consider estimated future medical expenses as well.
Economic damages also include things like damage to your car and lost earnings – both to-date and estimated future lost earnings.
Pain and Suffering Multiplier
The pain and suffering multiplier can vary but you should use your best judgement based on the length and severity of your injuries. For example, injuries requiring on-going treatments for a long period of time would warrant a higher multiple.
As a general rule, use 1.5 – 2 for minor injuries, 2-3 for more serious injuries injuries and 4-5 for very serious, long-term debilitating injuries.
Target Settlement Calculation
Your Target Settlement will be comprised of two numbers – Economic Damages and Non-Economic (Pain and Suffering). Once you have a good idea about what you think you deserve, take the figure to the a personal injury attorney.
And remember that the attorney typically receives 33% of the settlement. So take off 33% of the target settlement amount to figure how much you will actually receive.