If you or a loved one are facing serious injuries, wrongful death, pain and suffering, financial losses, and other losses, you should know that you have legal options and help available.
If you are confused about what to do after an accident, review the list of frequently asked questions to ease your discomfort and confusion.
How Can an Attorney Help Me?
There are many ways a personal injury attorney can help you. They can help you understand your legal options and rights, negotiate a settlement with an insurance company, and ensure that you recover the compensation you deserve.
Should I File a Car Accident Claim?
If you suffered any damages, you have the right to pursue compensation for those losses. However, it is important to note that after an accident, insurance may not cover the full cost of your losses, especially if serious injuries are involved. This may leave victims suffering for years of medical treatment and an inability of being able to work. This is why it is important to file an injury claim, that way you can take actions to protect your entitlement.
How Much Compensation Am I Entitled To?
There is really no way of knowing the exact amount of compensation you are entitled to since every case is different. The outcomes are based on negotiations with your attorney and the insurance company. The compensation awarded depends on the damage.
In car accidents and other personal injury claims are often categorized as either non economic or economic damages.
Texas follows the 51% bar rule. This means that if you are more than 51% responsible for the accident then you will not be compensated. However, below 51% entitles you to compensation.
Always speak with an attorney first, they can assess your case and let you know where you stand.
What If The At Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Enough Insurance?
If the minimum amount of their insurance is not enough to cover for damages, under insured motorist insurance (UIM) can compensate the rest. UIM covers bodily injuries, as well as property damage.
What If My Auto Insurance Claim Is Denied?
You can request a reconsideration if you do not agree with the list of reasons why your insurance claim has been denied. Your lawyer can evaluate your auto insurance policy and the accident to determine if you were wrongfully denied coverage.
If the insurance company denies your claim again, you may be able to file an appeal with the Texas Department of Insurance. Your attorney will assist you with the process and walk you through the appeals process, as well as build a strong to ensure you get the compensation you are entitled to.
Why Should I Settle My Claim? Shouldn’t I File A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
After a car accident, you have the legal right to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses through the court system. It is highly advised that you first contact a board certified personal injury law firm.
However, there is usually an insurance policy in place designed to cover your losses. Your insurance provider will usually prefer to pay you a settlement amount in return for your agreement not to pursue a lawsuit in court. It will save them the cost of taking your case to court.
It’s also usually beneficial to you and the injured party, because you don’t have to wait for the court system to resolve your case, which can take many months or even years. Before accepting a settlement, you can decide whether or not you want to take your case to trial. However, you run the risk of getting nothing if you lose.
How Does An Insurance Company Decide To Offer A Settlement?
An insurance policy always comes into when you’re injured. Especially where someone else may be at fault, whether involving a slip and fall, a car accident, or any other kind of incident.
If you file a claim under your own insurance policy, you insurer might turn around and seek reimbursement from the insurance company of the person at fault. Or you might file a third-party claim directly with the insurance company of the party at fault.
In both cases, an insurance company handles a claim by doing two things, minimizing costs and managing risk. Your insurer will do everything it can to resolve the claim before it gets to court. This means reaching a settlement agreement in which you receive a sum of money and the insurer and/or the defendant are released from any further liability in connection with your injuries.
An insurer is not going to let a personal injury case go to trial since it can be put in the hands of an unpredictable jury. A jury that could just as easily award the plaintiff hundreds of thousands of dollars that could free the defendant and the insurer of any liability.
Should I Trust An Online Settlement Calculator?
You can get a rough idea of the amount of compensation you might expect to receive using an online calculator. However, results will be inaccurately estimated of your compensable damages.
First you should get all your claim-related documents together. These include, medical bills, pay stubs, records of time missed at work, property damage estimates, and anything else that will give you a strong sense of your losses so far. This will give you an idea of your out-of-pocket damages.
Insurance companies use a multiplier to calculate the damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages.
That means multiplying your actual damages by a number between 1.5 and 5. The number will depend on factors like the seriousness of your injuries, your prospects for a complete recovery, the clarity of who was at fault for the accident, and the impact that your injuries have had on your day to day life.
However, resolution of any injury claim usually turns on far too many variables, including the art and skill of successful negotiation for you to reasonably rely on these numbers.
What Damages Should Be Included In My Settlement?
In personal injury cases, the different kinds of compensation you can receive are divided into two main groups: general damages and special damages.
General damages are called non-economic damages while special damages are referred to as economic damages.
General damages are kinds of harm and losses that are from the underlying accident or injury. Yet, are not easily quantified and can be more subjective. For example, this includes compensation for any pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, lost companionship, disfigurement, and similar harm caused by the accident and resulting medical treatment.
Special damages are losses that are easy to quantify. These include, compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, lost of income opportunity, property damage, and other economic losses resulting from the accident. As well as, medical treatment, and any resulting disability or limitation.
You Could Be Entitled To Recover Compensation For:
Car Injury Medical costs
All your medical bills should be paid for, with no co-pays or expenses to you. Any medical treatments should be completely covered.
This includes hospital bills, surgeries, medications, diagnostic procedures, visits to specialists or any other treatments.
Future Care Costs
In some cases, injuries can be permanent or last long after your settlement has been paid or the trial has ended.
Costs that should be included are, ongoing pain management, physical therapy, surgeries or any other future medical treatment.
Adaptive Medical Devices
If your injury caused you to suffer some type of impairment or disability, you may need adaptive devices. From a special vehicle, you can drive when paralyzed, to an electric wheelchair or a ventilator.
There are a variety of medical devices that you may use over the course of your recovery or for the rest of your life. The cost of these devices should be covered.
Pain Management Costs
After an accident, if you have ongoing pain, need pain medication, chiropractic care or other treatments to help you cope with and minimize your discomfort, should be paid by the person responsible for causing the accident.
If you need physical rehabilitation, either inpatient or outpatient, these costs should be included in your compensation.
Personal Care Assistance
Costs that should be covered are, someone who needs ongoing nursing care or will need to go into a nursing home.
Along with, someone who may be able to remain in their home but need help doing basic tasks.
Lost Income/ Wages
You should be compensated for the missed work, if you have to miss any work because of your injuries, or if you used sick leave or vacation time.
A Reduction In Earning Capacity
At times, a car accident may injure someone so badly that they can no longer work. Your injuries can also prevent you from earning the amount you did before the accident.
If you lose the ability to earn a living or if your income is reduced, you should be compensated for that.
Damage To Your Property
The cost of repairs or replacements should be included in your compensation, If your car or other property was damaged in the accident.
Permanent Injury/ Disfigurement
You should be compensated, If you were disfigured or suffered a permanent injury.
The serious effects of your injuries and its impact on your quality of life should be taken into account
Pain And Suffering
Calculating pain and suffering damages can be difficult because it is hard to put an appropriate amount on how much your pain is worth.
However, the law says that victims are entitled to compensation for the physical pain the injuries may have caused.
You could be entitled to compensation, If you suffered emotional problems as a result of the crash or injuries.
Monetary compensation could be available for those who have lost a close relative in a car accident. Wrongful death damages include payment of medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of companionship damages, and loss of financial support.
Should I Receive Money For Pain And Suffering In My Settlement?
If you were injured in an accident, and you were not at fault, you should receive some amount of money for your pain and the impact the injury has had on your daily life.
In accidents with minor injuries, or short-term injuries, it may be a small amount. When injuries are more serious, painful and/ or long lasting, the settlement of the pain and suffering of your claim sharply increases.
Are My Medical Bills Paid For In An Injury Settlement?
Yes, payment or reimbursement of medical bills will be crucial to any settlement that is reached in an injury related insurance claim or lawsuit.
The plaintiff & claimant will be compensated for all medical treatment necessary by the accident. That includes reimbursement for medical bills already paid for, and a plan for payment of all future medical treatment that will be necessary.
Be aware of when it comes to getting compensation for medical bills that have already been paid for. Your health insurance provider may have a claim on part of your settlement, if your provider already paid some or all of the bills that you later get compensated for.
Is There A Minimum Amount For A Personal Injury Settlement?
When it comes to injury settlements, there is no minimum or maximum amount. In terms of strengths and weaknesses every case is different.
The amount of settlement involved in a personal injury case depends on a whole host of factors, these include:
The nature and extent of the plaintiff/ claimant’s injuries, including pain and suffering, and the long-term impact of the injuries.
Clarity of who was at fault for the underlying accident
The willingness of one side or the rejection of the other
Let the case go to court if needed
Can I Reject A Settlement Offer?
Of course you can. If you’ve filed an injury claim with an insurance company, or brought a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused your injuries, you’re free to reject any settlement offer you receive.
Most injury cases settle before going to trial, and a large number of claims get resolved before a personal injury lawsuit is filed. However, there are a number of valid reasons to reject a settlement offer and take the case to court. You or the other party may disagree on key issues like who was the cause of the accident, or the extent of your injuries. Or maybe you just want to settle your case in court.
It’s a wise decision to take a reasonable approach to any settlement offer, and formulate a strategic response. Discuss with your attorney on the best course of action. Settlement negotiations continue, when an injured person rejects a settlement offer. Typically, the injured person called the claimant or plaintiff makes a counter offer, usually as part of a methodical and professional demand letter.
A demand letter is a chance for you to tell your side of the story. How did the accident happen? Is there evidence that points the blame on the defendant? Does this blame contain police reports, witnesses, etc.? How badly were you injured? What has been the course of your medical treatment so far, and what is your prognosis for future treatment?
Your letter will present detailed evidence that will show why the other side’s initial settlement offer is too low. You’ll end your letter with your own demand, an amount you’d be willing to accept to settle the case.
How Is My Lawyer Paid?
In most personal injury cases, if you decide to retain a lawyer to handle your case, he/ she will represent you under a contingency fee. What this means is that you do not pay anything up front. If your case reaches a favorable solution either through an agreed upon settlement or after a civil court trial, your lawyer will be paid.
In the initial fee agreement that you signed, your lawyer will collect a percentage that was agreed upon. This percentage is typically around 33 percent of the settlement amount. However, the further along the case progresses, the lawyer’s cut will increase gradually.
Can I Get My Lawyer To Accept A Lower Percentage Of My Settlement?
Attorney’s fees are always negotiable. You should bring up the fee arrangement as you interview attorneys to handle your injury case.
It’s true that most lawyers will immediately say something like one-third is the industry standard. However, just like there is no average settlement, there is no average lawyer’s fee.
You should be able to negotiate a favorable fee agreement, if you’ve got an excellent case, liability is clear, the damages are significant, and there’s adequate insurance coverage.
On the contrary, if there’s a disagreement on your case about liability, or the cause of your injury, a lawyer will probably not accept a lower fee, because the risk of losing is high.
How Do I Collect My Personal Injury Settlement?
It depends on the specificity of your case. If the defendant had an insurance policy to cover the accident, chances are that you or your attorney have been negotiating with the insurance carrier. Either before you filed a personal injury lawsuit, or while the lawsuit is ongoing.
Typically, your insurance company will usually just write a check for the agreed upon amount. Then, you will sign a release that discharges the insurer and the defendant of any further liability in connection with the incident that gave rise to your claim.
Things can get more complicated if you sued the defendant directly and there is no insurance coverage at play. Especially when your case has gone all the way to trial and you’ve received a judgment in your favor. An order from the jury that the defendant pay you a certain amount in damages. However, getting a judgment is one thing, and getting your money is another. If the defendant does not have much in the way of assets, it will be a challenging.
Do I Need To Pay Taxes On My Settlement Money?
It all comes down to what the settlement covers.
The award will not be taxable as income, if the settlement is intended to cover physical injuries or physical sickness. However, if you previously claimed any medical expense deductions related to that same injury or illness, your settlement will be taxable.
You don’t need to claim any part of the settlement as income for federal income tax purposes, If you didn’t claim a deduction. However, if you did claim a deduction involving the same injury or illness that gave rise to the settlement, then you’ll most likely need to report the settlement as “Other Income” to the IRS.
There are a few more unorthodox rules when it comes to settlements and whether they’re taxable:
Any portion of your settlement that is meant as an interest payment is taxable.
Any portion of the settlement that is meant to compensate you for pain and suffering, above and beyond any amount meant to cover your actual medical expenses will be taxable.
Any inflicting damages included in the settlement will be taxable.