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Editorial

Around Our Town...Legally Speaking


Accident Injury Valuation


11/01/2005 - Once the shock, pain and grief starts to dissipate, automobile accident victims, understandably, soon start to wonder about compensation for their injuries.

There are a number of factors used by insurance companies and juries to value a personal injury settlement or claim. Some are:

Vehicle impact - The extent of property damage is a factor in deciding if someone was really injured and whether the injury claims are justified to the extent claimed,

Prior injury claims - Many claim injury from accidents and submit injury claims to insurance companies. Some are scam artists who make a living doing this. Insurance companies have access to computerized data bases able to scan every driver in America, and will present all previous accident information at your trial. If they can make you look like a liar you may get awarded nothing.

Medical bills - Total medical bills factor heavily in evaluation of personal injury claims by insurers and in jury determinations. Injuries must be well documented. Delay in seeking medical care raises red flags for insurance adjusters. Waiting to see a lawyer before ever going to a doctor also raises flags.

Credibility - Your credibility is important. An insurance company's risk depends upon your ability to convince a jury of your injuries. Credibility includes prior accident claims or substantial criminal records. Jurors do not like to award money to convicted criminals.

Prior Injuries - Prior injuries have an impact on settlement negotiations and on jury verdicts. The adjuster is going to question whether your current injury is the result of this collision or the last one if your previous injury is similar.

Subsequent Injuries - A subsequent injury-causing accident prior to settling the first creates complications. One is the implication that you may be a scam artist claiming multiple injuries. Secondly, the insurance companies for the two drivers will both claim your injuries were caused by the other driver's negligence.

Region of the country - Regrettably the political climate in various states may control the jury verdict. Jurors in conservative states are generally tighter with awards than those jurors in more liberal states. It seems hard to believe that a crippling injury can be worth less in one state than another. Insurance companies base their settlement negotiations on state jury verdict research.

Available insurance coverage - Coverage usually only comes into play when injuries are catastrophic. The coverage amount can also become an issue if the defendant's actions were outrageous or if he was driving while intoxicated. The total coverage available is vital for catastrophic injuries as it may set the ceiling for any settlement.

Number claiming injury - The number of claimants gnawing at an insurance policy can severely impact the money available for settlement. Once an insurance policy's coverage is depleted there is no more. Additionally, multiple people in a relatively minor single vehicle accident raises red flags for insurance companies.

Fault - In Wyoming, your personal injury verdict will be reduced by the percentage that the jury finds you to be at fault. If the jury finds you to be more than 50% at fault then you recover nothing.

Retention of an attorney - Not having a lawyer will reduce the settlement offer. Insurance companies understand that without a lawyer you are not a trial threat. Many insurance companies contact potential accident victims as early as possible to attempt to settle claims early and prior to attorney intervention.

Negotiation is another variable in the settlement process. Insurance companies typically offer less than you want and you or your lawyer will ask for more than insurance companies want to pay. If the parties are unable to reach settlement, then a trial will establish the value of your claim. The best source of information about settlement value is from your lawyer.

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