Plaintiffs looking for a fair and reasonable settlement to their personal injury claim are often frustrated by low settlement offers and prolonged delays in the resolution of their matter. Many people who are injured feel they are treated unfairly by the at-fault party’s insurance company and cannot understand why they are being offered such low amounts of money to settle their case. This frustration is a popular sentiment among people hurt in car crashes, slip and fall cases, premises liability matters, and basically all personal injury situations in California. If you were injured and it was not your fault, a peek into the personal injury settlement process can help you understand why your case is being handled the way it is, and what you can do about it.
It’s Not You - It’s The Millions of Other Cases
If you’re lucky, you never get in a car crash. If you are in a car crash and are injured, however, you will likely have the unpleasant experience of trying to pay for your medical bills, additional transportation expenses, lost wages, and many other costs associated with an accident that was not your fault. Unfortunately, even though the law provides a way for you to have all these expenses paid for by the person or entity who caused your injury, the chances you’ll see a check arrive in your mailbox that covers everything are slim. The reason insurance companies tend to offer small amounts to settle claims is because they can. That is, the great majority of people who are trying to settle their injury case on their own do not know what to do with a bad offer, and they cannot negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement on their own because they don’t know the true value of their case.
Consider for a moment that you were injured in a California car crash, say for example in Orange County or Los Angeles County. These counties are home to millions of people. Over the years, insurance companies have handled millions of cases in California and throughout the country, and your case is compared to other similar cases. How? Insurance companies keep big data that shows what the estimated value of a case is. For example, the type of car you drive, your zip code, your ethnicity - it all comes into play, whether insurance companies admit this or not (they deny this). The facts of your case, such as the amount of property damage involved, the amount of your medical care, the type of crash, and many other factors, are often plugged into an algorithm that produces a number. This number is the basis for the insurance adjuster’s starting negotiation point; many lawyers suspect that some insurance companies do not even review the photos or read the documents provided to them. They plug in the numbers and run the calculation, and from there they use a number to try to get you to settle your case.
What To Do With a Bad Injury Settlement Offer?
Because insurance companies see millions of claims, there is a sense the plaintiff’s case is not reviewed in great detail in the majority of situations. Also, because insurance companies keep big data sets that show the settlement values of similar cases, and because most plaintiffs or claimants don’t hire a lawyer or personal injury law firm to represent them, the settlement values are often quite low. That is, when a lawyer is involved, the value rises, as a good lawyer knows what a case like yours will likely settle for. In this way, because your case is compared to millions of other cases, the great majority of which were settled by the individuals by themselves who often don’t know the true value of their case, you are being given a settlement number that is low.
If you were hurt and want to know what the value of your case is, the best thing you can do is talk with an injury lawyer. A personal injury attorney who practices exclusively injury law in California will be able to compare your case to similar case values that involved an attorney. They will be able to consider up to date trends in the courts, and correspond with a community of personal injury plaintiff attorneys to “round table” your case and give you an evaluation of what is fair and reasonable in your matter.
Putting a Face to a Name
Insurance adjusters can decide to offer you $10,000 or $100,000, or any number for that matter, depending on their evaluation of your case. If your lifestyle was greatly affected, such as if you are a caretaker or a parent to young children, or you had to miss work due to your injuries, it is hard for an insurance adjuster to put a number on that. What is that worth? The reality is that if your loss is not represented by a bill, the value given to lifestyle changes and hardships is often zero. Even though your life is turned upside down and you’re bogged down with bills you don’t know how to pay, or you missed out on a special occasion, or you can’t perform your parental duties or participate in hobbies that you previously loved - none of this matters if you can’t put a number on it. A good lawyer will be able to argue persuasively that these changes to your life can only be compensated by paying you money for your loss. How much is this worth? Personal injury attorneys who handle lots of cases know how to argue for fair and reasonable settlement value. Or, if the insurance company refuses to acknowledge your loss, a good lawyer will bring your case before a court and persuade a jury that you should be paid for your losses.
Of course, nobody wants to go to court. The best scenario for you if you are hurt and want to be treated fairly by insurance is to have the insurance company take your claim seriously, or give it priority. When you are represented by an attorney, the insurance adjusters will often pay closer attention to your case. This is because they know their conduct is being monitored. Personal injury lawyers know that insurance agents and adjusters are regulated by the State of California insurance code. Most people know there are rules as to what insurance companies can and cannot do, but they don’t know what the rules are. Car crash attorneys who practice only personal injury matters know the rules that adjusters are supposed to adhere by; when the adjusters aren’t doing what they are supposed to, they know, and they can fight on your behalf to make sure your case gets a fair review.
Making Your Case Stand Out From the Other Cases
At the end of the day, the difference between a fair settlement and an unfair settlement is the attention given to your matter by the insurance company, and the exposure they think the insurance company has in the future. That is, if you don’t accept their proposals, what will happen? Will you simply go away? Will you hire a lawyer who will fight them and require them to spend a lot of time and money on your case? Could the insurance company be liable for millions of dollars due to a court verdict that punishes the insurance company for its bad behavior or failure to adhere to the insurance code? The best way to stand out, in the opinion of many, is to seek the counsel of a lawyer or law firm that knows the true value of your case. Injury lawyers in California usually do not charge for an initial consultation, and the advise you can get in that time could be the difference between something fair and something that is pennies on the dollar for your claim.
How to Choose an Injury Attorney
Before you sign a contract with an attorney, consider that your attorney will be an individual or office that you may communicate with on and off for several months, or several years, depending on the nature of your injury. Are you talking to a lawyer, or a salesman? Is the person you’ve been dealing with the same individual you’ll be talking to in the future? Is the law firm you’re considering a firm that focuses on only injury cases, or are they a jack of all trades, do-it all firm? If they claim to do all types of cases, what are they chances they have the experience and up to date knowledge of personal injury case values throughout California? Most lawyers would agree that the best thing would be to speak with an attorney who is willing to discuss your case, give you a fair evaluation, and can tell you who the attorney that will be handling your matter in the future is.