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Beware of “Settlement Calculators” or lawyers who give you dollar-amount figures of what your case is worth in a short conversation.

If you are looking for a valuation of a personal injury settlement, chances are that you or a loved one has been injured in some kind of accident – be it a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall accident, or a construction accident. You are probably looking to figure out what the value of your claim might be after considering pain and suffering, scarring, or disability. In this blog, we are going to try our best to help you answer that question.

Here are a few things you need to understand offhand:

  1. There is no such thing as an accurate personal injury settlement calculator. There is no simple formula to determine the value of a personal injury claim, even though some lawyers or law firms may use this to gain your business.

  2. If an attorney gives you a monetary figure as the value for your personal injury claim after a consultation conversation, you should be wary. It is important not to hire an attorney that is willing to make your false promises from your very first conversation.

  3. There is no specific formula or multiplier that can be applied to your medical bills in order to determine a personal injury settlement. Though that was an appropriate application in the past, it is no longer the case, and has not been for quite some time. Lawyers who claim they can get you “X times medical bills” are, if not blatantly dishonest, out of touch.

One of the most common questions the attorneys at Stokes Stemle get asked is “How much is my case worth?” We generally have the same answer, and that answer is not a monetary figure. Our attorneys will explain that every single personal injury case is different, and the value of each case depends on several factors, including but not limited to:

  • Liability (What happened in the wreck?)

  • Insurance Coverage

  • Number of Injured Parties

  • Severity of Injuries

  • Location

How did the wreck occur?

The events and facts surrounding an accident absolutely matter and can affect the value of the claim. An example of this would be a regular fender bender on Southern Boulevard that was simply an accident versus someone colliding into another car because they were breaking the law, such as drinking and driving while leaving the bar then ran a red light and collided into someone on the corner of Vaughn and Taylor Road. This is because some behaviors are just not accepted and a jury will often take the causes of the collision into consideration when awarding damages to someone for pain and suffering.

Next, we are going to further explore some of the impacts that these factors can have on the settlement in a personal injury case.

Where did the accident happen?

Location is very important when it comes to determining the value of a personal injury claim. As an example let us consider two different accident scenarios: two individuals with identical car accidents, and identical injuries, but one accident took place in Montgomery County, AL and the other took place in Autauga County, AL. The accident in Montgomery County, AL, on average would be worth more than the identical accident in Autauga County, AL. The differences from county to county affect the ways that juries in those places evaluate cases. Because of this fact, the location of an accident, which would affect the location of any potential litigation, would absolutely be a factor in evaluating a case’s value.

Insurance Coverage and Policy Limits

Insurance claims are bound by the policy limits outlined within the insurance policy. So, in the event that an individual is injured in a car accident caused by another party, and that party has policy limits of $100,000 on their insurance policy, the maximum recovery under that policy would be $100,000 despite the severity of injuries, clear liability, and number of victims. The recovery amount could be higher if the injured party has Underinsured Motorists Coverage under their own insurance policy. The attorneys at Stokes Stemle are experienced in examining policies of third-party insurers in order to maximize settlement proceeds for our clients. In Alabama the mandatory minimum is $25,000.00 per person and a total of $50,000.00 per accident (25/50). That is just the minimum liability insurance policies start there and go up to $1,000,000.00 and more.

What is pain and suffering, and how is the value for pain and suffering determined?

When you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, there are different types of damages that you may incur as a result. There are quantifiable damages, which include property damage and medical costs, that simply need to be added together in order to calculate the total amount. There are, however, less quantifiable damages that should be considered as well, including pain, suffering, disfigurement, and disability, that are not as straight-forward to determine value. In the next section, we are going to explain the three most common ways that pain and suffering are calculated.

  1. The Multiplier Method: With the multiplier method, the insurance claims adjuster will assign a “multiplier” to your claim, between 1 and 5, which is based upon factors such as the severity of your injury, the severity of the accident itself, and the effects of the accident on your life. They will then take your quantifiable damages (or special damages) times their determined multiplier to come up with the total value of your claim. Anything over the “special damages” is considered compensation for pain and suffering.

  2. The Per Diem (or Per Day) Method: With the per diem method, the insurance claims adjuster will assign a dollar a main for your pain and suffering, and then they will multiply that by the number of days that will elapse between the accident and when you are expected to fully recover. The daily rate is generally similar to the amount of your earnings, or a comparable figure. Essentially, they are assigning a daily rate to compensate you for pain and suffering.

  3. Computer Software: Many insurance companies now use a computer program that determines the value of your claim. These programs take several factors related to your pain and suffering into account in order to make their determination.

The first two methods of calculating the value of pain and suffering that we mentioned (multiplier and per diem), though known by many, are rarely if ever used by insurance companies anymore – they are considered obsolete. This is because someone could have a broken arm and only $10,000.00 in bills while another could have whiplash and also incur $10,000.00 in bills. Assume each person went to Baptist Hospital for all of their treatment. Which one would you award more money to or think deserves more compensation for pain and suffering? The broken arm of course.

Now take the same injuries and bills but the broken arm was in a cast for 6 weeks while the person with whiplash saw a physical therapist two times a week for 6 weeks. Would it be fair to award both the same amount based on the amount of time that passed? Absolutely not.

You are always in a position to negotiate for a higher settlement for your personal injury claim regardless of which method of calculation they use. What is most important is to you to know what a fair settlement offer would be in order to ensure that you aren’t being taken advantage of by the insurance company.

Settlement Calculation Factors:

The following are the criteria that you should ensure are being considered in order to properly evaluate the value of your claim. You can then total each of these factors to get an idea of what a fair settlement would be for your claim.

  • Medical Expenses (Past and Future)

  • Lost Wages (Past and Future)

  • Pain and Suffering (Past and Future)

  • Loss of Quality of Life (Past and Future)

  • Disfigurement/Disability (Past and Future)

There is no “calculator”, but there is precedent.

Though there is no exact way to calculate the value of any given personal injury claim, in most cases, there is precedent out there. By this we simply mean that most types of accidents have happened before (if not exactly, significantly similar), and because of this, an experienced personal injury attorney will generally be able to determine whether or not a case has value. Determining the value exactly, however, is another question entirely.

In Summary: Every Settlement is Different!

Every accident is different, every injury is different, and because of that fact, every settlement is different. The ultimate point is that calculating the value of pain and suffering, not to mention the entire claim, can be a very complex process – we weren’t even able to cover all of the possible variables… it isn’t possible. For this reason, you should avoid both any attorney or law firm that is offering you settlement calculators, and any attorney who provides the value of your claim without a proper investigation – that information is misguided if not dishonest.

If you have a case, and you would like more information about it, call the attorneys at Stokes Stemle today. They will be able to guide you through negotiating your claim with the insurance companies, ensuring that you receive the maximum value for your unique claim.

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