Being hurt in an accident and suffering the disruption of life, work, and even just being able to move without pain is frustrating enough. When you find out that it was preventable and caused by someone else, then that frustration grows exponentially. However, where it is possible to hold someone responsible for what could have been avoided, then it would be an even greater mistake not following through legally. You should get what you deserve for recovery. While it can be challenging, and sometimes even questioned whether it’s really worth the effort, a lawsuit can produce responsibility and recovery. However, that comes with new decisions to: If a settlement is offered, what would make it a good one?
One Settlement is Not Like the Other
There are lots of settlements offered when people sue. The advantage for a defendant is multiple. First, they avoid the cost and high risk of going to court and losing badly. Second, a settlement could be agreed on that is much, much lower than the real cost of responsibility as well as what could happen in a trial. So, no surprise defendants aggressively settle for low amounts as much as possible. That doesn’t mean a settlement offered is a good one.
Elements of a Solid Settlement for Recovery
A plaintiff, the party suing, needs to make sure what they agree to is the best choice. So, there are specific elements one should look for.
Value Offered vs Comparative Value – Depending on the state one is in, laws may already be in place with regard to sharing responsibility in a personal injury lawsuit. The legal theory of comparative fault, when applied, looks at the proportion of fault. Where it finds that both parties involved (or others if more than two) had responsibility, then the cost of the accountability is shared on a percentage basis. That same percentage applies to the overall cost of responsibility. If the settlement offered is far less than what comparative fault would otherwise provide, the settlement is not sufficient.
Coverage of All Medical Costs – When you’re injured by another party, the immediate medical response is the most visible in terms of cost. Everything associated with the emergency room and initial medical treatment is apparent with the first medical bills. However, that’s not the only cost involved. If the injury is serious, there are longer-term recovery costs for rehabilitation and full recovery. That can include physical therapy, chiropractor treatment, additional hospital visits and repair surgeries, and drug prescription costs. You may need expensive medical equipment as well. All of the above should be included, as well as future treatment. Remember, once an agreement is signed and final, nothing else can be pursued after the fact. The defendant is fully released as their benefit from a settlement.
Pain & Suffering Have Value – Injuries aren’t just physical. The extent of serious injury may have been life-disrupting. And, if permanent, it could be ongoing with regard to your loss of life enjoyment. That can include the ability to be active, to work, and to even enjoy the full value of a relationship. All of these, to some extent, should be compensated in a settlement, in addition to the cost of simple recovery.
Property Recovery – Any personal property destroyed in the personal injury should be accounted for at replacement value, not market value. If the settlement chooses the latter, whatever is paid won’t be enough to replace the damaged property. So, the settlement should be structured to restore the plaintiff back to “status quo,” the way he or she was before the accident happened.
Punitive Aspects – While not essential to make a settlement effective, there is a value to the punitive component. The fact is, even an expensive element can still be far less costly for a defendant than losing in trial. So, the settlement should have some component for restoring the plaintiff as well as compensating him or her for all the trouble in the first place, especially where there was negligence, avoidable fault, and the entire issue should have been prevented by the actions of the defendant in the first place.
Lost Income & Income Opportunity – When seriously injured, it oftentimes missing work, and if an employer isn’t accommodating, then that means lost wages. Additionally, if a person was on a career path moving up, and the injury sidetracked that opportunity or the victim is now permanently hampered from realizing income, such as a musician who can no longer use a hand for an instrument or a programmer who has lost her sight, then that’s income opportunity lost as well. Both should be included in a settlement where they apply.
Assistance & Recovery Services – In serious injury cases, victims may need to be helped for an extended period by professional medical services or living assistance. This comes with a sizable cost. Where a patient is in this category, it would be a big mistake not to make sure cost recovery to pay for these expenses isn’t included, especially if the victim’s health insurance doesn’t address long-term care needs.
Representation Skill – The attorney used for representation makes a big difference in settlement outcomes. Representation with significant depth and experience in representing accident victims tends to produce far better results than general counsel who are not specialized in personal injury. A tremendous amount of risk and mistakes can be made, as well as key elements overlooked, simply from a lack of negotiation skills and awareness to the subtleties of a given case’s recovery needs. Just working with the first representation that comes along can end up choosing counsel that do far more damage than good for a plaintiff.
One Good Chance to Set Things Straight
As an injured party to an accident that should have been avoided, you should get what you deserve in a solid settlement that can be relied on for a real recovery. Don’t shortchange yourself prematurely by agreeing to a settlement too fast or too small. Far too often, victims take smaller settlements that seem to provide a “sure thing,” which then ends up being not enough for a full recovery. They then end up paying for years afterward for someone else’s preventable mistake that never should have happened to begin with.
Remember, it’s to the advantage of a responsible party to settle as fast and as low as possible. Your goal is to make sure the settlement represents your best recovery as possible. Don’t continue someone else’s mistake. Protect yourself instead.