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Placing A Value On Your Personal Injury Claim
Your doctor or chiropractor has released you from treatment for a car accident and enough time has passed that you’re about to sit down with Henry Hard-Nose adjuster. His employer is Rock Solid Insurance, the company that insures Fred Fuddle, the individual who rear-ended you, crushing you in a terrible crash that was responsible for your injuries plus the “Pain and Suffering” you had to endure.
In order to get adequate compensation for what you went through, you had to accumulate what in the world of insurance claims are called “special damages.” That’s your medical bills, your lost wages plus every dollar paid to help with your recovery. When building the value of a personal injury claim, there are a few key elements you should be aware of:
RESPONSIBILITY: In the vast majority of traffic accidents, it is clear who is at fault. Assuming you’ve been rear-ended by a Fuddle (rear-ended drivers account for more than half of the motor vehicle accidents that occur in the United States each year), it’s your case that must be resolved. (The final statistics prove that in 83% of the accidents that happened in 2003, it was clear who was at fault) !
A highly questionable liability case has little, if any, settlement value. If this is the situation, you should get the services of a local legal beagle who does a good job of it, Attorney IM Greedy. But if you do, be very careful when you sign Greedy’s “Contingency Agreement”. Read carefully. Don’t sign anything that allows him to charge you one penny, other than his normal fee. Do not – – in any way – – allow him to draw money for his expenses out of his own pocket. All Greedy should get (if he manages to lose a few bucks from Rock Solid) is his fee and it must not be more than the usual locally published percentage of the total return.
TYPE OF INJURY: If serious injuries are involved (which account for only ten to fifteen percent of all car accidents), you should seek the services of an attorney. However, if you have had minor injuries such as whiplash, bumps, bruises, sprains and/or strains (and it is clear that you are not at fault), you can handle and settle the claim yourself.
THE TYPE OF PERSON YOU ARE: Assess yourself and be brutally honest. You are most likely an average motor vehicle owner/driver living a normal life. But if you’ve spent time behind bars, have a criminal record, or a history of character flaws that often get you into trouble with local cops (which is a well-known fact), you need to take those facts into account when forming expectations about what your case is worth.
FRED FUDDLE’S PERSONAL TYPE IS: The better looking Fred Fuddle, or the better looking “entity” (Fuddle’s business or company, etc.), the better for Rock Solid. But, if Fuddle is a famous bookie or drug dealer, they are deep in “things”. On the other hand, if Fuddle is a beloved philanthropist, that can be a plus for Rock Solid Insurance. Or if the vehicle that hit you was a van driven by Pastor Frederick Fuddle, and the named insured is The Fuddle Camp For Lost Souls , that can be a plus for Rock Solid.
But if the “entity” that hit you was a dilapidated pile of garbage on wheels operated by Fred “Goof-Ball” Fuddle, and the named insured is The Fuddle Rotted Cow Manure Corporation, that’s obviously not going to be favorable to Rock Solid.
DAMAGES: There are “special medical damage” costs, “special non-medical damage” costs and/or your “property damage” costs.
SPECIFIC MEDICAL DAMAGES COSTS: These typically include outpatient, emergency room, hospital and/or clinic costs, chiropractor and/or dentist costs, over-the-counter and/or prescription drugs, lab fees and services, diagnostic tests: X-Rays and ( CT) scan, prosthetic or surgical appliances, (hoists and crutches), physical therapy, fees for registered and/or practical nurses, Ace bandages, gauze and tapes, heating pads, creams, lotions, ointments, balms and salves.
When it comes to listing your medical special damages “expenses”, don’t overlook a single dollar because, when it comes time to settle your claim, that dollar can increase the value of your “Pain and Suffering” payout by a factor of four or even five! (Yes, that means a $20.00 bill can be worth more than $80.00 to $100.00, in your pocket, from Rock Solid Insurance, at settlement time).
SPECIAL NON-MEDICAL DAMAGES: These typically include lost wages and earnings, lost vacation and/or sick time, travel expenses (rental car, public transportation, expenses incurred in getting to and from your chiropractor and/or hospital and/or physical therapy “treatment ” of some kind) Household help during disability and/or child care. Be sure to obtain written proof of such “non-medical” special damages.
LOST WAGE: The income you lost because you were unable to work is an area where adjusters take terrible advantage of the typical claimant because they know so little about it.
Commissions and overtime can significantly affect your lost earnings. Make sure you get a letter from your employer, on their official letterhead, explaining this in detail. Or, if you are self-employed, have this information listed on your accountant’s letterhead.
The time you are absent from work (thus the money you may have lost) is calculated and this element represents what is known as “Lost Pay” or “Lost Time Check”. In most situations, you are entitled to compensation for lost time and earnings, even if you didn’t actually lose money! Like, for example, when your company’s insurance pays your salary, or taking sick leave, or some similar arrangement.
Even if you have a salary, you should get a “Lost Earnings” or “Certificate of Lost Time” in writing on your employer’s letterhead.
IF YOU’RE SELF-EMPLOYED: In order to prove lost earnings, you’ll likely need to gather some privileged information for the Hard-Nose. If you don’t like the idea of handing him private documents, in the privacy of your home or office, just think about how you would feel if you presented them in the non-private setting of a courtroom. When the case goes to trial, and you want to prove your damages and collect the appropriate compensation, that is your only alternative.
TWO CRITICAL AREAS OF WAGE LOSS: Did the injury require a change of job or employment at a lower rate? Or did your injury allow you to go to work but only part-time? If the answer to any question is “Yes”, it would be wise to ask your employer to document these facts on their letterhead.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW: Even if you were paid while you were out of work, you can still count your time lost from work as “Lost Wages.”
PROPERTY DAMAGE COSTS: These typically include motor vehicle repairs, damaged clothing, broken glasses, replacement car rental costs, towing and storage. Make copies of all bills related to your property damage expenses. Keep the originals. Make sure you have them in your possession when you and Hard-Nose go “Talk Turkey”. Photocopies are enough for him.
YOUR AGE: Because of their apparent innocence, insurance accident victims under the age of 12 generally have excellent settlement results. Those in their teens and late 50s fall into a fairly normal category because they are generally considered to be at the peak of their physical endurance. Those in their late 60s and older tend to do extremely well; primarily because of the sympathy that is often evoked, from the judge or jury, because of general attitudes about the weak and the elderly.
MOST IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: The information that Hard-Nose puts in your file plays a major role in the final value of your claim. Never underestimate the importance of his impressions and conclusions! If, one day, your case ends up in front of a judge or jury, what Hard-Nose senses, perceives and then reports in your Rock Solid file about you, his insured Fred Fuddle and/or possible witnesses, etc., (along with information that you’ve documented for him) can have a huge impact on the value of your claim – – especially if Fuddle is a loser and absolutely wrong. At that point, the only thing holding back a settlement is the amount of money it will cost to get rid of you.
And if your case ends up in the hands of a local Rock Solid insurance attorney, all the positives about you, your injury, and your liability will cause him to sigh, “Hey, what’s going on here? My legal fees are going to be more than a few hundred dollars more.” for which this one can be cast.”
Bottom Line: Having your out-of-pocket expenses properly recorded and presented, your injury information properly documented, and your lost wages clearly identified will seriously increase the dollar value of your injury claim.
QUESTION: How does Dan know this is true? ANSWER: “Because for 38 years, Dan was right there, where he saw it and did it”!
Copyright (c) 2005 by Daniel G. Baldyga. All rights reserved
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this claim “How To” article entitled “ASSESSING YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM” is to help people understand the car accident claim process. Dan Baldyga makes no warranties of any kind, NOR purports to engage in the rendering of any professional or legal services, NOR substitute for an attorney, insurance adjuster or claims advisor or the like. Wherever such professional assistance is desired, the INDIVIDUAL IS RESPONSIBLE for obtaining said services.
Dan Badlyga has published 3 “How To” books for insurance claims, the latest being AUTO ACCIDENT CLAIMS (How to Estimate and Settle Your Loss) which can be found online at http://www.caraccidentclaims.com or http: //www.autoaccidentclaims.com.
This book explains in plain language the “How” to proceed with a claim for property damage and/or personal injury to your motor vehicle. It also contains BASE (The Baldyga Auto Accident Settlement Formula Evaluation). THE BASIC FORMULA will explain how to determine the value of the “Pain and Suffering” you suffered – – due to your car accident injury!
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