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Have You Been in a Car Accident?

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Jennifer Tressler, who is pursuing her Juris Doctorate at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Learn How Damages Are Calculated in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Car and Truck Wreck Claims

Imagine for a moment that you are Maria. Maria was driving through an intersection when her car was struck by another vehicle. Maria suffered several severe injuries that required a significant amount of medical treatment. However, Maria’s insurance company would only cover a portion of her medical treatment costs.

Maria was at a loss for what to do, when someone told her to talk to a reputable personal injury law firm that might be able to help her. She was hesitant, thinking that filing a law suit might make create additional problems for her during what was already a very stressful and expensive time, but by choosing Lawrence & Associates, she realized she would not have to pay up front for her personal injury case! Her Lawrence & Associates personal injury attorney explained to her that her personal injury case would operate on a contingency fee, meaning that she would not have to pay any attorney’s fees or case expenses unless she won her case. Although Maria still had plenty of questions, her personal injury attorney was happy to answer them. The most important question for her, and maybe for you if you find yourself in a similar situation, was how much money she could expect to receive and when she would receive it.

How does a Greater Cincinnati area lawyer calculate or estimate how much money I get from my personal injury claim?

The first thing for you and your personal injury attorney to consider (because you are a large part of the settlement process!) is what a reasonable sum of money for you to give up your legal claim looks like. This varies from person to person, from situation to situation, depending on circumstances. Most insurance companies use mathematical formulas to calculate the amount of money they are willing to let go in the settlement, and your personal injury attorney will look at this formulaic process on the other side during the negotiations process. This is true regardless of what type of personal injury case you are bringing forward. This formula does not actually determine how much compensation someone receives, however. It is more of a tool that insurance adjusters use to begin the process of determining how much a claim is worth. Other factors must be considered before a final determination about compensation is made.

Once the settlement formula is applied, the insurance company will look at other legal and practical issues that affect your case. Some of these issues could include whether there is any shared fault for the accident, how organized and calm your demeanor is in relation to the claims and settlement process, whether the other side is credible or sympathetic, and any witnesses that may bolster your case. Because there are so many factors that go into how much your case will settle for, it is dangerous for attorneys to promise a high dollar settlement amount to their clients. Attorneys are held to very stringent ethical standards, especially regarding the handling of money and the representation of clients. Do not be afraid to check out your potential attorney on the state bar association’s website where the attorney is located to see if there are any ethical complaints or malpractice suits filed against them.

What is the damages formula and how does it work?

It is important to have a damages formula because, while it is usually fairly simple to add up money spent and money lost, there is not a precise way to put a dollar amount onto pain and suffering and missed or lost opportunities. The latter is what the damages formula calculates. The person found liable for an accident must pay the victim for medical care and its related expenses, missed work and other lost income, pain and other physical suffering, permanent physical disability or disfigurement, loss of family, social, and educational experiences, and emotional damages resulting from any of these losses.

To begin the original offer, an insurance adjuster will add up the total medical expenses relating to the injury, which are referred to as “medical special damages” or “specials.” To figure out how much to pay for emotional damages, permanent disability, and pain and suffering, which together are referred to as “general damages,” the insurance adjuster typically multiplies the amount of special damages times one-and-a-half to three times for relatively minor injuries and up to five times for especially painful, serious, or long-lasting injuries. Any lost income is then added to this number. This is usually the number where settlement negotiations with your personal injury attorney begin.

Two important things to remember about the damages formula are that, first of all, the figure arrived at is only the starting point for negotiations toward a final settlement amount. Other important factors about your accident and your injuries come into play as well. Secondly, because the starting formula can have a multiplier anywhere from one-and-a-half to five, or possibly even higher, considerably different numbers can be produced depending on where your case falls on the multiplier scale. Factors that influence where your case falls on the multiplier scale can include how painful your injury is, how invasive and long-lasting your medical treatment was, how obvious your medical evidence is, how long your recovery period is, and how serious and visible the permanent effects of your injury are.

Sometimes, your target settlement needs to be adjusted for your own fault. Kentucky is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning that the dollar amount of your award is reduced by your percentage of fault with no limits. Ohio is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning that your award is reduced by your percentage of your fault, and if your own fault is greater than fifty percent, you cannot win any damages, so the settlement value of your case is much less than your actual damages.

The last factor an insurance company looks at is whether you have retained a competent attorney. Injured people who have not retained counsel are often looked at as “not serious” about pushing the value of their claim, or unable to successfully push the value of their claim once litigation becomes necessary. This theory often bears true, because unrepresented injury car accident victims don’t know how to file and pursue a lawsuit in court. This means those unrepresented people are stuck with whatever the insurance company decides the value of the case ought to be, not what the injured person or a jury of his or her peers decides the value of the case ought to be. This is the reason that getting counsel as early as possible is important.

If you are overwhelmed by your personal injury accident, contact Lawrence & Associates today. We can help you navigate through settling with your insurance company to get you the award you deserve! Call today for a free consultation at (859)371.5997. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!