After you have been injured in a car accident, the value of your personal injury claim matters a lot. Getting compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional damages can make a big difference when it comes to recovering physically and financially. How can you determine what your auto claim is worth? For starters, talking with a car crash attorney in Houston, TX can clarify the steps you need to take to maximize its value.
How Can You Tell How Much Your Claim Is Worth?
Determining the value of your claim is an official process that needs to follow legal protocols. Before you submit your claim to the insurance company, your lawyer can help you calculate your damages, including compensation for your injuries and missed work. Upon receiving it, the insurance company may choose to extend a settlement offer, which you can either accept or negotiate. Finally, some cases end up in court, where the payout is determined by a judge or a jury.
As you can see, the ultimate value of the claim is based on both the facts of the crash and the strength of your arguments. Working with a talented attorney who can leverage the law is essential if you want to maximize your compensation.
What Damages Can You Claim?
The legal system recognizes that you shouldn’t need to pay the price for another driver’s negligence. Accordingly, you can claim damages to your health, your psychological wellbeing, and your property.
The ER Visit, Follow-Up Appointments, and Other Medical Expenses
All of the medical costs associated with your injuries should be noted on your claim. The payout you receive should cover both the immediate medical attention you received after the crash and the follow-up care necessary for your recovery. Some of the expenses might include:
- The trip to the ER
- X-rays and other tests
- Visits to your PCP
- Visits to a specialist
- Appointments with a physical therapist
- Specialized equipment needed for your home
The property damage you can claim includes harm done to your vehicle and any valuables that were inside at the time of the crash. For example, if you lost a digital camera or a laptop computer in the crash, you could list those items.
A serious car accident can leave you unable to work for a period of time, and might even affect your ability to return to your job. In the context of a claim, “lost wages” is a term that refers to the many ways your income can be adversely affected by an accident, beyond simply missing work hours.
Time Off Work
After a serious injury, taking time off work is necessary for your recovery. If you are an hourly worker, this will increase the value of your claim according to the number of hours you missed multiplied by your rate of pay. If you are salaried, you and your lawyer will need to do some extra calculations to understand the financial impact of the time you took off.
Income From Self-Employment
You might also be eligible to receive compensation for any jobs you missed as a self-employed person. This is true whether you are self-employed full-time or as a side job. Your lawyer might need to work with an accountant to determine how much income you missed, potentially accounting for jobs that were in your pipeline by reviewing correspondence between yourself and your clients.
Promotions and Bonuses
In calculating the cost of the accident, the hours you took off and the jobs you missed don’t always tell the whole story. When drafting your claim, a skilled attorney should be able to account for the loss of a raise or a bonus, if you were eligible for one before the accident forced you to take time to recover. Vacation days you did not earn, 401K contributions, and other benefits you missed should also factor into the claim value.
Reduced Earning Capacity
The value of your claim changes significantly when you are permanently disabled, especially if your injury prevents you from ever resuming your former job responsibilities. Estimating the income lost over the course of a lifetime often requires working with an accountant and an economist to predict what your full earnings could have been.
Pain and Suffering
The law recognizes that after you have been injured, it is not enough to provide compensation for the direct expenses and call everything even. Injuries are physically painful events that cause stress to your body. Accordingly, you may be entitled to receive compensation for the discomfort you experienced when you were injured. Assigning an appropriate value is a subjective task that requires an experienced attorney who will argue on your behalf.
Emotional stress, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement are in another subjective category referred to as emotional damages. This category can even include loss of consortium, which refers to spousal attention. Juries are instructed to use their judgment and consider the severity of the case when determining a just amount to award for them. When negotiating with an insurance company, attorneys usually argue for the amount a reasonable jury might determine to be fair.
What Other Factors Affect the Value of a Personal Injury Claim?
Listing all of your damages and calculating the maximum payout you might receive for them can give you an idea of the greatest possible value for your claim, but actually winning the compensation is a process. Along the way, there are several other factors that influence your claim’s value.
The Skill of Your Attorney
One of the biggest factors in the size of your payout is the attorney who represents you. By drawing on past experience and training, they can help you come up with a full list of damages to include in the claim, being careful not to miss any.
As you get further along in the process, your attorney might need to negotiate with an insurance company or represent you in a formal trial. Their professionalism, talent, and ability to argue convincingly will all have a big impact on the final outcome of your case.
Sometimes, it is difficult to assign blame for an accident to one party. If you are found to have shared the responsibility with another driver, the value of your claim will decrease according to your percentage of fault. For example, if you were 30% to blame, you would receive 70% of the payout you would have gotten had the other driver been fully responsible.
The legal system is complicated, and navigating it competently can mean the difference between a claim that is worth thousands and one that is void. For example, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. If you submit a claim outside that timeframe, it will be considered invalid. Your attorney’s ability to keep you informed about the rules of the system will reduce the chance of you missing a deadline or failing to follow protocols.
Find an Experienced Car Crash Attorney in Houston, TX
Accidents are a part of life that you can’t always control, especially when they are caused by someone else. After one happens, however, there are many things you can do to increase the potential value of your claim. Speaking with a car crash attorney in Houston, TX is one of the best ways to get the most out of your compensation. Contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner today to more about your legal options.