Settling an auto accident claim... how much should/could I ask for?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Bellevue, WA

I was hit January 10th, 2012 while sitting at a stop light. The lady who hit me was going 35, looking into her lap (she confesed this to the cops on the scene) and did not hit her breaks. Cops were called, report was taken, and I went to the ER right after. I was diagnosed with whiplash and a sprained back. I have been in physical therapy since then. 2 times a week for the first 4 months and then once a week after that. My car has been fixed (they paid for it), and they paid for my rental. Lost wages are about $1000.00 and the total bill for PT and the hospital visit is around $7000.00. I am continuing to go to PT on a weekly basis. I was unable to do anything this summer due to back pain, ruined two vacations for me. Im not sure how much to ask for in regards to settling the claim.

Additional information

I had problems with my back when I was younger (my teens), however those issues had been resolved and I was living pain free at the time of this accident (supported/documented by my personal doctor). There was no structural damange done to my back or neck, it was deep muscle damage only. Health isurance has been paying a significant portion of my medical costs. The insurance company has tried to get me to settle multiple times, however my answer has always been no, i am more worried about myself than the money. My physical therapist says that with the way my back is progressing, he belives I wont need to come to PT and will be able to complete the workouts myself at home in the next six months (roughly) which is why I am trying to get all the information I can about settling.

Attorney answers (9)

  1. Richard Eugene Lewis

    Pro

    Contributor Level 10

    12

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . There is no formula for computing damages in a personal injury case. Damages and impact on the injured party's life vary case by case. You were in a substantial collision and are continuing to receive treatment. if you were my client, i would tell you it is premature to discuss settlement of your claim. Hopefully you will reach a full recovery in the near future, but until you reach your maximum medical improvement it is too soon to evaluate your claim. if you are still under treatment than most likely you are still in some discomfort and restricted in some activities.
    The only exception to the above is if the other driver carries minimum limits of 25k, in which case, demand the limits and get a lawyer to help you notify your insurer of the situation. The proper notice to your carrier is crucial in terms of an underinsured claim and waiver of the PIP lien.

  2. Kevin Coluccio

    Contributor Level 20

    11

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I am not trying to drum up business for local attorneys, but, you, in my opinion, should consult with an attorney in your community. There are many issues that need to be reviewed, for example, do you have any ongoing limitations, will you need treatment in the future or did the collision cause any structural damage to your back or neck. Most attorneys will provide a free initial consultation to review your claim issues. A good lawyer will share with you his or her thoughts and give you suggestions as to the value of your claim. If, at that point, you wish to proceed without an attorney, you will have good information.

  3. Scott W Edwards

    Pro

    Contributor Level 12

    11

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . agree with everything stated already. I would add, that if you choose (please don't) not to hire an attorney, you should definately wait to settle your case at least until you are done receiving treatment for your injuries. We see people all to often who come to us saying, "I settled my case for X but I'm still hurting really bad and the insurance company won't even pay my medical bills." Don't make that mistake.

    If this information has been helpful, please indicate below. DISCLAIMER: This information is for general... more
  4. David J. McCormick

    Contributor Level 20

    9

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . It seems that you are still treating for your injuries, and if that is the case you should not even be thinking about settling your case until you are released by your doctor. Given the length of the treatment you have had I would suggest talking with a local personal injury attorney and see how you can legally maximize your recovery in this case.

    Good luck.

    DISCLAIMER: David J. McCormick is licensed to practice law in the State of Wisconsin and this answer is being... more
  5. James Edmund Oliver JR

    Pro

    Contributor Level 13

    7

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You should definitely speak with a lawyer as soon as you can. Most of us will speak with you for free and can tell you about the software systems used by insurance companies to determine what you're owed following an accident.

    The settlement value of a claim is basically based on key words and codes related to the accident, your injuries, treatment type and length, medications, and attorney reputation, which the adjuster will enter into a computer like Colossus, or one of its analogs. These software systems are designed to give a settlement value range in a particular region.

    Once all the relevant information is entered, the computer will provide a settlement range. The adjuster's goal is generally to pay no more than 80% of the low end of the range. This is why it's so important to have all the important information in the settlement demand (see below).

    Here's generally how a case like yours should proceed.

    Car Damage. The other driver's insurance company will ask you to take your car to one of their preferred repair shops, or they might send someone to look at your car and estimate damages. You are absolutely free to take your car to any repair shop you like. The insurance company will tell you that your car will get repaired faster at one of their shops, but you should know that those shops often cut corners to save money for the insurance company.

    Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP is provided through your insurance company. Unless you specifically waived PIP coverage, you have PIP coverage. PIP will pay for everything including your medical bills, landscaper, house cleaner, etc. If you're not sure, you should call your insurance company to inquire whether you have PIP.

    Underinsured motorist. This is a policy you may, or may not, have with your own insurance company. This type of insurance covers you in case they drunk driver's police isn't sufficient to pay all your damages.

    Personal Injuries. You are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, loss of wage, and other damages. You probably shouldn't settle yet as you don't yet know how long you are going to hurt. Fortunately, you have three years from the date of the accident to treat for your injuries and get well. When you've healed as much as you're going to, you will be ready to settle your case with the insurance company.

    Settlement. The settlement process usually begins with a settlement demand. This is a multi page letter to the insurance carrier that describes who you are, what sorts of things you did before the accident, what happened in the accident, your medical diagnosis, and how the accident affected you. The final part of the demand is the amount of money requested to compensate you for all that you suffered.

    Attorney fees. Most attorneys, our office included, front all of your expenses and don't charge you to take the case. We call this a contingent fee agreement. This means that we don't get paid unless/until you do. At settlement, most attorneys are then compensated 1/3 of the settlement amount paid by the insurance company.

    Represented or Not? A number of studies have shown that injured persons receive much better settlements when they are represented by skilled attorneys. The average accident victims walks away with more money in her pocket if she uses an attorney than if she doesn't. You should definitely hire an attorney.

    Crime Victim Penalty Fund. In addition to insurance proceeds, you may also be entitled to money because you are a victim of a crime. Depending on how badly you are hurt, they drunk driver may be looking at even more serious charges. If so, you are entitled to compensation as a crime victim.

    Personal Injury (PI) Attorney. Your PI attorney will handle just about everything but treatment. We take care of getting your medical records, negotiating with creditors, if any, communicating with the insurance companies and preparing the demand letter. All you have to worry about is getting better.

    Call a lawyer.

  6. Crystal Grace Rutherford

    Pro

    Contributor Level 13

    7

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . First of all you are still treating so you should not be discussing settling anything. In Washington State you have three years from the date of injury to initiate a lawsuit. That does not mean that you should wait until then but rather than you have time to complete your treatment and learn what is the value of your claim which at this point in time you do not have.

    Second of all, there are different levels of insurance that may be available to you. If you hire an attorney, he or she can help deal with those companies to make sure that you get the treatment that you need to maximize your recovery back to health.

    Third, keep records of everything. If you have a daily calendar in which you are keeping tract of your appointments, also add the miles driven to appointments, and whether you are having a good or bad day. It will help you refresh your recollection if needed later.

    Third, remember that the insurance company that hit you is not your friend and is looking right now for anything that would minimize whatever they have pay out. Do not help them. They want an early settlement to close your claim which is why they are pressuring you to settle. You may be in financial straits because of their insured and they want to get you to settle now so that they are free and clear from having to pay for any continuing treatment you may need or even further losses you may incur in the next year and all the aggravation and pain you are suffering as a direct result of this collision.

    Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to heal and hire yourself a good personal injury attorney to take the burden from having to deal with the insurance companies

  7. Richard C. Speaks

    Contributor Level 5

    8

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . In determining the value of your claim, you must take the facts of your case and look ahead. You project what a jury will award after a trial in the specific geographic region where you would try your case. This is true in every case, even though most cases never go to court. In general, more serious injuries with greater medical bills produce higher settlement values. However, the value of a personal injury case is based upon many factors. You have addressed many of these factors. Some additional questions that can determine case value in this situation include:
    1. Have any of your bills been paid by a third party, such as health insurance or Medicaid?
    2. Is there any permanent injury or loss of use of a particular part of the body?
    3. Did you have any pre-existing injuries?
    4. Did you have any particular susceptibility to injury?
    5. Do you have a respected lawyer?
    Securing a fair settlement offer is not magic. You don’t get fair compensation because of whom you know. Fair compensation is not the product of intimidation, “smooth talking,” or “bulldogging.” It is the result of hard work, knowledge, experience, organization, and determination. It is both an art and a science. It is about using the right combination of sticks and carrots at the right times. The objective in every injury case is to demonstrate to the insurance company that
    1. You can pay us now, or
    2. You can pay us later.
    A respected injury lawyer can show the insurance adjuster, without arrogance or ego, that the company is going to have to pay this claim. He or she must show that the way that the adjuster can best do her job and save money for her company is by paying now instead of paying lawyers to defend the case and then end up paying you later.

  8. Christian K. Lassen II

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You should not ask for anything, as trying to handle a personal injury case without a lawyer will either sabotage your claim and get you no money, or you will get a tiny fraction of what you would have received with a lawyer. Be smart and retain a personal injury lawyer. Good luck.

    The answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and is for informational purposes only.

    Only 29% fee deducted.

    Lassen Law Firm
    1515 Market St #1510
    Philadelphia, PA 19102
    215-510-6755
    http://www.InjuryLawyerPhiladelphia.com

    Licensed in PA & NJ. 29% Contingency Fee. Phone: 215-510-6755 www.InjuryLawyerPhiladelphia.com
  9. Jonathan Craig Reed

    Pro

    Contributor Level 16

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . These "How much is my case worth questions" are impossible to answer quickly. I explain why on my website. Presenting your case in the best possible light (hightest dollar amount) and being willing to go to court if necessary is the skill and value a personal injury lawyer brings to representing you even if the other side is clearly at fault.

    Even though most personal injury lawyer advertising is advertising simply to grab the client, lawyers are starting to compete on price. You can see that one of the previous answering lawyers, not in your jurisdiction, offers a 29% fee. Although I do not have a Washington law license (I'm licensed in Nevada and California) my firm offers a 25% contingency fee for accidents in which there is a police report blaming the other side. And I have the hightest possible avvo.com rating. So may find similar deals in your area.

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