With more than 1,281,000 new civil cases filed in Texas in FY 2021, attorneys use settlement negotiation as a tool to get their clients results. Experienced attorneys analyze the factors that can affect a claim’s value from the beginning Lawsuit Settlements. No two claims are exactly alike because every injury is unique, and presents unique liability issues. Despite these differences, some common factors impact the value of settlement and can serve as a guide to help form an estimate of your settlement’s value. Each factor plays a role in how much money can be won in a Lawsuit Settlements.
The factors that can affect a lawsuit’s settlement value may include:
- The Nature of the Injury:
Certain characteristics of an injury result in a higher insurance payout than others. The more severe the injury, the more likely it is that that an injured claimant will receive a higher insurance settlement offer because of the extensive damage and injuries suffered. Victims with permanent injuries like disfigurement or loss of a body part can expect to get a larger settlement.
It is worth noting that a severe injury does not mean there was a severe accident. There is a mistaken belief that low-impact accidents only result in minor injuries. In many vehicle accidents, this is not the case. For example, a slow-moving car accident that only clips a car’s bumper can still cause the person inside to slam their head against the car window, resulting in serious head trauma or even a coma. An injury like this may be grounds for maximum recovery under an insurance policy’s limits.
- The Claimant’s Age:
Age can also affect the amount of a claim’s value in many ways. A younger victim’s claim may be valued higher because they are generally expected to suffer from the long-term effects of their injury for many more years. Because of this, the loss of a younger person’s ability to find work, socialize and live life as they did before the accident may be weighed more.
Experienced attorneys and insurance companies also know how juries think. A jury is likely to be more sympathetic to a very young or very old victim of an accident because they identify with a person who is generally more vulnerable than others. Insurance company adjusters and lawyers recognize the difference in bargaining positions and will take this factor into consideration when making decisions about a potential Lawsuit Settlements.
- The Claimant’s Employment and Occupation:
If a person is unable to work due to his or her injuries, the claimant can seek the amount of earnings they lost because they were unable to work as they normally would. In addition, some injuries are more severe for particular professionals than others. For example, a minor injury to an average person’s hand may not be very serious. But a surgeon who has a minor injury to his hand and loses the ability to use fine motor skills may not be able to work because he cannot safely perform surgery.
- The Extent of Physical Recovery:
Injured claimants can seek recovery for any medical expenses they paid as a result of their injuries, including psychological treatment and physical therapy. For example, if the doctor says it will take 18 months to completely heal, your demand will not only include the cost of doctor visits and check-ups, but also transportation costs if you cannot drive to get medical treatment, the cost of prescription medication, the losses suffered to your daily life, and more, for the next 18 months.
- The Claimant’s Past Medical History:
If a claimant had a pre-existing condition that the accident worsened, the wrongdoing defendant is still completely responsible. This is sometimes referred to as the “thin-skulled plaintiff” or “eggshell skull rule.” Put simply, it may not matter that an injured claimant already had a pre-existing condition that made him or her more sensitive to other injuries. The defendant is still fully responsible for Lawsuit Settlements.
For example, if an injured claimant already had a tear in his or her joint and a car accident made it worse, the defendant driver would still be responsible for making the injured claimant’s previous joint injury worse.
- Malice, or Intentional Misconduct, and Extremely Reckless Behavior:
The government has an interest in penalizing people for behavior that is exceptionally harmful. When a person causes harm intentionally, or if the person should have recognized that their actions are extremely risky and dangerous, this can increase the amount an injured claimant can recover. Those who blatantly disregard the safety of others in society should be held responsible and pay more, and this is typically referred to as exemplary or punitive damages. For example, a drunk driver speeding into a school zone and striking pedestrians may be considered to be grossly negligent and liable for exemplary or punitive damages.
The insurance company can also end up paying exemplary or punitive damages if they act in bad faith. Insurance companies may recognize that they should pay an injured claimant’s demand, but refuse because they think that if they delay payment, the claimant will eventually move on.
For example, the insurance claims representative may withhold offering any kind of advance payment to the claimant for food, rent or living expenses. The idea is to pressure the claimant and force an early and low Lawsuit Settlements. The insurance company may even try to force the claimant to litigate out of malice.
- Evidence that Supports Your Case
From the start, injured claimants need official reports and documents to show who was at fault, how severe the injury was and how much they should be awarded. Evidence that can support an injured party’s claim may include:
- Police reports,
- Medical bills and reports
- Photos and video of injuries
- Supporting witness statements
- Lost wage statements from the injured person’s employer
- Vehicle repair estimates
The law requires that certain documentation, reports and evidence must be shared with the insurance company or defendant. However, the law does not require claimants and their attorneys to share absolutely everything. In fact, some documents and information would be unwise to volunteer at the start of Lawsuit Settlements negotiations.
For example, witness statements can be very important to claimant’s position if the case goes to trial. One witness can be used to discredit the opposing side’s witness. Therefore, this information should not be given away at the start of settlement negotiations. On the other hand, if a key witness statement supports your case, it may be an advantage to give it to the other side early on in order to promote the negotiation process and encourage early settlement. Insurance companies and defendants may also try to poke holes in a claimant’s case by targeting any inaccuracies in the statements and weaken his or her case.
Likewise, a claimant’s statements to his or her attorney about the accident are confidential communications protected by the attorney-client privilege. So long as they remain confidential, insurance companies and defendants are not allowed to discover the content of these communications or try to get this information at trial.
Note that any protected, confidential information that is shared with an outside party may cause previously protected information to lose this protection.
- Level of Fault
In some cases, the injured party played a role in causing their own injuries. For example, let’s say the negligent driver caused the accident by speeding, but the injured claimant made an illegal turn into the road. The fault may be divided between them.
Many states, including Texas, have a “modified comparative fault” rule. This means that if the injured party is over 50 percent at fault, then the injured party cannot recover from the wrongdoing driver or defendant at all.
- The Identity of the Defendant
Jurors are inclined to return considerably higher awards where defendant is a large corporation, than where defendant is an average person. This is because jurors may see the injured claimant as the underdog. In some instances like these, the size and apparent resources of the defendant can affect settlement value because an insurance company would rather settle than risk a jury deciding against it.
- The Identity of the Trial Attorney:
The insurance claims representative and defense lawyer report to the insurance company. If either recognize that the injured claimant’s attorney is able to deliver a maximum or “top dollar” award, then the insurance company is probably more likely to authorize a maximum settlement offer.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer
Without experience in the insurance industry or legal experience, understanding which factors or evidence can help or hurt your case can be difficult to understand.Are you trying to secure your financial recovery with the help of experienced attorneys? If so, we can help.
The Pusch & Nguyen Law Firm has helped countless Texans handle their insurance disputes. Our experienced trial lawyers have gone up against some of the biggest names in the insurance industry while successfully bringing home payouts for clients. Our successful reputation speaks for itself, and with offices in both Houston and San Antonio, we are well equipped to assist Texans who are in dire need of our services. Contact us online for a free case evaluation or call us today at 713-524-8139 (Houston) or 210-702-3000 to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.