Multimillion-dollar settlements are newsworthy because they not only inform the public that if they are hurt, help is available, but these settlements also help restore injured claimants and make them whole. Still, one question insurance companies and defendants often ask injured claimants is: “why so much?” But this question oversimplifies a complex answer on how much a lawsuit settlement is worth.
First, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure state that the purpose of the settlement offer procedure is to encourage early settlements by shifting litigation costs to those who reject a fair settlement offer. It is worth noting that settlement offers also only apply to cases seeking money damages. This means that your lawyer can evaluate your case evidence, and make a legally “reasonable” offer. The law penalizes insurance companies that try to act in bad faith, or use unethical tactics to avoid agreeing to reasonable demands for settlement awards that are rightfully owed to insured claimants.
So when insurance companies and defendants ask questions like “why are you demanding so much money?” Plaintiffs attorneys representing the insured claimant know it is really a question of what an injured claimant is owed, and what they can prove with evidence.
Put simply, there is not a uniform answer that fits all cases since the same injury can impact each person differently. A large part of figuring out the settlement amount involves evaluating the kinds of damages in a given claimant’s case. In turn, a large part that evaluation is rooted in the physical injuries a claimant suffers as a result of his or her car accident. This means that if your medical bills are expensive, your settlement from the insurance company reflects that amount.
Generally, the average cost of a hospital stay was $11,700 in 2016. According to a report by the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality, this cost was spread across 35 million hospital stays. Billions were spent in healthcare in 2017, making hospitalization one of the most expensive types of healthcare utilization.
When a person is hurt in a car accident and seeks medical treatment, their demand to the insurance company is largely made up of the costs involved in getting the treatment they need.
What if I can’t afford medical treatment, will this affect my settlement amount?
With your attorney’s help, some doctors, hospitals and other medical providers can take an assignment of the insured or claimant. Assignment is a legal term that means a transfer of the right to property or benefits to another. This is referred to as a medical lien. Once an insurance company accepts a medical bill, it has to pay the medical provider directly since the medical provider has secured an assignment of the insured or claimant’s benefits. Some attorneys are able to negotiate with medical providers on prices as well. If you are injured but cannot afford the expensive medical treatment you need, this method allows you to receive the full extent of medical treatment you deserve. In addition, some state insurance and pension plans may also be able to assert lien claims.
Even if you rely on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration for healthcare, you can still receive medical treatment and a settlement for your claim though these programs involve different processes and procedures. The process and waiting time may also vary. Your settlement amount may be limited to the amount of money your insurance company already spent in the past for medical care. Then government programs like Medicaid and Medicare will review your medical bills in detail. Medical care for an illness or injury that has nothing to do with the accident will be excluded as well.
In worker’s compensation cases where the insured claimant is involved in an accident while “on the job,” or “in the course and scope of employment,” the claimant is simultaneously covered by the at-fault driver’s liability policy. When the worker’s compensation carrier covers medical bills and the injured person’s lost wages caused by missing work due to the accident and recovery time, this carrier also has a lien or subrogation rights.
Experienced plaintiffs attorneys know how to calculate the best demand amount based on your unique case facts and injuries. Typically, larger medical bills result in larger settlements. Again, this is in part because the cost of receiving medical care in the United States. It is worth noting that some states exclude treatment received from unrelated injuries, but if your car accident made a pre-existing injury worse then you may be able to recover.
What about my property damage?
A lawsuit settlement’s worth in car accident cases also hinges on the amount of property damage at issue. Many body shop managers are willing to consider an assignment of benefits under the insurance policy collision coverage. After, the body shop will send the written assignment to the claims representative directly. This method came about after auto body shops realized that insurance companies would either delay payment for several months, or refuse to pay for the damage at all.
Once you hire an attorney, your representative will determine the total amount of all liens and may be able to negotiate with lien holders as part of your settlement process.
Until an insurance company knows what it will face in a lawsuit, it is unlikely to settle or even act reasonably in settlement negotiations. At times, making a strong settlement argument is better than filing a lawsuit. No matter how much merit has or how worthy your claim is, filing a lawsuit can mean a series of legal motions that delay settlement. Rely on the knowledge and experiences of an attorney to develop a case plan that meets your case’s needs.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer
Navigating complex personal injury cases and handling insurance companies can make the recovery process even more difficult. Experienced attorneys strategically weigh the cost and benefits of each case to minimize the time and expense involved while maximizing their clients’ compensation.
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. Register online for a free case evaluation or call us today at 713-528-8108 (Houston) or 210-702-3000 to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.