If you’ve been in an auto accident and you want to know the value of your claim, get a free consultation with Terry E. Lumsden, Attorney at law, in Tacoma. Unlike the settlement calculators you will see all over the internet, Tacoma attorney Terry E. Lumsden, with over 40 years of experience as a personal injury trial lawyer, can evaluate your specific circumstances to help you value your case. Terry Lumsden has settled thousands of cases and went to trial on hundreds more over the course of his career. Experience coupled with extensive knowledge of the injury laws in Washington State has given him an understanding of what juries are looking for and what the insurance companies value.
The first thing you need to understand when valuing your case is that property damage and bodily injury are separate and distinct. Property damage is about getting your car fixed or replaced quickly, getting a rental car, and getting loss of use or diminished value if appropriate. Most car accident attorneys do not handle property damage. There are two reasons for this. One, if a car accident lawyer took a fee for handling this service, you would be short on money when trying to replace or repair your car. Secondly, the value of a car is fairly straightforward. And insurance companies use an appraisal service that is generally fair and accurate, and there is very little room to negotiate.
Valuing the bodily injury side of a claim is where it is important to consult an experienced auto accident attorney. There are two parts to an injury claim: 1) special damages and 2) general damages. Special damages are those damages you can calculate with specificity. This would include medical bills, wage loss, mileage, and prescriptions to name a few.
Medical bills are usually the most important in this category. In Washington State, the law allows recovery for those medical bills that are reasonable and necessary and related to the car accident. This definition is sometimes a moving target, but generally a medical professional determines what is reasonable and necessary. Also, the amount of charges must be customary for the area. Having an MD manage your care often times increases the value of your claim.
If you missed work because of your injuries, wage loss can be an important component in increasing the value of your claim. Wage loss is straightforward if your doctor writes a note for a specific time off and you have a pay stub showing you missed that work. It gets more complex when you own your own business or are in sales. If this is your situation you may consider getting 5 year’s tax returns, monthly or quarterly excise tax records, P&L statements, affidavits from coworkers, affidavits from customers and clients or servicers and vendors.
General damages are much more difficult to value. General damages include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, inability to perform activities of daily living, inconvenience, mental anguish, disfigurement and disability. To get an accurate value of your claim, it is important to understand each element and then evaluate the strength of your evidence. A personal injury lawyer will help you do that.
Pain and suffering include the nature and extent of the injury. You should consider the duration of pain, the type of pain, and the frequency of pain. Suffering also has a mental component. For example, someone experiencing physical suffering may have lost hope that they will ever recover from their injuries.
Loss of enjoyment of life would be those things you enjoyed doing before the collision that you can no longer do because of the injuries sustained in the collision. Common examples would include going to the gym three times a week, but because of the accident you couldn’t go to the gym for three months, and then had to take it slow. Maybe you couldn’t resume your pre-accident routine until six months following the accident. Other common examples include participating in church activities, going hiking, fishing, golfing, running, playing with your kids, intimate relations with your spouse.
Inability to perform activities of daily living are routines you do every day like cooking, cleaning, taking a shower, etc. Some common losses include vacuuming, carrying groceries, and getting on your hands and knees to clean.
Mental anguish is sometimes more damaging than physical pain. Many times when someone’s involved in a car accident, they are traumatized. They continue to replay the car crash in their mind repeatedly. This may cause great anxiety and fear of driving. Constantly looking over their shoulder every time they slow down for a light, if they were rear-ended. Or looking both ways if they were in an intersection collision, but still worried they are going to get hit. Proving mental anguish can be difficult. Getting treated by a mental health professional such as a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help.
Disability or permanent impairment is straightforward, putting a fair value on it is not. Forensic doctors or sometimes even treating physicians, can do a permanent partial impairment rating which helps determine the value of your claim. Getting the right expert who specializes in the body part where you were injured is critical in maximizing the value of your claim. For example, if you have a hand injury, you may have been seen by an orthopedic doctor. Visiting a hand specialist and getting an evaluation on the specific physical capacities and function of your hand may be important. If, for instance, the disability in your hand affects your work then you should consider a vocational rehabilitation counselor. If your hand doctor says you will require future medical care or surgery, then getting a life care planner would be appropriate in helping you value your claim.
There are many simple valuation techniques for general damages that have existed for decades. One such evaluation technique and probably the simplest is the multiplier. This is what is used by the settlement calculators you find online. You simply take your medical bills and multiply them by 1 to 5, most commonly 3. For example, if your medical bills are $7,000 then to calculate general damages you would multiply that by three equaling $21,000 and get a total case value of $28,000. This is inaccurate and too high for most soft tissue cases. Soft tissue cases are those cases where injury is difficult to prove with mostly muscle and tissue damage. Broken bones, fractures, herniations, bulges on imaging, injections and surgeries are valued differently. Another consideration would be the insurance company. Companies like Geico, Allstate, and Farmers may make low settlement offers and are willing to litigate their claims.
A second common valuation technique would be the per diem method. Using this method, you would take the number of months you treated with a medical professional for your injuries and multiply that by $1,000 to $3,000 to arrive at your general damages. For example, if you treated with a chiropractor for 6 months your general damages would be $6,000 to $18,000.
A third valuation technique is equal trade value. With this technique, you would take a reasonable person and ask them what they would trade to not have been in the accident. If you could stop time right before the car accident happened and down one path is $20,000, but for this money you’re going to get hit by this car, the police are going to come, and an ambulance is going to take you to the hospital and your family is going to worry about you. You’ll have serious headaches and neck pain for many months and be worried about driving. You will always wonder whether or not your back pain is related to your accident. Would you take the $20,000? Would it need to be $30,000 or $50,000 before you take the money? When you decide you’ll take the money, that is what your case is worth.
There are many mitigating factors that increase or decrease the value of an injury claim due to accident or neglect of another. Some of those mitigating factors include getting hit by a drunk driver, criminal activity, the degree and extent of property damage (especially what it looks like visually), positive findings on imaging, and the type of doctors with which you treat.
The mitigating factor that affects every car collision case is property damage photos. If there is little to no visible property damage this will devalue your case even though it may have little to do with your actual injuries. Conversely, if the property damage is significant, or the pictures look dramatic, this should increase the value of your claim even if your injuries are not significant.
If there are positive findings on the diagnostic imaging, like a disc bulge, a herniated disc, or a protrusion, this will significantly increase the value of the claim. The reason is, this evidence is strong in a courtroom.
Another mitigating factor is the type of doctors treating your injuries. If your treating care professionals included: a primary care physician from Swedish Medical Center, a neurologist from Swedish, an emergency room visit from Harborview, and physical therapy from MultiCare, the value of your claim would be adjusted higher. This is because the defense would have a difficult time hiring defense doctors to say that all your medical providers either misdiagnosed, and/or are not telling the truth. On the other hand, if your medical providers include doctors who have poor reputations in the community, or a chiropractor and massage therapist only, then the defense can (and likely will if it goes to litigation) hire defense doctors who will suggest that your doctors are not credible, that they are just trying to make money, or they are treating an injury unrelated to your auto accident.
The bottom line, when valuing your car accident claim, the best path to take is to get a free consultation from an experienced auto accident attorney like Terry Lumsden. MLearn more about “Tacoma Car Accident Lawyer“, Terry E. Lumsden.
FIND US ON: