If you have been in a car accident in Houston or San Antonio, you might be wondering whether pursuing damages is worth the time it takes to file a claim and build your case. As medical expenses start piling up, you might start asking yourself how much money you can recover. Any personal injury lawyer will tell you that the size of your payout depends on the nature of your injuries and the strength of your evidence.
How Much Can You Get From a Personal Injury Settlement?
The amount of money you might receive after being injured in a car accident varies widely. Some claims are completely rejected by the insurance companies that receive them, while other claims yield upwards of $2 million in court.
The value of your claim is largely dependent on the skill of the personal injury lawyer who represents you. While the average payout for a personal injury claim in Texas is around $15,500, factors like the severity of the pain you experienced and the degree to which your injuries affected your future earning capacity can greatly increase your settlement. Your lawyer’s job is to discover evidence that works in your favor and then present your arguments to the insurance company or the court.
What Damages Can You List on Your Claim?
In a best-case scenario, you would not have to pay out of pocket for any of the consequences of an accident that was not your fault. Personal injury laws support this outcome, but the burden of proving someone else’s negligence is on you.
If you need to take your case to court, you will be required to submit evidence to back your statements. If you seek to settle outside of court, an insurance company will only pay for damages that can hold up in front of a judge. Your initial claim should list all of the negative ways in which the accident affected your life. Here are some of the most common types of damages that appear on personal injury claims:
Medical treatment is a big contributing factor to the overall expense of an accident. A ride in an ambulance, a trip to the ER, diagnostic tests, and subsequent meetings with your PCP all add up, not to mention the cost of prescription medication and any medical equipment you purchase for at-home use. You are allowed to list all of your medical expenses on your claim, and your personal injury lawyer can help you request your medical records to support your statements.
Another reason why so many car accidents end up costing tens of thousands of dollars is that many people are obligated to take time off work to recover from their injuries. People who work construction jobs or hold service positions that require lots of time on their feet are especially prone to incurring lost wages, but office workers and people in other fields can lose work time just as easily if they experience traumatic brain injuries.
If you have missed time from work, chances are you lost money from sources other than your salary or your hourly wage. The value of any promotions you missed out on, bonuses you could not collect, or benefits you did not receive can be added to your claim. If you have a part-time job, it could increase the value of your lost wages. People who are self-employed can use careful accounting methods to calculate their losses.
Pain and Suffering
When someone experiences severe discomfort, they are entitled to compensation for their suffering that is separate from the financial cost to treat their injuries. In legal terms, “pain and suffering” is a category of damages that a court is allowed to value subjectively on a case-by-case basis. Personal injury law specifies that the court should assign pain and suffering a “reasonable” value, based on the severity of the injuries and the degree of the discomfort.
When insurance companies make settlement offers that factor in pain and suffering, they use an algorithm that frequently undervalues the damage with respect to the amount of money a jury would award for the same injury. A personal injury lawyer who has extensive knowledge of previous pain and suffering cases can use his or her understanding of appropriate pain and suffering values to negotiate for a higher payout on your behalf.
Emotional distress is a category of damages similar to pain and suffering because it is subjective. Many aspects of an accident can cause emotional distress including:
- The loss of the ability to do activities you once enjoyed
- The time you spend worrying about your ability to go back to work and pay the bills
- A sense of disfigurement
To give your personal injury lawyer a thorough understanding of the emotional distress you experienced after the accident, you should tell him or her about all of the ways it impacted your life. Some people even keep a journal of their experiences.
What Factors Can Increase or Decrease the Value of Your Claim?
The Severity of Your Injuries
As you might imagine, serious injuries often result in larger payouts than minor medical issues. If you experienced a catastrophic injury that left you permanently disabled, your claim might be worth millions of dollars. Catastrophic injury claims should account for future lost wages if you are unable to return to work in the same capacity. Similarly, your payout should cover a lifetime of medical expenses if you are expected to need ongoing treatments for long periods of time.
The Allocation of Fault
Many accidents involving two cars are the result of both drivers. Usually, one driver is found to be more at fault than the other. If it is determined that you share some percentage of the blame, you can still receive compensation as long as you are not more than 49% at fault, however the amount of money you receive may decrease. Your personal injury lawyer can help you anticipate counter-arguments from the defense which imply that your actions contributed to the crash.
Your Understanding of the Claim Submission Process
When pursuing compensation for an accident, many people make errors that compromise their claim. One common mistake is accepting a settlement offer without checking to see that the amount will cover all of the expenses. Oftentimes, the true cost of treating auto injuries is not clear until long after the accident, when the patient’s adrenaline has worn off and the injuries have fully developed. After you accept a settlement offer, you cannot go back and ask for an increase.
Another frequently-made mistake is disclosing too much information to the insurance company or their lawyers. Many claimants are asked to give a recorded statement as part of the investigation process. You should understand that in many situations, the injured party has no legal obligation to give a recorded statement. Anything you say to an insurance company can be used as evidence to devalue your claim.
Talk With a Personal Injury Lawyer in Houston or San Antonio
Every car accident is different, and there are many factors that can add or subtract value from your personal injury claim. The best way to get a projection for your claim is by speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Houston or San Antonio. We offer free consultations, and are available to discuss your accident 24 hours a day. To get in touch with us, contact Joe A. Gamez Law Firm, PLC.