Knowing the worth of your accident injury claim can prove invaluable as you handle the aftermath of a serious accident. The value of your claim can help determine whether you should consider pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, when to accept a settlement agreement, and how long to negotiate with the insurance company. It can help you decide how to manage your medical care, including how you will pay for the vital elements of your claim.
Most people, however, do not have an idea of how much they deserve following an accident with serious injuries. Does the liable party have to cover all your medical bills? How could pain and suffering impact your claim?
To get a better idea of the value of your specific claim, consult an experienced personal injury attorney. No attorney can give you an exact quote for how much compensation you can receive for your injuries. However, an experienced personal injury attorney can give you a better idea of the compensation you may deserve, including when to accept a settlement and when to continue to fight for compensation.
Who Caused Your Accident?
To determine the worth of your claim, you may need to establish who caused your accident.
A personal injury attorney could ask several key questions to determine who caused or contributed to your accident.
- Who bore a duty of care to you at the time of your accident? In a nursing home negligence claim, for example, the nursing home and any staff members hired by that nursing home bear a duty of care to everyone under the care of the home. In an auto accident claim, the liable party may include another driver on the road or the manufacturer of your vehicle.
- Who violated that duty of care? A distracted driver, for example, may violate his or her duty of care to others on the road by failing to pay attention to conditions on the road, substantially increasing the risk of an accident. In a premises liability accident, the premises owner might fail to take care of needed maintenance on the stairs or flooring, causing a serious slip and fall risk.
- How did that violation lead to your injuries? To file a personal injury claim, you would need to establish that the other party’s negligence caused or contributed to your injuries. For example, if you notice a spill on the floor at the store, but successfully navigate around it without falling, you have no grounds for a personal injury claim. Likewise, a distracted driver on the road who does not hit anyone will not face civil liability concerns, though he or she may face legal consequences for violating the law. On the other hand, if you have an accident with a distracted driver that results in severe injury, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim.
Many parties carry insurance policies that would provide coverage in the event of a severe accident. Florida drivers, for example, must carry auto insurance. Most medical care facilities carry medical malpractice insurance. Premises owners frequently carry insurance policies on their premises that offer compensation when someone suffers an injury at that facility. Those insurance policies may set the limits of the compensation that you could recover.
When Multiple Parties Contribute to an Accident
In some cases, multiple parties may contribute to an accident. Suppose, for example, that a driver suffered a mechanical malfunction that caused his or her brakes to fail. He or she may plow through a red light or stop sign, unable to stop. Another vehicle in the intersection may have no warning or time to get out of the way. Later, it comes out that the driver chose to exceed the speed limit at the time of the accident. He or she may have even looked down to text at a critical moment, decreasing the chance of safely navigating away from the accident scene.
Both the driver of the vehicle and its manufacturer may share liability for the accident. Liability may also rest with a mechanic who recently worked on the vehicle’s brakes and certified it as road-worthy despite known challenges or complications.
Identifying multiple parties who share liability for an accident could potentially increase the compensation the victim can receive. A victim could file a separate personal injury claim against each party involved in the accident, which may ultimately increase the compensation available to help cover damages from the resulting injuries.
What Injuries Did You Suffer?
Your medical expenses after a serious accident could form a foundation for your personal injury claim. A personal injury claim helps to provide you with compensation for the financial losses you experienced due to another party’s negligence. Medical expenses can stack up at an alarming rate after an accident with serious injuries.
In some cases, victims have medical expenses that continue for life. Spinal cord injury victims, for example, may need ongoing therapy. Amputees may need to regularly replace their prosthetic devices. Victims with severe traumatic brain injury may need to have someone stay with them at all times, especially if they lose the skills that help with problem-solving.
An attorney could help you calculate both your current medical expenses and future anticipated medical expenses related to your injuries after a serious accident. Keep track of all your medical bills, especially in the immediate aftermath of the accident, since your bills may be the highest immediately after an injury.
You may need to include:
- The cost of emergency treatment. Ambulance transport from the scene of the accident alone can cost more than $1,000. When you arrive at the emergency room, you will receive immediate treatment for your injuries, including procedures to stabilize you and prevent your condition from worsening. Some injuries may also require emergency surgery, which could significantly increase your immediate costs.
- Hospitalization. Many injuries leave victims hospitalized for a long time after their accidents. The longer you stay in the hospital, the more your costs may increase. If you need to stay in a special unit, including the ICU or a burn care unit, your costs may increase even more.
- Procedures and surgeries. Hospitals charge a daily fee for the services you receive even when you remain under observation and need little to no direct medical care. If you need procedures and interventions throughout your time in the hospital, your costs may rise even higher. Some victims may need multiple procedures or surgeries before they can leave. Others may return to the hospital later for further treatment of their injuries. Amputees, for example, may undergo immediate surgery to prevent bleeding. Later, the amputee may require a stump revision to help improve the fit of a prosthesis or decrease pain. Even victims with broken bones may need to return to the hospital for surgery to set the affected limb.
- Durable medical equipment. Many victims with serious injuries, especially injuries that will have lifelong consequences, may need durable medical equipment to aid in their independence and mobility. Amputees, for example, often use prosthetics to help get around after the amputation. Victims with spinal cord injuries may need a wheelchair to help maintain their independence. Victims with severe injuries may need a hospital bed at home to get in and out of bed by themselves. Consider the durable medical equipment recommended by your doctor and the impact it has on your life after your injuries.
- A stay in a long-term care facility. After hospital discharge, some victims with serious injuries still need long-term care to help them recover as much as possible. Some cannot return home until they gain more independence, especially if they do not have family members available to help provide care. Others may need to regain mobility or flexibility before they can return to a specific environment. A long-term care facility can offer more intensive therapy that could help accident victims make a fuller recovery. The cost of those facilities, however, can prove extremely difficult for many victims to manage on their own.
- Physical therapy. After a serious accident, many victims need physical therapy to help restore strength and flexibility in the affected body part. Serious injuries may leave you confined to bed for a long period of time, leading to greater muscle atrophy. Physical therapy can help you regain that strength. Other victims may have permanent injuries that require them to learn how to perform common activities differently. Occupational therapy helps many victims learn how to care for themselves and take care of the requirements of daily life in spite of severe injuries. For example, victims with traumatic brain injury may need to learn how to use tools that can aid with short-term memory. Labeling cabinets can make it easier to perform daily tasks, while some mobile apps can also improve daily functioning.
- Psychological therapy. In addition to physical and occupational therapy, many victims go through counseling to help them cope with trauma from the accident or to manage their new limitations. This psychological therapy does count as a medical expense, and you could likely include it as part of your personal injury claim.
- Home modifications. Many victims need to make modifications to their homes to make them accessible after their injuries. Wheelchair ramps, widened doorways, or lowered countertops, for example, can all make a home more accessible to an individual in a wheelchair after a serious accident. Talk to your attorney about what home modifications you could include as part of your personal injury claim.
How Much Work Did You Miss Due to Your Injuries?
Once you establish the extent of your medical bills, consider how much work you had to miss due to your injury. Work missed may depend on both your usual job responsibilities and your employer as well as the extent of your injuries. Some severe injuries, for example, can prevent you from working at all. You may have to take medications that impact your ability to think or interact with people, and you may need to take time off to fully focus on your recovery.
Your employer may determine when you can return to work with severe injuries. Some employers can work with their employees to get them back to work as soon as possible. Your employer might allow you to work from home, connecting to the office remotely, so that you can continue to generate income throughout recovery.
If you can return to the office, your employer might work with you to make modifications that can make it easier for you to take on your usual job tasks, or give you new job responsibilities during your recovery.
Other employers, on the other hand, might not have the ability to work with you. If you work in a position that requires quick thinking and problem-solving skills, for example, a traumatic brain injury might make it impossible for you to return to work immediately.
If your usual job responsibilities include a great deal of manual labor, severe injuries might make it impossible for you to complete those duties. In those cases, you might miss more work. You could include the lost wages from your injuries as part of your personal injury claim.
How Did Your Injuries Damage You?
You could work with your personal injury attorney to clearly define special damages like medical costs and lost wages—damages specific to you that you can calculate directly. Pain and suffering, on the other hand, falls into the category of general damages—the amount you can claim in compensation for your suffering, but to which you cannot assign a specific monetary value.
Work with an attorney to assess how your injuries impact other areas of your life. Not only can many injuries cause immense physical pain, but there are additional limitations that victims may suffer that result in serious mental and emotional anguish.
For example, many accident victims suffer from social isolation immediately after the accident. Others suffer from the loss of activities they usually enjoy. Discuss your suffering with an attorney to learn more about how it can be calculated in a claim.
If you suffered injuries in an accident, a personal injury attorney could help give you a better idea of how much compensation you may deserve. Contact an experienced attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your legal right to compensation.