What Can I Expect from My Personal Injury Settlement in Florida?
Being involved in a personal injury accident is life-changing and traumatic, with victims suffering emotional and financial losses in addition to physical pain. Fortunately, Florida law provides you with options if you were hurt or lost a loved one in an accident. These concepts cover a wide range of incidents, and some of the most common are car, truck, and motorcycle crashes caused by negligent motorists. The laws also apply to many other accidents, including slip and falls, medical malpractice, dog bites, intentional attacks, and wrongful death.
It is a popular assumption that you need to go to court to recover compensation for your losses, and a lawsuit will often be filed as part of the legal process. However, many of these cases are settled by agreement of the parties before they ever get to trial. The benefits of litigation are considerable, but they must be balanced against your losses and the amount offered.
Every personal injury case is unique, so it is tough to estimate how much you could receive by settling. Still, it is helpful to review some points on what to expect from your personal injury settlement. Your Florida personal injury lawyer will provide personalized details about your matter, but some background is useful.
What is the Average Payout for a Personal Injury Claim?
The average payout for a personal injury settlement may be very different from the award you might receive in court, but the classification of damages is the same. Compensation in these cases is meant to reimburse you for your losses and make it as if the accident never happened. There are two categories of damages in a personal injury settlement:
- Economic Damages: Some of your losses are financial and measurable by dollar value, usually because you have receipts showing what you paid or invoices indicating what you owe. The bulk of your economic damages will be medical costs for:
- Emergency care;
- Surgery and medical procedures;
- MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, and other imaging tests; and,
- Pain medications.
If you were unable to work because of your injuries, you can also claim lost wages as economic damages.
- Noneconomic Damages: Other losses are intangible because they affect you in a personal, subjective way. The effects of your injuries diminish the quality of life and impact your relationships with loved ones. Examples include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and losses of consortium, love, education, guidance, and support.
What is a Good Personal Injury Settlement?
It is easy to say that the best personal injury settlement will be a multi-million dollar agreement, but the laws are geared toward fairness for both parties. To the victim, a good settlement in the case would be one that covers both economic and non-economic damages. You have the documents to show your economic losses, and there are strategies to prove noneconomic damages despite them being personal to your experience.
However, to the insurance company, a good settlement means paying you nothing or as little as possible. Your claim represents a loss to the insurer, so it will try to find reasons to deny it or make a lowball counteroffer. The company may claim:
- Its policyholder was not at fault for causing the incident.
- Your injuries were not serious, a claim you may mistakenly support when you do not get medical treatment right after the accident.
- Your own conduct contributed to the accident in which you were injured, which serves to reduce your compensation.
- You had a pre-existing medical condition, so your injuries were not caused by the incident.
How is a Personal Injury Settlement Determined?
Though insurance companies are against paying any amount for your claim, they are also practical in protecting their bottom line. The insurer would usually rather settle than take on a different loss, which is the cost of litigation.
Because insurance companies have resolved millions of claims in the past, they have crunched the numbers and developed a multiplier system for determining personal injury settlements. The calculation starts by totaling all medical costs you have accumulated for treatment. You are entitled to these amounts as economic damages, and you will have sufficient proof of the amount.
The next factor is noneconomic damages, which are intangible but must still be assessed a dollar value for settlement purposes. The insurer looks at various factors to assign a multiplier value, usually a figure from 1.5 to 5. This number, multiplied by your medical costs, is determined to be a fair estimate of your pain and suffering. The insurance company opts for a multiplier that takes into account various factors:
- The nature of your injuries and location on the body;
- Obvious fault by the policyholder;
- Dramatic, extreme, or outrageous injuries, such as amputation;
- Permanent disability;
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement;
- The victim went through a long recovery period; and,
- The victim will need intense medical care in the future.
Examples of Personal Injury Settlement Amounts
It is useful to review some examples to better understand how the multiplier affects personal injury settlement amounts. For instance, a woman was injured in a truck accident that was clearly the fault of the truck operator. She suffered a broken shin, along with cuts and scrapes to her shoulders, neck, and face. After emergency treatment and two weeks of recovery and aftercare, the woman incurred $20,000 in medical bills. Under the circumstances, a moderate multiplier would probably be applied. The victim could recover $20,000 in medical costs, plus $30,000 to $60,000 in pain and suffering damages.
In a similar scenario, the woman’s injuries are more extensive. Her foot will need to be amputated, and she lost vision in one eye. Using a higher multiplier, the settlement could be $20,000 for medical costs and up to $100,000 or more in noneconomic damages. Note that victims are also entitled to recover for lost wages, which are not part of the multiplier.
How to Negotiate a Personal Injury Settlement
The first step toward personal injury settlement is retaining an attorney immediately after the accident, as it is smart to develop a strategy for negotiations right away. Your lawyer will gather evidence, file the insurance claim, and open the door to discussions. It is common for the insurance company to offer a low amount, using the 1.5 multiplier, so you will work from there to come together on an agreement. Though your attorney will advise you on whether the offer is suitable and fair, you should expect to compromise on the amount.
Negotiations for a personal injury settlement can take several weeks, but they are usually resolved within six months depending on the complexity. When the discussions take longer, you will need to keep in mind Florida’s statute of limitations. This law allows you two years to file a lawsuit, reduced from four years due to recent tort reform efforts. If you do not sue in court, your claim is forever barred.
Benefits of Settling a Personal Injury Case
When you settle, you will generally receive less than what you requested in your claim with the insurance company. However, you will offset your disappointment by realizing the numerous benefits of personal injury settlement. Consider the following points:
- When you settle, you have certainty. The parties work out the agreement, determine the amount of compensation, and sign their consent. The settlement is legally binding and can be enforced.
- You do not risk losing the entire case in court. Juries can be unpredictable, and they may not always side with you.
- Litigation is costly and time-consuming. Your attorney will need to attend court hearings, conduct discovery, and handle depositions. From the filing of the lawsuit to the trial date, it could be a year or more before your case is resolved. Parties can work out a settlement within a few months, meaning you get payment that much faster.
- You will need to participate in litigation quite extensively to enforce your rights, particularly when you need to testify at trial. Being in court can be intimidating and overwhelming, which are factors to consider when you look at what to expect from the settlement.
- When negotiating, you have the option to discuss a lump sum versus installment payments as your compensation. A lump sum will help if your injuries led to bills piling up, enabling you to pay off debts. You might also choose a single payment if you have a large purchase in mind, such as a new home. Installment payments are better when you want a steady income.
Mediation is Another Settlement Option
At some point during the legal process, you may have the opportunity to participate in mediation to resolve your personal injury lawsuit. The discussions among your respective attorneys are informal negotiations, but mediation is a more structured approach to get parties closer to agreement.
During the session, a trained mediator will guide the conversation between the parties and encourage them to evaluate the dispute from each other’s perspective. The mediation professional facilitates productive conversation to reach a settlement, but the outcome of the process is not binding. You can still go to court or continue with informal settlement discussions.
Discuss Settlement Details with a Florida Personal Injury Attorney
The benefits of settling an accident case are considerable, but you will need experienced representation to leverage them in your case. At Rosen Injury Law, P.A., our lawyers know what to expect with your personal injury settlement and are prepared for challenges. We have extensive skills in negotiating settlements with insurance companies, but we will go to court if necessary to protect your rights. For more information, please contact us to set up a consultation with a Florida personal injury attorney.
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