Setting Reasonable Expectations for Your Settlement

If you're involved in a car accident or personal injury claim, make sure you temper your settlement expectations with an honest assessment of your case, the defendant, and the losses you've suffered.

From the perspective of personal injury attorneys, one of the most difficult aspects of representing individual clients is explaining to them that their case is simply not as valuable as the client may perceive it to be.

Understandably so in some instances, personal injury claimants believe their settlement amounts should be much larger than they actually are, whether based on pre-conceived notions about the lawsuit or settlement process or out of the frustration, pain, suffering, and other issues a given injury has caused them. Sometimes, maybe they've just seen too many late night television commercials where a sketchy lawyer promises to recover millions of dollars for anyone willing to call the firm.

In any event, at the onset of any legal action, setting realistic goals about what you can expect to recover is important not just in terms of tempering expectations, but also so that you can make measured and realistic decisions at every step of your injury claim.

The Relative Strength of Your injury Case

The biggest determining factor in settlement amounts first goes back to whether a plaintiff (the injury victim) actually has legally viable grounds to request damages for injuries.

Rarely are injury cases prima facie (proven by the facts themselves). From the perspective of a plaintiff considering a potential settlement amount, any proposed settlement will be based on the potential amount of compensation you could be awarded should the case go to trial. And if a case cannot hold up at trial from a liability standpoint -- whether there is lack of proof of fault, a disproportionate level of liability on the part of the plaintiff, or other factors, the amount you can expect to receive will be affected. When fault is an issue that is very much up in the air, you're unlikely to see the other side cut you a check for anything close to what you may be expecting.

The Actual Value of the Claim

Each injury case involves a victim who has suffered damages, but the type and extent of those damages vary widely. By adding up the more easily-calculated damages such as medical bills, lost income, and other economic losses -- often known as special damages -- you can get a baseline of your out-of-pocket losses.

The law also affords compensation to victims for non-economic or general damages, such as for pain and suffering, disfigurement, anxiety, mental distress, and other negative effects of the accident and the resulting injuries. Determining general damages often requires the examination of awards in similar cases, while an insurance company often employs the use of a multiplier as part of a damages formula that assesses the value of an injury claim for settlement purposes.

Consider the Parties Involved

A huge factor in determining realistic goals for a personal injury settlement amount is the parties involved in the case. Is the other side an uninsured driver with little in the way of personal assets? Is it a multi-million dollar business with extensive liability coverage that will apply to your injury? Does the other side seem congenial and motivated to settle, or are they digging in for a fight? Factors like these will go a long way toward determining the outcome of your injury claim.

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