Factors that Affect the Value of Your Personal Injury Settlement

When the insurance company puts a dollar value on your injury claim, here's what they focus on.

A whole host of variables go into putting a dollar value on a personal injury claim (there is even an injury damage formula that can give you a ballpark idea of what your case might be worth). Obviously every case is different, but there are also a few common factors that tend to either increase or decrease the amount of compensation you can expect to receive through an out of court personal injury settlement from the insurance company, or from the court in the rare event that your personal injury lawsuit makes it all the way to trial.

Compare the factors listed on this checklist with the real-world facts in your own case, and get a sense of how the dollar value of your claim might be impacted.

Factors That Affect Your Multiplier

In the most common formulas used to value a personal injury claim, a multiplier is applied to determine how (and how significantly) you were affected by the nature and extent of your injuries, by the medical treatment made necessary by the accident, and by the subjective "pain and suffering" you experienced.

The following factors will guide an insurance adjuster toward a "fair" multiplier. (Learn more about the multiplier in a personal injury settlement).

Factors that might make the use of a higher multiplier appropriate:

  • hard injury—meaning a broken bone; head injury, joint injury, vertebrae injury, nerve damage
  • medical expenses that are primarily for treatment
  • medical treatment by a medical doctor, clinic, or hospital
  • prescribed medication related to the injury
  • long-term injury treatment period
  • long recovery period
  • permanent injury—such as a scar, stiffness, weakness, or loss of mobility
  • physical or emotional distress resulting from the injury, and
  • daily life disruptions—missed school or training, missed vacation or recreation, canceled special event.

Factors that might make the use of a lower multiplier appropriate:

  • soft tissue injury—such as sprain, strain, or bruise
  • a large part of your medical expenses are for diagnosis rather than for treatment
  • medical treatment by non-M.D. providers
  • no medication has been prescribed in connection with your injury
  • only brief medical treatment (a few visits to the doctor, for example)
  • a short recovery period for your injuries
  • no residual or permanent injury, and
  • no physical or emotional problems other than original injury.

Other Factors That Affect Compensation

After the settlement formula is applied, the opposing party will look at the other legal and practical issues that help or hurt the overall strength of your case.

Factors likely to get you higher compensation after the formula is applied include:

  • no shared fault for the accident on your part
  • your organization and professionalism in connection with the claims and settlement process
  • the insured on the other side is not credible or sympathetic, and
  • witnesses who bolster your case.

Factors likely to get you lower compensation after the formula is applied include:

  • A finding that you shared some of the blame for the accident or your injuries (learn more about comparative and contributory fault for a personal injury)
  • disorganization or impatience on your part
  • a sympathetic insured on the other side, and
  • no witnesses that bolster your side of the case, or witnesses who favor the insured.

This checklist is an excerpt from How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Attorney Joseph Matthews (Nolo).

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