In our experience helping victims of auto accidents, most people seeking our services want to know one thing: How can I get better from my injuries? In any personal injury case, the client’s foremost responsibility is always to attend appointments with doctors, do prescribed treatments, and rest and relax.
We occasionally have the client who wants to know at the outset how much they are going to get for their case. While that’s understandable, in our experience, these clients are setting themselves up for failure. Here’s why:
If you are in a consultation meeting with an attorney regarding the value of your personal injury case, and they tell you for certain what the value of your case is before you’re done treating, run. That lawyer does not have your best interests at heart and is likely low-balling the true value of your case. Furthermore, in Washington State, it is considered a serious ethical violation to tell a client what their case is worth before signing them. Focusing on the monetary result leaves you open to shady legal practices that will cost you in the long run.
That said, there is something to remember about the value of your case: In a personal injury case, one person has deciding power over how much your case is worth: You. Your attorney will put together a demand package, a spreadsheet containing an itemized list of expenses that he or she believes is reasonable to expect a jury to award. (Remember that the insurance company’s primary goal is to pay as little as they can get away with paying. They base settlements on what an average jury would award for cases like yours, which saves them time and legal fees.)
A number of factors actually go into determining how much you will receive when your case settles or reaches a verdict in court:
- The total amount of medical bills
- How much time you lost at your job
- How debilitated your injuries have left you after treatment
- Policy limits on your insurance and theirs
- Whether you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on your policy
- How much of the accident you were responsible for
- And other factors
As you might imagine, these variables, many of which are easily missed by all but experienced personal injury attorneys, makes it difficult to predict how much you will get when all is said and done. An attorney with knowledge will understand how to maximize the value of your case; an excellent attorney will keep you informed all along the way as your case progresses, leaving you in greater control of the process. This is why, as was found in research by the insurance companies, injury victims who hire attorneys to help them with their case receive, on average, 3.5 times more than those who pursue their cases on their own.
Don’t sign a release or talk to the adjuster without speaking to an attorney!
Ultimately, how much you get depends on either a) what the insurance company is willing to pay or b) how much a jury decides, after hearing arguments from both sides, what the insurance company should be obligated to pay. Insurance companies want to keep the amount they pay as low as possible, and they’ve become skilled at using every dirty trick in the book. For this reason, be very careful about dealing with insurance adjusters! Don’t sign anything they send you or talk to them about your accident without speaking first with a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney. You could be unknowingly signing away thousands of dollars that you’ll need to pay medical expenses, cover lost time at work, and get your life back on track after your accident.
Questions? Contact us or give us a call at 206-285-1743.