You may have heard that the majority of personal injury claims settle before going to trial. This is because a settlement is most often in the best interest of both parties. There is less risk involved than with a trial. Insurers prefer settlements over the unpredictability of a jury, corporate defendants often prefer to avoid the negative publicity of a trial, and plaintiffs are guaranteed compensation in a more timely manner.
Since settlements are so common, it is helpful to know some ways by which you can make the most of your settlement. These include how to use the statute of limitations to your advantage, how to calculate your damages, and other factors that can contribute to your settlement offer.
Using the Statute of Limitations to Your Advantage
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is 2 years from the date of injury. While this is a limit meant to bar injured parties from seeking compensation beyond 2 years after their injury occurred, there is also another way to look at it that benefits the plaintiff in such cases. Because you have 2 years to file your claim, it means that you do not have to file your claim right away. This can help you to determine how much you should be seeking in compensation.
It is often a good idea to wait and see how your treatment is progressing before filing your claim. Once you have agreed to a settlement offer, there is no going back to request additional compensation. Consider a situation in which you settled your claim early on only to later find that complications have arisen and additional treatment will be required. In such a case, you would be stuck paying for that additional treatment either with your own insurance or out of pocket.
However, if you wait until you have completely healed from your injuries, or reached your maximum medical improvement (MMI), you can have a high degree of confidence that you will not require additional treatment. Of course, not every injury will be healed within the 2 year time allotted for claims. But, the longer you are able to hold off filing your claim, the more informed your initial demand for compensation will be.
Calculating Your Damages
When filing a personal injury claim, you will also submit an initial demand letter that outlines the damages you are seeking and details the costs associated with those damages. In Pennsylvania personal injury cases, damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and decreased quality of life.
Medical expenses include doctor’s visits, surgeries, medical devices, therapy, and medications that are prescribed to treat your injury.
Lost wages are compensable when your injury prevents you from working for a period of time while you heal, or even permanently.
Decreases in quality of life occur when your mobility is restricted, you are unable to participate in activities you once enjoyed, you require home care, etc. as a result of your injuries.
Pain and suffering compensation is typically calculated by multiplying your medical expenses by between 1.5 and 5, depending on your level of pain, suffering, and decreased quality of life.
Factors to Keep in Mind when Settling
There are some additional factors you will want to keep in mind when determining the amount of compensation you are seeking through a settlement. Insurance policy limits, legal representation, and the potential for the case to go to trial can all play a role in how much you receive.
Insurance Policy Limits
Generally, insurance policies have limits that will restrict how much the insurer will pay out. You may have trouble collecting the full amount of compensation you are requesting if the sum is higher than the policy limit. If there are multiple defendants in your injury case, these limits may pose less of an issue.
Something to remember is that legal representation comes with a cost. The standard attorney’s fee in Pennsylvania is ⅓ of your settlement or reward, but it can vary. During your initial consultation with an attorney, they will go over the exact fee structure used.
However, in many cases, the cost of attorney’s fees will be outweighed by the benefit of having an experienced attorney in your corner fighting for your right to compensation. A simple case in which the insurer quickly grants the compensation you request may not need an attorney. But if your claim is initially denied, involves severe injuries, or includes multiple defendants, an attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve. Experienced attorneys will also have a good idea of how much your case is actually worth and can protect you from being taken advantage of by the insurer.
Risk of Going to Trial
Trials are inherently more unpredictable than settlements; there is no guarantee that the jury will side with you. And even if they do, they may not award you the full compensation amount that you are seeking. Additionally, trials can be long, drawn-out affairs that may delay much-needed compensation. These risks often mean that a settlement is preferable for the injured party.
Defendants tend not to want to go to trial either, and this can be beneficial for your case. Trials can be expensive for defendants and juries can be unpredictable. This means many defendants would rather pay a bit more in a settlement than incur the costs of a trial.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help
After being injured due to the negligence of another party, some people feel like settling their case is tantamount to accepting less than they deserve. However, this simply is not true. By taking the right steps, such as using the statute of limitations to your advantage, correctly calculating your damages, and keeping various other factors in mind, a settlement can be a far more effective and efficient way to receive compensation for your injuries.
Donaghue & Labrum Trial Lawyers
An experienced personal injury attorney can make the difference in your case regardless of whether you settle or go all the way to trial. The lawyers of Donaghue & Labrum can help you navigate the landscape of personal injury litigation and receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.