It’s a long weekend. Most people are enjoying the extra time off with their families or friends. Unfortunately, you didn’t have a chance to relax because you have a big presentation on the first day back at work. To prepare, you put in a little extra time at the office.
It’s late when you leave, and you’re on your way home. You stop at a red light when suddenly a car smashes into your rear. You get out of your car to exchange insurance information with the other driver when you realize that they are drunk. You smell the booze. Perhaps you see beer cans or a bottle of liquor on the front seat beside them. Their speech is slurred.
You realize that you’ve been hit by a drunk driver.
You report the accident to the police, and they arrive, take down the relevant information and check on the other driver. The adrenaline that kept you going during the incident wears off. When you go to an emergency room to get checked out, you notice you’re feeling quite sore.
In fact, you may have suffered serious injuries even if you didn’t realize it at first. You’ll need to seek compensation from the other driver to help you cover the cost of repairs to your car, your medical costs and effect that the accident has on your life.
It’s only natural to wonder what is the settlement value for personal injury in Delaware. What can you realistically expect to receive in compensation for your pain and suffering?
Determining a personal injury settlement value is not an exact science. There is no magic formula that you can use. Often the value changes from case to case depending on several factors. Therefore it’s helpful to know the factors that can increase and decrease your settlement value.
What Is Considered When Determining Settlement Value?
If a driver hits your car and injures you in Delaware, your car insurance company or the insurance company of the car that you were riding in will pay for your medical bills and any lost wages. This is known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP). All motor vehicles in Delaware are required to have a minimum PIP coverage of $15,000 a person/$30,000 an accident.
If your medical costs and lost wages exceed these amounts, you can sue the person responsible for the accident for the extra amount.
All costs for fixing your car and for any pain and suffering are the responsibility of the person who caused the accident.
If you have been involved in an accident, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced personal injury attorney, then your insurance company. You can count on the insurance adjuster for the other driver calling you almost immediately to try to negotiate a settlement.
It is in your best interest not to accept any initial offer without first speaking with your attorney. In fact, do not give the insurance adjuster any information about the incident. Many factors determine the amount of compensation awarded in a personal injury case, and insurance adjusters will do everything they can to limit that amount.
First, your attorney and the insurance adjuster for the person who hit you will try to reach a reasonable settlement. Your attorney will fight hard to ensure that the compensation you receive is fair and covers all anticipated costs. The insurance adjuster’s goal is for their client to pay as little as possible.
One of the things that will affect the discussion between your attorney and the insurance adjuster is the multiplier used to determine your compensation. If your attorney and their insurance adjuster cannot agree on a settlement or multiplier, the multiplier will be determined in court, which will affect the value of the settlement you receive
Factors That Can Affect Your Settlement Value
After an accident, people often want to know what the average settlement for a personal injury is so that they know what to expect. Unfortunately, it isn't that simple. So many different factors affect settlement value, that it's difficult to come up with a good average. Some of the factors that play a role n determining the settlement value of a personal injury case include the following.
1. The Severity of the Injury
The number one factor affecting the amount you could receive in compensation is the severity of the injuries suffered. Injuries are classified into two different categories — soft and hard.
Soft injuries are bruises, sprains, small cuts, etc. Hard injuries are personal injuries that involve extensive pain and suffering. Hard injuries typically result in a larger settlement.
2. Medical Treatment
Medical treatment also influences the amount of the settlement. The kind of medical treatment an injured person receives and who provides the treatment affect the settlement value.
A personal injury accident disrupts the injured party’s ability to do their work and earn an income. The more severely you are hurt and the longer your ability to work and earn a living is affected, the larger the settlement could be.
4. Emotional Distress
Physical injuries are not the only kind of injuries that you can suffer when in a crash. It is not unusual to suffer from depression or insomnia. Victims of an accident may be fearful of driving or experience agoraphobia, the fear of going out in public places.
Proving emotional distress is more difficult than proving physical injuries, but evidence of ongoing and significant emotional issues resulting from an accident will affect the amount of compensation.
5. Multiple Victims
If a driver causes an accident that injures several people, the limits of the insurance policy held by the at-fault driver may affect your compensation.
If you are a prominent person, a personal injury lawsuit may attract the attention of local media. While some people believe there’s no such thing as bad publicity, this is not true. You may not want people to know that you’re injured. Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, bad publicity that affects your business can also affect the value of the settlement you could receive.
The value of the settlement increases when your claim or court case passes certain milestones. For instance, if the lawyer for the person who hit you fails to get the case dismissed or if a key witness gives an important deposition in your favor, the value of the settlement may be affected.
8. Litigation Costs
Personal injury lawsuits can be costly for both parties. Each lawsuit requires a great deal of clerical work, interviewing and deposing witnesses, and hiring experts to testify.
9. Where the Accident Occurred
Often the amount of compensation you receive in a settlement depends on the venue where your lawsuit goes to trial. The venue is determined by where the accident happened. If your trial is scheduled with a court known for being open towards personal injury lawsuits, there is a likelihood that this will affect the amount of compensation you could receive.
10. The Question of Liability
Delaware uses comparative negligence to award compensation in settlements. Comparative negligence means the fault is proportioned according to the amount that the court holds each driver responsible for the accident.
Under comparative negligence laws, the plaintiff must be less than 50% responsible for the accident. If they are 50% or less responsible, they cannot sue for damages.
If a judge or a jury decides the plaintiff shares a portion of the blame, they will reduce the amount awarded by the percentage that the plaintiff is held responsible. Taking the example above of being stopped at a light, if you had a faulty brake light, the judge or jury might assign some of the blame to you.
So, if you received $50,000 in a settlement, but the judge or jury believed that you were 20% responsible for the accident, your award would be reduced by $10,000.
Factors That Can Increase Your Settlement Value
Numerous factors will increase the value of your settlement.
- Any kind of broken bone you may have suffered in the accident.
- If you suffer a traumatic brain injury.
- Spine damage.
- Nerve damage.
- If the accident results in serious injuries to your joints that require reconstructive surgery.
- The medical treatment you need is provided by hospitals, specialists and doctors.
- Medications taken either long-term or short-term.
- Frequent follow-up appointments.
- Medical care done for treatment rather than diagnosis.
- Permanent loss of the use of or the function of a body part.
- A very long recovery period.
- Disfigurement or scarring.
- Injuries that affect your ability to do daily tasks such as walking, sitting or standing.
- Injuries require you to use a caretaker to help you deal with your injuries.
Factors That Can Decrease Your Settlement Value
Just as there are factors that increase the value of the settlement you could receive, there are also factors that will decrease the value of the settlement.
- Soft tissue injuries like bruising, sprains, pulled ligaments or strains.
- Medical costs that are accumulated more for diagnosis than for treatment.
- Treatment from professionals who are not doctors but instead may be chiropractors or physical therapists.
- You have no need for pain relief or any kind of medication.
- The accident only sidelined you for a brief period and you are soon back to living your normal life.
- You’re not disfigured in any way.
- All of your limbs function normally.
- You have no need for additional assistance when you’re injured.
- You only visit the doctor a few times.
The factors listed above aren’t the only ones that play a role in determining the value of your settlement. The overall strength or weakness of your case can also affect the amount of compensation you could receive an settlement.
Additional factors include:
- Having credible witnesses.
- Witnesses who tell conflicting stories.
- No medical records that document the extent of your injuries.
- If you have any pre-existing conditions that exacerbated your injuries.
- The use of photographs or video to corroborate what witnesses have said about the accident and who is at fault.
- The driver who hit you admits fault.
- How soon you sought medical attention.
- Carefully following your doctor’s treatment plan and advice.
- Ensuring that, in your lawsuit, you meet all filing deadlines, follow all procedural requirements and have all details, such as the names of those involved, correct. This is one reason it’s so important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
How to Ensure the Highest Settlement Value in Your Case
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you want to receive a fair settlement. Your settlement should cover the cost of fixing your car, your medical bills and the cost of your life returning to normal as soon as possible.
That’s why it makes sense to speak with an attorney from the Morris James Personal Injury Group. We don’t just litigate cases, we believe in counseling our clients. We want our clients to be well-informed and aware of what is happening in each phase of their claim or lawsuit. We believe that effective and compassionate communication between attorney and client is essential for a successful outcome.
Our attorneys have over 150 years of combined experience in dealing with personal injury cases. We know the methods insurance companies use to get you to accept an unfair settlement, and we understand how to work with the police to get the most accurate information.
If you have been in an accident, you should speak with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today. We have several offices around the state where you can reach us:
- Wilmington-West: 302-655-2599
- Newark: 302-368-4200
- Dover: 302-678-8815
- Georgetown: 302-856-0015
- Rehoboth Beach: 302-260-7290
- Wilmington: 302-888-6800
You can also reach us via our contact page. Leave us your contact information and tell us about your case, and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.