Suffering a serious injury can be devastating. On top of the physical damage, it can impact your ability to work, cause long-lasting emotional and mental distress, and limit your ability to enjoy life.
That’s why it’s important to get the compensation you deserve for personal injuries. According to a study reported in Forbes, the median award for personal injury cases is $31,000. Though no amount of money can make up for a serious injury, every bit helps.
So, here are seven ways to maximize your personal injury settlement:
1. Hire a personal injury attorney
First of all, it will be hard to maximize your personal injury settlement on your own. You can try it, but insurance adjusters won’t take you as seriously. For that, you need to hire a personal injury lawyer.
They know how to talk to insurance adjusters and can help you get the best settlement possible—especially if your case warrants compensation beyond a few thousand dollars, you are seeking future damages, or there’s a question of fault.
Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation and work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they charge you a percentage of your settlement only if you win. So you really have nothing to lose by hiring one.
2. Organize your injury-related paperwork
Before you start negotiations with your insurance company, it’s important to gather and organize any paperwork related to your injury. Here are a few examples of the types of documents you should hold on to:
- Medical bills, prescription receipts, and doctor’s notes
- Emotional or mental health records
- A timeline of all your treatments
- Lost wages, employment, and income from other sources
- Replacement services, such as lawn care, childcare, and housekeeping
- Official accident police report and photographs of the accident
- Witness statements
3. Know what your claim is worth
Next, determine what your personal injury claim is worth based on the records you have. Add up all your losses and damages and then multiply them by one or two for non-economic damages, aka pain and suffering. Your personal injury lawyer can help you here.
Once you have a specific compensation amount in mind, set it as your target and set a minimum amount, below which you aren’t willing to settle. This will prepare you to negotiate with the insurance company on your terms.
4. Don’t accept the first offer
Sometimes, insurance companies will make a lowball settlement offer just to see what you are willing to accept. It also helps them understand whether you know how to value your own claim.
If this happens, don’t negotiate. First, ask the insurance adjuster to provide reasons to justify their offer amount. Once they do, you can address each one and then see if they still hold to their initial offer.
In some cases, the insurance company may refuse to budge on their initial offer unless faced with a lawsuit, which is why it pays to have a personal injury lawyer on your side.
5. Plan your negotiation strategy
With the help of a personal injury lawyer, make a plan for how you will negotiate the settlement offer.
For example, you can leverage a higher payout by emphasizing outside factors, i.e. any mitigating factors that are hard to put a dollar value on. Here are some examples:
- Eyewitness testimonies
- Surveillance camera footage
- An at-fault driver’s texting history that shows they were texting while driving
- The at-fault party’s driving record
Whatever you do, don’t accept a lowball offer. But also don’t be afraid to accept a reasonably high offer.
6. Don’t be in a hurry to settle your claim
It’s also important not to rush your personal injury claim. Some insurance adjusters may immediately make an offer to settle your claim. However, you may not know the full extent of your injuries yet. So it’s best to wait until you know the full picture.
Furthermore, you should never reduce your offer more than once until you get a new offer from the adjuster. Why? Because doing so shows that you aren’t confident about your ability to value your claim and you may end up with a lower payout.
So, be patient throughout the settlement process.
But also be mindful of your state’s statute of limitations, which limits the amount of time you have to settle a personal injury claim (usually somewhere between 1 and 3 years from the accident). If you wait too long, you may lose your right to seek compensation.
7. Follow through with medical treatments
Lastly, it’s important to follow through with any medical treatments recommended by your doctor.
According to the law, you have a duty to “mitigate your damages,” i.e. take reasonable action to minimize the effects and losses from your injury. If you don’t, the insurance company and the opposing party could argue that you contributed to making your injury worse through negligence.
The bottom line
Personal injury cases can get messy fast. A lot of emotions and hurt feelings can be involved, which makes determining the value of the claim all the harder.
So, work with a reputable personal injury lawyer who has experience in working on these kinds of cases. They will know what your claim is worth and can help you get the compensation you deserve.