Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlements
If you’ve been injured in a sudden accident that was caused by someone else, you may be entitled to compensation. However, you will have to use the law and go through the personal injury settlements process.
The Parties Involved
There are usually at least two parties in a personal injury claim:
- The Plaintiff – The party who has been injured and brings a lawsuit or seeks a settlement.
- The Defendant – The at-fault party and their insurance company who is financially liable for damages.
Personal Injury Settlement Process
The personal injury settlement process can take months or a few years. A personal injury lawsuit must often be filed to show the defendant that the plaintiff means business.
Step 1: Determine How Much Your Case is Worth
There are two types of damages your attorney will use to determine how much your case is worth:
- Economic Damages – These are quantifiable and represent actual expenses resulting from the defendant’s wrongdoing. They include things like medical costs, lost wages, and property damage.
- Non-Economic Damages – These are more difficult to put a value on, but they can be done with the help of experts and formulas. They include pain and suffering, loss of consortium (spousal relationships), and emotional damage.
Step 2: Send a Demand Letter
Your attorney will send a demand letter to the insurance company asking for a settlement in the amount you have determined your case to be worth. A demand letter is an official letter describing exactly how much money you want for your damages.
It is unlikely that the insurance company will accept your first demand. They will likely make a counteroffer of much less money. In a settlement situation, the goal is to find a middle ground that still gets you enough money to cover all your losses.
Step 3: Proving Fault
If the insurance company questions whether their insured is to blame or denies your insurance claim, then you will have to prove the defendant is at fault. This requires gathering evidence from the accident and engaging in the discovery process. The discovery process begins after you file a lawsuit and consists of both parties exchanging all the evidence they have.
Things that help you prove fault in a personal injury case include:
- The police report
- Photographs and videos of the scene of the accident
- Eyewitness statements
- Depositions (interviews with parties and witnesses)
- Expert opinions
Step 4: Negotiate with the Insurance Company
As new evidence comes to light and the case progresses, your personal injury attorney and the insurance company will continuously negotiate the amount of your personal injury settlement. Your attorney’s goal is to push the insurance company as high as possible, and the insurance company wants to pay as little as possible.
Step 5: File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Even if you want a quick settlement, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit to get a fair settlement. Insurance companies often take parties who file lawsuits more seriously.
One study found that people who filed a lawsuit got nearly twice as much as those who did not. The average personal injury settlement when a lawsuit was filed was $45,500. Without the threat of a lawsuit, the average settlement was $23,000.
Step 6: Get Your Settlement Payout
Once you and the insurance company agree on a settlement amount, the insurance company will typically cut a check and send it to your attorney. The check is typically made out to both you and your attorney.
You will have to pay your attorney the agreed-upon amount for helping you settle and covering costs upfront. That usually includes a percentage of your settlement amount.
Personal Injury Settlement FAQ
Are Personal Injury Settlements Taxable?
No. Personal injury settlements are tax-exempt, which means you do not have to give a portion of your compensation to the IRS. However, if you go to court and get punitive damages awarded, those are taxable and should be reported as “Other Income” when you file taxes.
Can I Rescind a Settlement Agreement?
You can refuse a settlement up until you sign the agreement. The agreement is a legal and binding contract. It often includes a provision where you agree that you won’t sue the insurance company or defendant for their wrongdoings. Thus, you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit if you sign the agreement.
Can I Get More Monsy After a Personal Injury Settlement?
Typically, you cannot get more money after agreeing to a specific personal injury settlement amount. That’s why it’s so important to demand an amount that will cover all your past and future losses and needs.
The only exception is if there was fraud involved. If the insurance company or defendant purposefully hid information from you or lied to you to get you to sign the settlement agreement, you may be able to get more money later.
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Call The Champion Firm
Every case is different, and depending on the details, it could take some time to resolve your case and maximize your personal injury settlement. If you’re dealing with the stress and uncertainty of dealing with an insurance company, it’s best to work with a lawyer as soon as possible. The Champion Firm has a team of attorneys who understand what it takes to get the max and what a satisfactory settlement does for your ability to move on with life.