5 Steps To Settling A Personal Injury Claim in Arizona
When someone else’s negligence leads to injury, seeking money to help offset the costs of accident can feel overwhelming.
While the idea of “having a day in court” seems emotionally satisfying, the reality is that most lawsuits lead to settlement.
Despite being overwhelmed by the aftermath of the accident, hiring an attorney to help negotiate a case from start to settlement is the most important step someone can take.
Step 1: Why Getting Medical Attention Matters
While this seems like a no-brainer, many people involved in accidents do not want to take the time to go straight to a doctor. However, what may feel like a meaningless little fender-bender can lead to something like whiplash.
In cases of whiplash and other soft tissue damage, seeking immediate medical attention is the most important way to prove the injury.
Since many insurance companies will try to argue a pre-existing condition causes the ongoing pain, making sure to document the life of the injury is important.
Step 2: What are the Special Damages
Special damages are the most easily quantifiable damages. These include things like medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and funeral and burial expenses.
Everything except lost earning capacity involves out-of-pocket costs. This means that an accident victim should have bills or receipts to show the value.
Future medical costs and lost earning capacity can be a bit more difficult since no one has a crystal ball to see the future. However, hiring an attorney can help since they will have access to metrics that can estimate the costs.
Step 3: What are the General Damages
General damages are more difficult to calculate. General damages include pain and suffering, humiliation and embarrassment, shock and mental anguish, loss of reputation, loss of consortium, loss of society and companionship, and emotional distress.
General damages usually revolve around how someone is impacted emotionally and this can vary for different people. Someone who already has anxiety, for example, may have a stronger response to an accident.
This means that an insurance company or defendant will try to argue that the person’s response is unreasonable.
This can be extremely difficult for a lot of accident victims which is why hiring an attorney can help maximize the settlement.
Step 4: What Factors Impact the Value
Four factors can lessen the value of a claim. These are liability, number of defendants, plaintiff characteristics, location of trial, and mitigating damages.
Liability in an accident can be one of the most contentious parts of the lawsuit. In a car accident, for example, there may be an argument over which person was at fault or whether the two individuals share fault.
If someone was making a right turn on red while another person was speeding, both parties may have contributed to the accident but in different proportions.
Related to liability, the more defendants there are in an accident, the more disagreement there will be over the cause of the accident.
To add to the above example, if there are three people involved, one may have made a right on red, one was speeding, and a third was following too closely. Each of these people may be responsible to different degrees thus complicating the value of liability.
Characteristics of the Plaintiff
The accident victim sometimes impacts the value of the case. As discussed in terms of general damages, a person previous diagnosis of anxiety disorder or depression may be something the jury considers when determining the damages.
In addition, age, occupation, and likeability may also be factors considered.
Venue is the location of the trial. Some jurisdictions are more conservative than others and award less damages. Some are notorious for high personal injury awards. An attorney will be able to help explain the importance of the lawsuit’s venue on claim value.
A victim has a responsibility to try to lower costs of a claim. This is one of the reasons that the first step any victim should take is getting immediate medical attention.
If a victim chooses not to get treatment right away and the injury is worse because of that failure, then the value of the case decreases.
Step 5: What the Settlement Process is Like
Once the damages have been calculated and the discounts taken for factors that affect the value, the attorney will be able to send a settlement offer to the insurance company.
This is the biggest number that a plaintiff is willing to accept from the defendant. Most likely, the insurance company will say no to the first offer and send back a counteroffer. There may be several rounds of negotiation. If the two parties are unable to agree, then the claim moves to trial.
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