Over the last several decades, there has been a significant conversation in the United States about tort reform concerning the need to rein in frivolous lawsuits. Proponents of tort reform talk about large settlements or verdicts threatening the economy and the legal system. This, along with media coverage of multimillion-dollar settlements or verdicts, helps create an inaccurate perception that anyone can get millions of dollars from a lawsuit — even one without merit.
If you have been seriously injured due to someone else’s mistake or neglect, don’t be discouraged or believe that your case doesn’t rise to the level of filing an insurance claim or lawsuit. Instead, reach out to a Chicago personal injury lawyer. We’ve tried to dispel many of the myths surrounding personal injury cases below and can help assess your situation and what you can realistically expect.
Some cases do, in fact, end in very large settlements or verdicts, but multimillion-dollar payouts aren’t generally the norm. This is simply because not every case and not every injury holds that much value.
The value of a personal injury claim depends on several factors, including:
However, there are some things you hear about that may skew your perception of what lawsuits are worth or how settlements or verdicts work.
When someone else is responsible for causing your injuries, you have the right to be compensated for every loss. A fair settlement considers every way your life has been affected by your injuries. They should include your economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are financial and can easily be proven with documentation Through pay stubs, bank statements, and other financial records. Some of the more common types of economic damages you could collect in your injury claim include:
However, you should also be compensated for your non-economic losses for your settlement to be fair. Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify because they do not have a monetary value. They also can impact each person’s life differently.
With that being said, some of the more common types of non-economic damages you could recoup in your personal injury lawsuit include:
The only way to be sure you are getting a fair injury settlement is by accurately calculating the value of your claim. That way, your attorney can fight for maximum restitution for your damages.
When the public hears about substantial jury verdicts, only a small portion of the amount represents compensatory damages or damages that allow the injured person to recover their actual losses.
A significant portion of a large verdict may be in punitive damages. However, punitive damages are relatively rare and typically are only awarded when the person or company being sued behaved in a way deplorable enough that a jury thinks they deserve to be penalized. For example, recklessly ignoring reports that a product causes harm to consumers may be grounds for a jury to award punitive damages.
Most personal injury cases are based on a theory of negligence, which means that a person acted unreasonably or failed to act reasonably and caused someone else harm. Punitive damages typically are awarded only when recklessness or intent is present, not for simple negligence.
When the public hears about settlements or verdicts for tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars, those cases often are class action lawsuits.
Class action suits bring together large groups of plaintiffs who all have similar claims and allow those claims to be tried and settled as one case to avoid the disarray of thousands of similar lawsuits in the court system.
An example of a class-action lawsuit is a recent case filed against General Motors Co. over recalled vehicles. The lawyers who filed the case are asking for $10 billion in damages, but there could be as many as 27 million vehicles involved. Even if the suit is settled or a jury returns a verdict for the full $10 billion, if that money is divided up among 27 million car owners, that works out to an average of about $370 per driver — and that’s before the lawyers collect their fees in the case, which usually comes out of the settlement money or jury award before the rest is divvied up among the millions of people who have a claim.
To someone hearing about the case in the news, $10 billion might seem like an obscenely high amount that takes advantage of the corporation being sued. These beliefs fall apart when you do the math and figure out how little each plaintiff stands to gain from the case.
There are limits to what the injured person can receive in most personal injury cases. The field of tort law, which encompasses personal injury cases, is designed to compensate you for your losses when you get injured through someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional action.
That’s what most personal injury claims do. They reimburse you for the medical costs you’ve incurred because of the injury and any income you lost because you couldn’t work.
These claims also cover non-economic losses, such as the effects of disfigurement or emotional trauma. Personal injury claims are intended to come as close as possible to restoring you to your pre-accident state physically and financially, but that’s all. They’re not intended for an injured person to profit, and it’s a misconception that anyone can file a lawsuit and make money to which they’re not entitled. The law generally limits the damages you can receive to your actual losses.
In addition to the limits of the law regarding the types of damages you can receive in a personal injury lawsuit, other limits also are likely to be in play in any settlement negotiations or jury awards.
Generally speaking, when someone is injured in a car accident or slips and falls in a grocery store, the settlement will be limited by the amount of insurance coverage available. Individuals or small businesses such as a corner market aren’t going to carry policies with millions of dollars in coverage.
In the case of a car accident, most drivers carry coverage that maxes out at tens of thousands of dollars. As a result, the accident victim will only collect the limit, even if the amount doesn’t fully compensate them for their injuries. That’s the reality for most people who pursue personal injury claims.
Many states have statutes that put a ceiling or cap on the amount you can recover for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or disfigurement and disability. Regardless of whether you can prove you deserve more if a damages cap is in place in your state, the amount you can recover in a personal injury claim will be limited.
There are misconceptions on both sides of the spectrum here. Some believe that personal injury cases always move swiftly, and as a result, they expect to have a check within days. On the flip side, others think that they’re in for a long and grueling court battle when they commit to a personal injury case.
The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Some cases settle quickly, and some drag on for months or even years. However, it’s in everyone’s best interest to promptly settle a claim. But once you’ve retained an attorney, they’ll begin researching your case and preparing for negotiations.
The length and nature of negotiations vary quite a bit, depending on the details of your case, the insurance company’s willingness to compromise, and your attorney’s negotiating skills. A settlement could be negotiated within weeks. The process could take months if a large amount of money is at stake or liability is unclear.
It is rare for personal injury cases to drag out for years. These cases make the news because they’re unusual and make for interesting reading. However, cases that take years drain a company’s time and money. Most insurance companies settle long before a case gets to this point.
Clients are often surprised that personal injury cases don’t usually go to trial. Some people immediately decide against a personal injury case because they are afraid of the time, stress, and expenses of a courtroom trial. Statistics indicate that most personal injury cases never go to court. A courtroom battle can be costly for both sides, whittling away at a victim’s potential compensation and racking up legal fees.
Going to trial is risky for both the defendant and the plaintiff. The company or individual being sued could be ordered to pay everything the plaintiff is asking for if they go to court. This may be far more than what the plaintiff is asking for during negotiations. A trial is risky for plaintiffs, as well. The court could decide against the plaintiff and award them nothing.
To mitigate this risk and ensure a timely end to the situation, attorneys on both sides typically strive for a settlement. If you decide to pursue a personal injury case, know that your chances of going to trial are extremely low.
Every personal injury case is unique, and the value of your claim will depend on highly individualized factors. Some of the monetary damages will be based on concrete costs, such as medical bills and calculations of lost wages. Others prove more challenging to calculate, such as pain and suffering.
When you hire a personal injury lawyer to pursue your claim, your lawyer will go over every detail of your case to create an estimate of how much compensation you should receive for your injuries. Factors that go into determining the amount of a settlement demand include:
Once your lawyer has estimated the value of your claim, they will start the process of trying to get a settlement. Settlement negotiations start with your lawyer making a demand for compensation, usually to the insurance company for the person who caused your injuries.
If the evidence in your favor is strong enough, the insurance company may pay the claim. However, it is more likely that the insurance company will give you a lowball offer. In this case, your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company until a fair agreement is reached. If no agreement can be reached, your attorney may proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.
Some people believe that their case is worth more than it truly is. While consulting with personal injury attorneys in Chicago, be wary of those who agree with everything you say and are willing to pursue however much you think you deserve. Your odds of success are significantly higher with an attorney who understands the system and can accurately predict how much your case is worth, even if that amount isn’t what you want to hear.
Documenting your injuries and losses is essential in the personal injury claims process. Many people quickly assume that personal injury claims can be easily proven. However, the burden of proof is based on a preponderance of the evidence. This means your lawyer will need to show through the evidence that the defendant is more than likely responsible for causing your injuries.
Establishing negligence is essential. The four elements of negligence are as follows:
Your lawyer will show that the defendant owed you a duty of care and breached that duty of care through the evidence. This breach in the duty of care must have caused you to suffer considerable damages that have had a lasting impact on your life.
Thoroughly documenting the ways your life has been affected by the accident and your injuries and providing the judge and jury with photos, medical records, and other evidence to show the severity of your injuries will be necessary if you hope to win your personal injury civil and insurance claims.
One of the biggest misconceptions about personal injury claims is that you need to spend a lot of money to hire a lawyer. On the contrary, most credible personal injury attorneys work with injury victims on contingency.
This means you should not be expected to pay anything out-of-pocket unless or until we win your case. If we do not win your insurance or civil claim, you will not be expected to pay us back any costs or provide compensation for our services.
Working on contingency allows you to seek the compensation you deserve with minimal risk. You will only be required to compensate your lawyer if we were in your case. Before we agree to work together, we will detail our contingency agreement to determine what percentage of your injury settlement will go toward the payment for your attorney fees.
We know that hiring a personal injury lawyer can be overwhelming. There are many options to consider, and you may have people telling you that you don’t need an attorney. While exploring your options, look into personal injury settlements each attorney has secured for their clients, what each attorney’s approach is, and how much of their practice is dedicated to personal injury cases.
Unfortunately, you have minimal leverage unless you have an attorney. Insurance adjusters are in the business of downplaying their injuries, minimizing their client’s liability, and getting victims to sign away their rights for as little money as possible. No matter how strong of a negotiator you are, you risk being steamrolled by the insurance company. If you push back too hard, they may lower your settlement offer or revoke it entirely. If you accept what’s offered, you’ll likely get much less than what you deserve.
A personal injury attorney is always a valuable asset to have on your side, even if you’ve suffered minor injuries. They have experience working with insurance adjusters, researching personal injury claims, and playing hardball with insurance companies that don’t want to pay up. Chances are, you have plenty on your plate after an injury. Your personal injury attorney can handle the legal and financial matters while you figure out what it will take to get back to normal.
At Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., we understand that no two personal injury cases are the same. We have years of experience negotiating with insurance companies and helping our clients receive their best outcomes. We can help you manage the paperwork, insurance adjusters, and defense attorneys so you can focus on your health and getting the appropriate treatment.