Depending on the facts of your claim, you may have more than one category of damages available to you. That is why we feel it is important to speak with a Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer to understand your options and to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Insurance companies use several factors to evaluate and value an automobile injury claim. Some have complicated algorithms that weigh and attempt to classify the severity of a claim by reviewing the records and bills. Here are some of the key factors insurance companies use:
The extent and severity of injuries sustained by the individuals involved in the accident play a significant role in determining the value of the claim. This includes the nature of the injuries, the medical treatment required, and the expected recovery period. Did the injured party go to the emergency room right away or did they wait several days to be checked out? If surgery was required, was the injury resolved fairly quickly post-surgically or was there a long period of rehabilitation with setbacks such as an infection at the surgical site?
Florida has a Tort Threshold which is outlined in Florida Statute Section 627.737(2). Unless an injured victim sustains an injury that rises to the level of one of the four categories outlined in the statute, the victim can only recover their out-of-pocket economic damages. The four injury categories are:
If your injury falls into one of these categories, the insurance company will evaluate your case higher than if you do not have documentation supporting the fact you sustained a permanent injury.
Insurance companies consider the total medical expenses incurred by the injured party, including hospital bills, surgical fees, surgery center charges, medication costs, rehabilitation, and any ongoing or future medical treatment needs. Many insurance companies will reduce medical bills if they feel they are inflated.
If the injury results in the victim being unable to work or earn income, the insurance company takes into account the lost wages during the recovery period. This can be challenging for a self-employed individual. It is important to collect all the necessary documentation to prove the loss of income is directly attributable to the collision. Often, an injured person’s future earning capacity may also be affected if the injury leads to permanent injury. Even if the injured person is eventually able to return to their pre-accident earnings, they are entitled to that differential between their suppressed wages and what their normal wages would have been absent the fact they were injured.
Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life are other factors insurance companies consider when evaluating a claim. The valuation of these damages is subjective and can vary. Analogies are sometimes suggested to the jury to help them evaluate the cost of living with pain. How much would a person be willing to be paid an hour, every waking hour of their day, to live in pain? Take that hourly amount, and multiply it by the waking hours in a day, days in a year, and the number of years of the injured party’s life expectancy. There is no exact standard to measure these damages. They must be fair and just in light of the evidence.
Insurance companies assess the degree of fault or liability of each party involved in the accident. At trial, a jury may be asked to apportion liability between the plaintiff and the defendant and other parties to the lawsuit. Until recently, plaintiffs were able to recover that percentage of fault assigned to a defendant. The law has changed in negligence cases and now, if the plaintiff is found more than 50% at fault, the entire claim is dismissed. This creates significant risk in a case where the facts can go either way for or against the plaintiff.
The policy limits of the at-fault party’s insurance coverage will influence the maximum amount the insurance company will voluntarily pay. An insurance policy is a contract between the insurance company and the at-fault driver. If the at-fault driver purchased low a bodily injury limit, that limit is all the insurance company is contracted to pay; even if the value of the injury claim exceeds the low limits of coverage. That is why Rosenberg & Calvin, P.A. recommends you purchase underinsured motorist coverage.
If the value of your claim clearly exceeds the limits of coverage, yet the insurance company does not offer their limits of coverage when they could have and should have, it could give rise to a bad faith claim.
Insurance companies consider whether the injured party had any pre-existing medical conditions that may have been aggravated or exacerbated by the accident. If we are in a lawsuit, the insurance company attorneys go to great lengths subpoenaing records from a variety of your medical providers for up to ten years prior to your accident in order to identify whether you injured a similar area of your body or complained of similar injuries before the accident. Depending on what they find, it can affect the evaluation of the claim and the amount of compensation offered.
We always recommend our clients to be straightforward and honest with us in their initial interview because we can address problems we know about better than problems identified by the insurance company later in the case.
The specific evaluation and valuation methods can vary among insurance companies and jurisdictions. Additionally, legal representation or negotiation skills can also impact the final settlement value of an automobile injury claim. Consider contacting one of our Lawyers who practices Personal Injury in Jacksonville to discuss the various elements of your claim to get a better idea of what it may be worth.