Your Medical Doctor or Chiropractor has released you from treatment for your motor vehicle accident and enough time has passed so you’re about to position yourself to sit down with Adjuster Henry Hard-Nose. His employer is Rock Solid Insurance, the company who insures Fred Fuddle, the individual who plowed into your rear end, smashing you with a tremendous crash which was responsible for your injuries plus the “Pain and Suffering” you’ve had to endure.
To be adequately compensated for what you’ve gone through you must have accumulated what’s identified in the world of insurance claims as “Special Damages”. Those are your Medical bills, your Lost Wages plus every dollar paid out to help with your recovery. When building the value of a personal injury claim there are several key elements you should be aware of:
LIABILITY: In the vast majority of motor vehicle accidents it’s clear who was at fault. Assuming that Fuddle struck you a mighty blow in the rear end (rear-enders make up well over half of the motor vehicle accidents that take place in the United States each year) yours is a case that must be settled. (Final Statistics prove that in 83% of accident’s that took place in 2003 it’s clear who was at fault) !
The very doubtful liability case has little, if any, settlement value. If that’s the situation you should obtain the services of the local Legal Beagle who does a good job at that, Attorney I.M. Greedy. But, if you do, be very careful when you sign Greedy’s “Contingency Fee Agreement”. Read it closely. Don’t sign anything that will let him charge you one penny, other than his normal fee. Do not – – in any way whatsoever – – allow him to chisel any money from you, for his out-of-pocket expenses. All Greedy should be compensated for (if he’s successful at busting loose some bucks from Rock Solid) is his fee and that should be no more than the usual locally published accepted percentage of the total recovery.
TYPE OF INJURY: If there are severe injuries (which make up only ten to fifteen percent of all motor vehicle accidents) you should obtain the services of a lawyer. But, if you’ve had minor injuries like whiplash, bumps, bruises, sprains and/or strains (and it’s clear you’re not at fault) you can handle and settle the claim yourself.
TYPE OF PERSON YOU ARE: Rate yourself and be brutally honest. You’re most likely an average motor vehicle owner/driver, living a normal life. But, if you’ve spent some time behind bars, have a criminal record, or a history of character defects that often get your butt in a jam with the local cops (and this is well-known) you must take those facts into consideration when forming expectations regarding what your case is worth.
THE TYPE OF PERSON FRED FUDDLE IS: The better Fred Fuddle looks, or the better the “entity” “(Fuddle’s business or company, etc.) appears, the better for Rock Solid. But, if Fuddle is a known bookie or drug dealer, they’re in deep “stuff”. On the other hand, if Fuddle is a well-loved philanthropist, that can be a plus for Rock Solid Insurance. Or if the vehicle that struck you was a van driven by Pastor Frederick Fuddle, and the named insured is The Fuddle Camp For Lost Souls, that can be a plus for Rock Solid.
But, if the “entity” that hit you was a dilapidated junk pile on wheels operated by Fred “Goof-Ball” Fuddle, and the named insured is The Fuddle Rotted Cow Manure Corporation, that will obviously not be favorable for Rock Solid.
DAMAGES: There are “Medical Special Damage” Expenses, “Non-Medical Special Damages” Expenses, and/or your “Property Damage” Expenses.
MEDICAL SPECIAL DAMAGE EXPENSES: These typically include Cost of Ambulance, Emergency Room, Hospital and/or Clinic Charges, Chiropractor, and/or Dentist, Over-The-Counter Drugs and/or Prescription Medications, Laboratory Fees and Services, Diagnostic Tests: X-Rays and (CT) Scan, Prosthetic Appliances or Surgical Apparatus, (Cranes & Crutches), Physical Therapy, Registered and/or Practical Nurse Fees, Ace Bandages, Gauze and Tape, Heating Pads, Creams, Lotions, Ointments, Balms and Salves.
When it comes to listing your Medical Special Damage “expenses” don’t overlook one single dollar because, when it comes time to settle your claim, that dollar can increase the value of your payment for “Pain and Suffering” by a multiplier of four or even five! (Yes, that means a $20.00 bill can be worth $80.00 to $100.00 more ,in your pocket, from Rock Solid Insurance, at settlement time).
NON-MEDICAL SPECIAL DAMAGES: These typically include Lost Wages and Earnings, Lost Vacation time and/or Sick Leave, Travel Expenses (car rentals, public transportation, expenses incurred getting to and from your Chiropractor and/or hospital and/or physical therapy “treatment” of some sort) Household Help during disability and/or Child Care. Be sure to obtain written proof of such “Non Medical” Special Damages.
LOST WAGES: The income you lost, because you were unable to work, is an area where adjusters take terrible advantage of the typical claimant because they know so little about it.
Commissions and overtime can make a huge difference in your lost earnings. Be sure to get a letter from your employer, on their official letterhead, explaining that in detail. Or, if you’re self-employed, get this information stated on your accountants letterhead.
The time you miss from work (thus the money you may have lost) is calculated and this element constitutes what is known as “Lost Wages” or “Lost Time Verification”. In most situations you’re entitled to compensation for lost time and earnings, even if you have no actual loss of money! Such as, for example, when your salary is paid by your company insurance coverage, or by taking sick leave, or some similar arrangement.
Even if you’re salaried you should obtain a “Lost Earnings”, or “Time Lost Verification”, in writing on your employer’s letterhead.
IF YOU’RE SELF-EMPLOYED: To prove your lost earnings you’ll probably have to assemble some inside information for Hard-Nose. If you don’t like the idea of submitting private documents to him, in the privacy of your home or office, just think how you’d feel about producing them in the non-private environment of a courtroom. When a case goes to trial, and if you want to prove your damages so as to collect adequate compensation, that’s your only alternative.
TWO CRITICAL AREAS REGARDING LOST WAGES: Did the injury necessitate a change of job or employment at a lesser rate? Or, did the injury allow your going to work but only on a part-time basis? If the answer to either question is “Yes”, it would be wise to ask your employer to document these facts on their letterhead.
IT’S CRUCIAL FOR YOU TO KNOW: Even if you’ve been paid while out of work, you can still compute your time lost from work as “Lost Wages” .
PROPERTY DAMAGE EXPENSES: These typically include Motor Vehicle Repair, Damaged Clothing, Broken Glasses, cost of Substitute Car Rentals, Towing and Storage. Make copies of all bills relating to any of your property damage expenses. Keep the originals. Be sure to have these in your possession when you and Hard-Nose plunk yourselves down to “Talk Turkey”. Photocopies are sufficient to give him.
YOUR AGE: Because of their obvious innocence, insurance claim accident victims, up to the age of 12, generally have excellent settlement results. Those in their teens, and into their late 50’s, fall into a fairly normal category because they’re generally considered to be at the height of their physical stamina. Those in their late 60’s, and over, usually fare extremely well; primarily due to the sympathy that’s often invoked, from a judge or jury, because of general attitudes regarding frailty and the elderly.
MOST IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER:The information Hard-Nose places into your file plays a major role in the ultimate value of your claim. Never underestimate the importance of his impressions and conclusions! Should, one day, your case ends up in front of a judge, or jury, what Hard-Nose feels, observes and then reports into your file at Rock Solid about you, his insured Fred Fuddle, and/or possible witnesses, etc., (in addition to the information you’ve documented for him) could have massive influence on the value of your claim – – especially if Fuddle is a loser and he’s absolutely in the wrong. At that point the only thing stalling a settlement is the amount of money it’s going cost to get rid of you.
And, should your file end up in the hands of the local defense attorney for Rock Solid Insurance, all the positive factors about you, your injury and liability, will cause him to gasp, “Hey, what’s going on here? My legal fees will be higher than the few hundred more bucks this one can be dumped for.”
The bottom line: Your out-of-pocket expenses correctly recorded and presented, your injury information properly documented and your lost wages clearly established will seriously increase the dollar value of your personal injury claim.