The most common question we hear from someone filing a personal injury lawsuit is “How much is my injury case worth?” Determining the final dollar amount that your lawsuit settlement or verdict will be worth depends on many different factors. It’s not as simple as adding all of your medical bills and then adding an arbitrary number to account for your pain and suffering.
Some of these factors that will affect your settlement payout include proof of liability, the location where the accident took place, whether the medical treatments are considered relevant and necessary, the driving history or record of the party at fault, and how much fault the injured party had in the accident. Now we will take a more detailed look into each of these factors and show how each of them will affect your payout.
Severity of The Injuries Sustained
It goes without saying that more severe injuries will usually receive higher accident payouts. A catastrophic injury or traumatic brain injury simply requires more medical expenses along with more pain and suffering than a simple broken finger or soft-tissue injury. In fact, just in order to bring a lawsuit for pain and suffering, Michigan requires that the injury pass a certain injury threshold. In order to pass this threshold, your injury must be a serious impairment of body function or a permanent serious disfigurement. If the injuries you have sustained don’t pass this threshold, you are unable to file a lawsuit for pain and suffering. As you can imagine, proving injuries pass this threshold is a very important hurdle in all 3rd party cases handled in Michigan. However, even if you don’t pass this threshold, you will still be able to recover your first party benefits which include your medical expenses and lost wages.
Liability Has a Huge Impact On Potential Payouts
Establishing liability for an auto accident is critical to successfully recovering full compensation. If you can’t prove that the other driver was at least partially at fault for the accident, you have no 3rd party case and no 3rd party settlement. Unlike most other states, Michigan allows you to recover 1st party benefits even though you might be 100% at-fault for the accident. Michigan is called a no-fault state because it doesn’t matter who is at fault when it comes to having your medical expenses paid. It’s nice to know that your medical expenses and wage loss will be paid regardless of liability, but you must prove that the other driver was at least 50% negligent causing your injuries to receive pain and suffering and excess economic damages.
The Location or Venue Of The Car Accident
Many people involved in a car crash don’t realize this, but the location where the accident occurred has a large impact on the amount of compensation you receive. This may not seem fair, but it’s simply the way that it is. Verdicts for car accident lawsuits tend to vary greatly from city to city and county to county. For example, verdicts in Wayne County or Detroit are on average much higher than verdicts in small rural towns and counties. This is for a number of different reasons, but mainly because incomes in larger metropolitan areas are higher and jurors in that area tend be willing to give out more money during jury awards. The average out-of-court settlement for the most part reflects the historical jury awards in the area.
If you are looking to get a general idea of what your case is worth, you should consider the location of the accident along with researching historical case records with similar fact patterns. Obviously, this is not a very accurate measure and there are no guarantees at trial. Nonetheless, it is possible to research cases and come up with your own calculation. Try visiting verdictsearch.com to learn more about the process if you are interested.
How Comparative Fault Affects Your Pain and Suffering Payout
Even though Michigan is not a straight comparative fault state, the percentage of fault for both drivers will impact the final payout. As mentioned previously, medical expenses and loss of wages fall under the no-fault act and is paid for by your own insurance company. However, if you would like to be compensated for your pain & suffering, you will need to file a 3rd party lawsuit against the other driver involved and his/her insurance company. This is where comparative fault now comes into play. The settlement amount of the the 3rd party lawsuit will be based on the percentage of fault you were responsible for. For example, let’s say that it’s decided that you’re pain and suffering is worth $100,000. If the other driver was 100% at fault you would receive this full amount. However, if it is determined that you were 25% at fault for the accident, you would only receive $75,000 of the $100,000 total. As you can see, the percentage of fault can potentially have a large impact on the final payout amount.
Are Your Medical Costs Both Reasonable and Necessary?
You should never assume that the insurance adjuster will always agree with the amount of medical expenses that you want to be reimbursed for. Insurance companies don’t like paying out for treatments or procedures that they think is excessive or not required. From personal experience, both chiropractic treatments and acupuncture treatments are areas of high contention. Even though you feel they are required and help you immensely with your injuries, the insurance adjuster’s opinion will usually be much different. They are only going to pay what they feel is both reasonable and necessary when it comes to medical expenses. For example, let’s say you suffered multiple soft-tissue injuries and you visited both a chiropractor and acupuncturist regularly. The total amount of bills that you paid is $4,800. The insurance adjuster may feel that only $2,500 of these bills are reasonable and necessary. This means that you are personally responsible for the difference of $2,300 and it’s obviously something you want to avoid. For this reason alone, it’s very important that you are treated by a respected and reputable doctor. Stay away from doctors or medical clinics who claim to be auto accident or personal injury specialists. The only specialty they offer is running up excessive medical bills and hoping they don’t get caught by the adjusters.
Insurance Policy Limits Can Limit Your Compensation
This is usually the #1 limiting factor when it comes to your accident payout besides the severity of injuries. Fortunately, Michigan no-fault law provides “unlimited” medical coverage for life, but policy limits still play a large role when it comes to a 3rd party lawsuit where you sue the other driver for their negligence causing your pain and suffering. You must remember that most drivers in Michigan carry the absolute minimum insurance required by law. For example, if the pain and suffering you have endured is larger than the driver’s policy limits, the insurance might just give you the full amount which is also called tendering policy limits. It this is the case, you will be required to file a lawsuit against the driver at fault’s personal assets. If they don’t have enough assets to cover your pain and suffering, you are simply out of luck.
Multi-Vehicle Accidents Complicate Payout Amounts
When multiple vehicles are involved in a crash, determining liability is much more complicated. Even if the amount of your 3rd party payout is completely justified, you might be limited by the policy limits of the at-fault driver(s). For this example let’s assume there was a 3 car accident. Let’s also assume that driver 1 was 100% at fault for causing this multi-vehicle (3 cars total) by blatantly running a red light. The other 2 drivers were not at-fault at all and assume 0% responsibility. The at-fault driver only carries carries a $100,000 insurance policy. In this example, driver #2 requires $100,000 of pain and suffering and driver #3 require $75,000 worth of 3rd party benefits. Since this total of $150,000 is greater than the insurance policy limit of $100,000, one of both drivers will have to take less from the insurance company. If they wish to receive full compensation, they are forced to file a lawsuit against the at fault party’s personal assets. If you are injured in a multi-vehicle accident, you will have a harder time recovering a fair compensation due to splitting the insurance settlement with other parties and the higher likelihood of policy limits not being enough. Visit our main auto accident page for additional information and resources or give us a call for a free consultation.