When you’re injured in a serious car accident, friends and relatives share their opinions about practically everything. They give you advice about their doctors, their treatment, and their healing. They talk to you about settling your claim and how much money you should get for your pain and suffering.
While friends and family usually have your best interests at heart, there’s one major difference between their experiences and yours: Your injury claim is completely different from their claim, and anyone else’s.
Even when you have the same injuries, impairments, and healing time frames, your injuries affect you in ways that are unique to you. Your pain, anxiety, emotional distress, and other factors are specific to you alone. Your legal professional and anyone else involved in settling your claim must recognize this critical fact. They should consider your uniqueness as they decide how much money you should receive for your pain and suffering. Often, your car accident attorney is the only one to do that effectively.
Documenting Your Pain and Suffering
Even with an identical diagnosis, no one endures the same pain and suffering you do. Your pain is personal. Your injury manifests itself in your body based on your age, physical fitness, underlying medical conditions, and other factors. You are the only one who knows how much pain and suffering you have endured. It’s your job to convey what you know to those who will evaluate and negotiate your pain and suffering claim.
You can accomplish this by using a daily journal to document your experiences from the early stages of your injury until you reach maximum recovery. Simply record the details of your pain and suffering and how it affects your life. Use it as a reminder when you tell your story. Share it when you want to show how pain and suffering affected your life.
Include these and other daily encounters with pain:
- Your pain and suffering immediately after the accident
- Discomfort from treatment: surgical interventions, injections, therapy, etc.
- Daily physical restrictions and accomplishments
- Pain intensity and how it limits you
- Family and household tasks you must avoid
- Pain management shortcomings
- Pain on the job, while relaxing, during recreation
- How pain disrupts intimacy with your spouse
People Often See Claim Values Based on Their Perceptions
Insurers, self-insured entities, and defense attorneys often downplay serious injuries as mild or insignificant. Their perceptions often rely on traditional factors, but also include personal biases.
These perceptions are important, as they guide evaluations and often become stumbling blocks during negotiations.
- Treatment protocols: Your physician’s treatment plan affects your pain and suffering, and also its perceived value. With the current emphasis on non-pharmaceutical relief, doctors sometimes hold off on prescribing pain medications. If you rely on acupuncture, meditation, and other alternate pain-reducing strategies, it may diminish your claim’s perceived value. This also occurs when your doctor prescribes a pain medication but you never fill the prescription.
- Injury seriousness: A claims adjuster as no problem accepting that multiple fractures, severe burns, and other visibly serious conditions generate extensive pain and suffering. That same individual won’t always accept that a soft tissue back injury or mild traumatic brain injury also causes long-term pain. Because they can’t see the injury, it sometimes affects their perception of value.
- Disabilities: The person evaluating your pain and suffering often has no problem sympathizing with you if your doctor orders you stay at home during a long-term disability. If you decide to return to your job and work through the pain, the person evaluating your claim may accept that as a sign of at least a recovery. That being said, if you can go to work, you should go to work. Especially if you have a desk job that would cause you no issues.
- Spousal relationships: Serious injuries often affect your intimate relationship with your spouse. If you’re like many people, you prefer to keep your private relationships private. That often works against you when someone evaluates your claim. When you don’t talk about it, they don’t include it in their assessment.
- Social media posts: Insurance claim people also use non-medical information when evaluating your claim. They look at your social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, and others. To undermine your case, they may try to find photos, videos, or posts that show you as active and pain-free. Your car accident lawyer will probably tell you to stop posting to social media until your case concludes. If you do choose to post, please remember that an insurance adjuster, defense attorney, judge or juror may eventually look at the information you provide online.
- Credit reports: Your credit doesn’t affect your actual pain and suffering. Claims representatives may use adverse credit information to gauge your financial need if they can’t obtain this information. In some cases, adverse credit helps them recognize that you will likely accept a low offer.
The Opposing Sides Rarely Agree
When you’re injured in an auto accident, everyone has an opinion about your claim’s value. When it’s time to settle your pain and suffering claim, the only opinions that matter belong to the people at the negotiation table. Unfortunately, these people represent varying interests, so they rarely agree.
No book definitively tells them how much a person’s pain and suffering is worth when they sustain a certain injury. That gives claim evaluators permission to judge and attempt to settle your claim based on their own knowledge, experience, and personal perceptions.
Car Accident Attorneys
Your car accident attorney becomes your ally during the claim handling process. Your attorney monitors your progress, documents your economic losses, and reviews your physicians’ medical reports. Over time, your attorneys get to know you personally. Eventually, they develop the most accurate store of knowledge about you, your injury, and your pain and suffering. Your car accident attorney brings this knowledge to the negotiation table, but must often fight to convince others.
Insurance companies often represent the people or entities who are legally responsible for damages and injuries. From the moment their insured reports an accident with injuries, a claim representative begins investigating the liability and damage. This in-depth involvement gives them an advantage in evaluating your pain and suffering but that’s not always the case.
By the time you’re ready to settle your claim, there’s a strong possibility that your claim will have changed hands many times. After several rounds of claim file musical-chairs, the person negotiating your claim is sometimes inexperienced and uninformed. Insurance companies rely on several tools to make up for that.
Claim evaluation software. Some insurance companies follow strict negotiation strategies dictated by data-driven software. Programs, such as DXC’s Colossus, make up for a claim representative’s lack of experience. They simply collect information, input data, and wait for instructions. Claim software allows inexperienced insurance adjusters to negotiate consistently along company lines. Unfortunately, computer evaluations don’t always consider the human differences that make each person’s claim unique. After all, a computer can only work with the data an insurance representative provides.
Claim formulas. Insurance companies have been using claim evaluation and settlement formulas for decades. Although this technique never really addressed the injured person’s unique issues, it presented an evaluation method that didn’t rely on experience. Adjusters added up the injured person’s medical bills, lost income, and other economic losses. Then they multiplied the total by a random factor. The total becomes the basis for settlement negotiations.
These formulas eventually incorporated the insurance company position that increasing discretionary diagnostic costs (MRI, CT, etc) didn’t usually reflect injury severity.
Insurance company formulas helped settle cases, especially when the claim person was dealing directly with an injured person. When they relied on simple math problems, inexperienced claim handlers negotiated with authority. If called upon to explain the formula to an injured person, it often came across as reasonable. It’s no wonder that some insurers still use them, although they are nowhere near as generous as in the past. Although, an initial settlement offer of three times your medical bills for soft tissue injuries no longer exists. You may also see this simple math-problem evaluation style in online Claim Settlement Calculators.
Your car accident lawyer knows that computers and simple math formulas lack the human empathy to properly account for pain and suffering, and will fight for what you really deserve—not what some software or equation says you do.
When injured parties, attorneys, and insurers can’t reach an agreement, cases often end up in litigation, and in some situations, at trial. If insurance companies and attorneys can’t agree, a jury hears the evidence and renders a decision. Of course, jurors often evaluate evidence based on their own personal biases. Still, it’s a system that often works, particularly when the plaintiff is aided by an experienced car accident attorney.
Do You Need a Lawyer To Settle Your Pain and Suffering Claim?
When you’re injured in an auto accident, you must wade through numerous opinions, perceptions, and biases to reach a settlement or judgment. Car accident lawyers know how to recognize and overcome these issues. They rely on experience to properly evaluate and present your injury claim. They create negotiation strategies that work. When you consult an attorney, you don’t have to commit to moving forward with your case. You simply present your information and listen to your legal options.