We understand that car accidents cause a great deal of stress, especially if you are injured. The damages can be costly to your health, your finances, and your quality of life. When you are the victim of someone else’s negligent driving, you have the legal right to recover your losses. Talking with an auto accident lawyer in Houston, TX can help you understand how the amount of your settlement should be calculated and what your claim is worth.
How Do I Know How Much My Claim Is Worth?
The value of your payout depends on many factors, including what the damages were and how they affected your life. Car accidents cause different kinds of expenses, from medical bills to the psychological stress of pain and suffering. Some of these expenses can be calculated easily by adding up the bills, while others are not so straightforward. A personal injury attorney can help you be sure that every expense is accounted for and fairly compensated.
It is important to remember that calculating the true expense of the accident is just the first step in achieving the payout. Most auto claims end in a settlement from the at-fault party’s insurance company, rather than going to trial. Having an auto attorney to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf can help ensure that the settlement they offer you is fair.
What Kind of Damages Factor Into the Claim Amount?
The damages that should be included in your claim fall into two categories: economic and general. Economic damages can be tallied up easily because they have a numeric value that is already associated with them. A medical bill is one example. General damages are things that deserve to be compensated even though they do not have a monetary associated cost, such as pain and suffering.
The economic damages that factor into your claim usually pertain to your injuries, your property, and your inability to work. They include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Property damage
Your settlement offer should cover your medical expenses. That means paying for any trips to the hospital or any doctor’s appointments you had immediately after the accident. It should also cover future appointments, medication, and ongoing physical therapy.
Your lost wages include the hours of work you missed while you were recovering and any future time off you need to take. If you are self-employed, it should include gigs you had to cancel and any jobs you could not take. People who have the potential to earn commissions or bonuses should take them into consideration, too. You can even include vacation days, sick days, benefits, and missed promotions.
Reduced Earning Capacity
Reduced earning capacity is a term that refers to your ongoing ability to work. If your injuries prevent you from ever returning to your job at the level you had before the accident, you need to be compensated for that loss. An auto accident lawyer can work with other experts, including economists, to help assign a value to this aspect of the claim.
When you are in an accident, the liable party is responsible for paying for the repair of your vehicle. While the insurance company might try to pressure you to go to a repair shop that they prefer, you have the right to bring your car to one of your choosing instead. In the event that your car was totaled, the settlement needs to cover its market value. Property damage can also include the loss of items that were in the car, such as smartphones, cameras, and other valuables.
General damages refer to things that do not have a fixed cost. They include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- The inability to continue activities you enjoy
Pain and Suffering
According to Texas law, you have the right to be compensated for the discomfort associated with your injuries. There is no measurable way to quantify pain and suffering, so juries are instructed to assign it a reasonable value according to the severity of your distress.
When insurance companies make a settlement offer, they use software programs to calculate the value of the claim. Their software often undervalues pain and suffering relative to a potential jury verdict. Working with a personal injury lawyer can help make sure you are awarded the maximum amount, even if your case does not go to trial.
While the term “pain and suffering” refers strictly to physical discomfort, you can also be compensated for the emotional pain the accident caused. Like physical pain, it is something that needs to be negotiated due to its subjective nature.
The Inability to Continue Activities You Enjoy
The true cost of an accident includes the way it impacts your quality of life. If you are forced to give up enjoyable activities because of your injuries, you can include that loss in your claim.
If your accident has left you with an altered appearance, you might be able to claim disfigurement among the damages. In some Texas cases, victims have even been compensated for loss of consortium, or the physical attention of a spouse.
What Circumstances Impact the Value of a Claim?
Your compensation is determined based on the kind of damages you experienced and the circumstances surrounding the accident. Claims vary in value depending on what percentage of the accident each party was responsible for and the severity of the damages.
In Texas, the liable party is required to pay for the damages you incurred. However, many accidents happen when both parties are partially responsible. In that situation, the cost of the damages is divided according to the percentage of fault. For example, if the other driver was 70% responsible for the accident, their insurance company should pay for 70% of the damage.
The value of your claim goes up proportionately to the extent of the damage. In the case of medical bills, physical damage to your car, and other types of economic damage, the increase is fairly straightforward. In the case of pain, emotional distress, and other types of general damage, juries and insurance companies should take the severity of the situation into consideration when they determine the amount of your payout.
A Qualified Attorney Increases the Value of Your Claim
Auto accident claims are very complicated. Oftentimes, the factors that go into them are subjective. Working with an attorney in Houston, TX can maximize the value of your claim in several ways. First, a qualified attorney can help you identify all of the damages you experienced and give them appropriate value. Second, he or she will provide the kind of legal representation insurance companies take seriously.
Increase Your Payout With an Auto Accident Lawyer in Houston, TX
When you are recovering from an auto accident and trying to build back your life, getting the maximum payout for your claim is both important and challenging. Working with an attorney can relieve some of the stress and increase your settlement offer. You can get in contact with our attorneys at any stage of the process, whether you have just had the accident or have already received a settlement offer. Contact Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC for legal expertise you can count on.