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Who Determines How Much My Claim Is Worth?

Determining your insurance claim’s worth following an accident in the Houston, TX area is a claims adjuster’s business, but their assessment needn’t be final. Your opinion matters. Claims adjusters work for and serve the interests of insurance companies that look to minimize payouts, maximize profits, and pressure you into accepting less compensation than you deserve. However, with the assistance of a knowledgeable accident lawyer, you can be compensated in full for your injuries and losses.

Arriving at a final figure involves accounting for medical and living expenses, property damages, and pain and suffering. Adjusters evaluate claims arbitrarily, using industry standards. However, you know your expenses, and an experienced attorney will have expertise in insurance law. Calculating pain and suffering, for instance, is critical to securing total compensation, whether through a negotiated settlement or jury trial. Know the crucial factors and what steps are required for you and your accident lawyer to self-determine your claim’s value.

What You Need To Know in General To Calculate the Worth of Your Accident Claim

1. Understand Who Pays Compensation for an Accident in Houston, TX

Like most of the country, Texas is an at-fault state for auto insurance claims. While you should immediately report any accident to your insurer, you must file your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company rather than your own. Typically, the police report for your accident will identify which party or parties were responsible for the accident, but any party can dispute this in court.

2. Know Which Losses Insurance Companies Must Compensate

Overall, insurers must compensate victims for the following categories of loss:
  • Medical expenses, including immediate treatment for injuries sustained, follow-up care during recovery, and costs attached to permanent conditions, such as disability or disfigurement, caused by the accident
  • Income lost due to injuries or damages to a work vehicle
  • Travel, hotel, and car rental expenses incurred when involved in an accident far from home
  • Property damage, including to your vehicle, cargo, and your business or home when a vehicle crashes into either
  • Pain and suffering, which includes emotional conditions such as stress, depression, embarrassment, and anxiety over the accident’s implications for your family or sexual relations
  • Personal experiences, such as ongoing education, scheduled vocational training, vacations, recreational activities, or special events such as an impending wedding

Note that these losses include compensation for present and future damages. You should look beyond your immediate circumstances when calculating the value of your claim.

3. Be Aware of the Multiplier Method

Insurance companies in Texas apply what is known as the “multiplier method” to calculate damages for pain and suffering. It’s a simple process, adding your medical costs to your lost wages, then multiplying the sum by a number, or multiplier, ranging from 1.5 to five. The severity of your injuries determines the multiplier. The lightest injuries are assigned a 1.5. More traumatic injuries, including fatalities, will be given a multiplier as high as five.

4. Expect Insurance Companies To Use the Multiplier Against You

Given that damages for pain and suffering derive from your medical expenses and lost wages, they are the most lucrative monetary award in any claim. Insurance companies use the multiplier method because it allows them to control the damages paid for pain and suffering. It’s in their interest to “adjust” the sum of your medical bills and lost wages to the lowest figure possible, then assign as low a multiplier as they dare to that figure.

Conversely, it’s in your interest to include all medical costs accrued by your accident. Document the total amount of wages you’ve lost and expect to lose. Include time lost for hospitalization, medically prescribed home rest, physical therapy, follow-up visits, and mental health considerations such as psychiatric visits to help you cope with the emotional stress of your ordeal. Even the most zealous accident lawyers need all the ammunition they can get to counter insurance company tactics.

5. Where Applicable, Have Your Accident Lawyer File a Claim in Court for Punitive Damages

Punitive damages apply when the at-fault party is “grossly negligent” in causing the collision. Gross negligence is a legal term that falls between a conscious intent to do harm and ordinary negligence. It is court-determined and indicates that the at-fault party demonstrated a “reckless disregard” for the safety of other drivers and pedestrians in causing the accident. Because judges sanction frivolous claims for punitive damages, you should listen carefully to your lawyer before pursuing such a claim.

What You Need To Realize When More Than One Party Is at Fault

While Texas is an at-fault state, that status doesn’t lay the entire blame at the feet of one driver. The law recognizes that more than one party may be at fault in an accident. When a case goes to trial, judges frequently ask juries to determine a percentage of responsibility for each party. As it’s usually in the best interest of at-fault parties to avoid the costs of losing at trial, insurers typically attempt to negotiate percentages out of court.

However your case is resolved, having more than one party at fault complicates matters. First, you may need to file claims with more than one insurer. Second, being partially at fault can significantly reduce the amount you can claim. Third, taking more time to reach a final settlement further stresses your financial situation.

How Should You Adjust Your Claim Calculations for Multiple Parties With Partial Responsibility?

1. File Multiple Claims

Assuming that two or more other parties are determined to be at fault, you must file identical claims with each of their insurers. When insurers or a jury assign a percentage to each party, their respective insurers will be responsible for paying that portion of your damages.

2. Reduce Your Claim Amount According to Your Percentage of Fault

If you are accused of being partially at fault for an accident, other parties will file claims with your insurance company. Expect your lawyer to fight for you, but your claim will be prorated if you are ultimately determined to hold a percentage of responsibility. For instance, if your damages are $250,000 and you are judged to be 10% at fault, $25,000 will be deducted.

3. Don’t Accept More Than Half of the Blame

When filing a claim with partial responsibility, you should also be aware that Texas law only permits drivers who are no more than 50% at fault to seek damages. If it is determined that you are more than 50% at fault for an accident, you will be forced to look to your insurer for relief. This law makes it all the more crucial to have a strong accident lawyer in your corner, one who will fight fiercely to exonerate you.

Whether someone else was at fault for an accident in Houston, TX, multiple parties were to blame, or even if you were partially responsible, you can still have an accident claim. Your first step should be to retain an attorney specializing in accident law who will advise and vigorously represent your interest, both with insurance companies and in court. Contact Houston Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation now.

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