Calculating injury settlement value in Texas
In Texas, as in every state, adding up the costs associated with your accident or injury can help ensure you receive a fair settlement.
Life in the months following a catastrophic accident can be shockingly different. Though it may be difficult at this time, the sooner you start keeping track of expenses and other indicators of value the better.
As you begin thinking about pursuing a personal injury claim in Texas, it’s important to figure out the math. As scary as it might be to confront it, you have to arrive at a number: how much is your injury worth?
What factors into the calculation?
Several major factors show up in nearly all cases where you have to establish personal injury settlement value. Medical bills are the easiest to quantify, but you also need to take into account future care costs. The worth of any property damaged or destroyed in the accident also counts. The wages you’ve lost due to missed work time matter, as do projected future losses. Other types of economic damage count too.
Typical Factors Used to Determine Injury Claim Value of an Accident
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The biggest factor, however, is usually pain and suffering, also known as general damages.
Pain and suffering is typically treated as a multiplier when calculating damages that are awarded. You take all the other types of damages, known as special damage, and multiply them by the value of pain and suffering. You can use this simple calculator to do the math.
How are general damages/pain and suffering costs determined in Texas?
Herein lies the rub for anyone who wishes to pursue a settlement – in Texas or anywhere else in the U.S. If you’re dealing with an insurance company, the multiplier is their best chance to keep the settlement cost low.
It’s your job, with the help of an attorney, to prove that your injury claim is worthy of a higher multiplier. There’s no simple answer to the problem, and that’s why it’s often considered wise to retain counsel.
Can’t I pursue a lawsuit?
You always have the right to sue. The reality, however, is that around 95-percent of personal injury cases are settled without going to court. The threat of taking the matter before a jury is critical to forcing the insurance company to negotiate. The simple fact is that your lawyer and the company are going to hash things out through a process.
What about punitive damages?
Punitive damages require a finding by a court that one party was grossly negligent beyond their simple responsibility for what happened.
From the responsible party’s viewpoint (or their insurance company’s), the idea behind negotiating a settlement is to avoid the risk of being assessed punitive damages.
This may make it sound better to go trial, but bear in mind claimants can be sanctioned for frivolously pursuing punitive damages too. In almost all instances, legal professionals will tell you that going to court for punitive damages should be seen as a last resort.
Partial responsibility can reduce the value of a claim, as no party is responsible for more than what was their fault in Texas. There are many situations where it may be beneficial for a Plaintiff to settle out of court, or go ahead and seek a trial. For example, when a Defendant seeks a counter action against the Plaintiff. It may be, or may not be beneficial for the Plaintiff to seek settlement.
This is the main reason why a seasoned personal injury attorney is needed to evaluate your case.
During personal injury cases, juries are often asked to deliver a finding of what percentage of responsibility each party has for the accident. If the responsible party is found to only be 70-percent liable, then 30-percent is shaved off the judgment award for the victim.
An insurance company may throw this type of issue at you to discourage you from pursuing your claim more aggressively. This is one more reason why it’s critical to have counsel during the negotiation process. A lawyer can cast some light on dubious attempts to deflect responsibility. This allows you to keep the claims process focused on what matters to you.
Keep in mind that Texas law caps the amount of damages you can sue for in some instances, too.
More than anything, you want to keep accurate records. Document everything.
This means filing away all of your medical bills arising from the accident and keeping a running tally. It also means that you need to know the value of any property you lost in the accident. You also want to have clear proof of how much money you would have earned had you been able to go to work healthy.
Due to the way pain and suffering factor into the general damages multiplier, you also need to document your suffering. This entails working with your doctors to fully document what’s going on. If you’re having trouble concentrating on tasks, that needs to be documented with the assistance of a neurologist.
This can go into a level of detail that may feel uncomfortable to many people.
For example, if you and your partner are no longer able to have sex, you’re entitled to damages for that loss. This would be an example of what is called "loss of consortium".
If you're experiencing reduced cognition, there needs to be a statement from a doctor explaining what it is and how badly it affects you.
The inability to do the things you love counts, but you have to be able to document and demonstrate these as facts. The more details you can give your attorney, the better.
Before you file your claim, it’s a good idea to retain the support of an attorney
Filing your claim is always the first step. Every state is different, but you usually only have a few years from the time of your injuries to file.
In the state of Texas, citizens have to file injury claims within two years of the date of the accident in question. Exceptions for silica-related and asbestos-related claims apply under §16.0031. There are other exceptions under §16.0045 that apply to injuries arising from certain offenses.
The process of arriving at a personal injury settlement value is complex. You and the personal injury lawyer representing you can sort through the details of the accident. The insurance company is looking out for its interests and the interests of its client. You want to have someone present who’s doing the same for you.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.