The cost of taking a personal injury lawsuit through the litigation process can be astronomical so lawyers generally try to reach a reasonable settlement out of court. However, that road is not without it’s own challenges. Personal injury lawyers are then faced with determining how to place a value on a client’s injuries and deliver fair and acceptable compensation.
Northeast Pennsylvania Attorney Christopher B. Slusser said the three-step settlement process begins with calculating the damages before eventually creating the demand that forms the basis of negotiations and finally determining that all factors of your settlement request can realistically be met.
Your “damages” refers to the amount of money you will accrue in both your injuries and losses, but attaching a dollar amount isn’t as easy as it may seem. There are three types of damages: economic (which can be calculated based on quantifiable expenditures or financial losses), non-economic (which are commonly referred to as “pain and suffering” and deal more with emotional and psychological costs), and punitive (which are designed to punish the negligent party and apply only to specific cases).
An experienced attorney will know how to calculate all three types of damages and whether or not you qualify for them in your particular case. For example, determining a value for non-economic damages is often difficult because it requires putting a price tag on emotions. Lawyers know the ins and outs of the insurance companies and can properly determine how much compensation you can expect to receive for your case.
Once you and your lawyer can make an honest assessment of how much you are losing due to your injury, you are prepared to move to phase two of the process and create a formal settlement demand. A demand should always leave room for negotiation, so most lawyers will ask for a number greater than your minimum demand. Lawyers determine this number by adding up your economic and non-economic damages and begin the process of negotiating the amount down with the defendant or insurance company.
The negotiation process can be a matter of a few phone calls between attorneys, or can involve mediators, facilitators and even judges. It’s common for counteroffers to be significantly lower than your initial demand but courts prefer to settle before a trial becomes necessary and will use all of their resources to complete a settlement in the case.
With this in mind, it becomes important to focus on creating a realistic goal when ultimately determining what you want to get out of your personal injury settlement. Compromise is essential unless you have a strong case with indisputable facts and clear examples of liability. If you enter negotiations mentally and financially prepared to receive fair compensation as opposed to a windfall, you and your lawyer should be able to place a value on your case that will lead to a satisfactory settlement.
If you live in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Carbon, Columbia or Schuylkill County, contact the injury compensation lawyers at Slusser Law Firm for advice on determining your settlement amount.