Perhaps you were driving home from work one day, using a kitchen appliance as you have for days on end, or even in the grocery store to grab a few staples. Whatever the case, you suffered a personal injury due to negligence, carelessness, or even an intentional act of another person or party. Your injuries are severe enough to require medical care, and maybe you even face a long road to recovery.
You deserve reasonable compensation for your losses and suffering. But what is a reasonable settlement offer? There’s no one size fits all answer to this question or even an easy way to define a reasonable settlement offer. The answer varies depending on the specifics of each case.
If you want to know what a reasonable settlement offer is in your personal injury case and to receive a reasonable offer, one of the first steps to take after your injury is to meet with a skilled personal injury attorney. Your attorney will evaluate all aspects of your claim and can tell you what a reasonable settlement offer will be, considering the specifics of your case.
What Is a Personal Injury Settlement?
A personal injury settlement is an alternative to filing a lawsuit, going to court, and letting a judge or a jury determine the outcome of your case. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, only about 3 percent of personal injury cases ever go to trial.
Settling a personal injury claim outside of court is generally preferable for all sides involved.
The benefits of a settlement include:
- They take less time than going to court
- They are less expensive for everyone
- The injured party doesn’t have to appear in front of a jury
- Neither party will have personal details listed in a public court record
- Both sides have more control over the case’s outcome as opposed to going to trial
- The at-fault party or their insurance company can protect their reputation
In addition, settling a claim helps reserve the court’s valuable time and resources for cases that genuinely should be decided by a judge or jury. Many U.S. courts require personal injury victims to attempt to agree with the at-fault party before filing a court case or appearing in court.
Settlement negotiations can take place over several days or months. The parties and their attorneys often conduct them behind the scenes with email and phone conversations between attorneys. However, your attorney must always tell you about any settlement offers you receive and let you call the shots. If you feel an offer is fair, it’s your right to accept it.
If you don’t feel the offer is fair and want to keep negotiating or proceed to trial, that is within your right. At the same time, you should seriously consider the advice of your personal injury attorney when making these decisions. They know what is in your best interest and what other similar cases have settled for.
Types of Personal Injuries
Personal injuries can result from different accidents, incidents, or situations.
They can include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Scooter accidents
- Hit-and-run accidents
- Boating accidents
- Construction or workplace accidents
- Defective products
- Dog bites or attacks
- Acts of violence
- Slip and falls
- Premise liability
- Medical malpractice
- Wrongful death
Although most personal injuries arise from negligence, some result from reckless or deliberate actions. In some cases, strict liability applies, and one party may be liable whether they did something to cause the injury or not.
Factors that Determine the Value of a Claim
You won't know if you receive a reasonable settlement offer or not without understanding the different factors that can influence the value of your claim. Several or even all of these factors can impact what your claim is worth. Discuss these factors in detail with your attorney to determine how they apply in your case.
#1. The Type and Severity of Your Injuries
It should go without saying that the type and severity of your injuries will play a significant role in how much your case is worth. For example, someone with minor whiplash and a few bumps and scrapes will garner much less of a settlement than someone who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury (SCI).
At the same time, that individual will require far more medical intervention for the rest of their life. In addition, the person with a severe or catastrophic injury will need more compensation to pay their medical bills, recoup their lost wages, and provide for their pain and suffering.
#2. The At-Fault Party
The law may limit your compensation if the person or party who caused your injuries is a medical doctor, hospital, government agency, or employee. You can’t ask for a settlement larger than the law allows in your case.
#3. Insurance Coverage
The types and amounts of insurance policies involved in your claim also broadly affect what a reasonable settlement offer might look like. For example, if you were in a car accident and the at-fault party didn't have insurance, your claim may recover less. However, if you have underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage on your policy, it will be worth more.
#4. Multiple Liable Parties
Some personal injury claims involve multiple liable parties.
For example, suppose you received severe injuries in a truck accident.
In that case, you might hold one or more of the following parties liable:
- The truck driver
- The truck’s owner
- The trucking company
- The parties who loaded the truck
- The owner of the cargo
- The truck’s manufacturer
- A part’s manufacturer
- A government municipality
- Another driver
No matter the circumstances surrounding your accident, your personal injury attorney will work to investigate what happened and who was responsible. Holding all possible responsible parties liable to you will increase the value of your claim and maximize your settlement offer.
#5. The Evidence Supporting Your Claim
Do you have substantial evidence, and is it sufficient to prove your claim to a judge or a jury? If not, your claim is likely worth less, driving down the value of a reasonable settlement offer. If the other party's attorneys know that the evidence you can provide may not convince a court, they may offer you less compensation.
On the other hand, if they know you have solid and convincing evidence for your claim, you can expect a much higher offer. The last thing they want is to end up in court with you only to have a judge tell them they owe you more than they were willing to offer.
#6. Your Personal Injury Attorney
If an inexperienced personal injury attorney, unfamiliar with the local court systems and laws, or unwilling to go to bat for you, represents you, your settlement offer will decrease. On the other hand, if you hire a reputable attorney, well-versed in the local laws and courts and willing to fight for you, you may receive a reasonable settlement offer.
If the at-fault party’s insurance company or their attorney wants to avoid going to court with your attorney, it’s generally a factor to help you receive reasonable settlement offers.
#7. The Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Claim
All personal injury cases have strengths and weaknesses. Some are more prominent than others. Suppose your personal injury attorney can highlight the strengths of your claim and the weaknesses of the opposing party’s claim while downplaying their strengths and your weaknesses. In that case, you have a better chance of receiving a reasonable settlement offer.
For example, weaknesses in the case of an at-fault driver in a car accident might include:
- A history of DUI arrests
- Cell phone records showing the driver on the phone at the time of the accident
- Witnesses testifying that the driver ran a stoplight
#8. What Similar Local Cases Have Settled For
A good settlement amount can be identified by seeing what cases similar to yours in your city, county, or state have recently settled for. The closer the similarities between the cases, the better the reference will serve for comparing the amounts. Your attorney will often research these outcomes to use as a negotiation guide.
#9. Your Medical Bills and Expenses
A large portion of your settlement comes from your medical bills and expenses. The more they are worth, the higher the value of your claim.
These might include:
- Ambulance services
- Emergency room charges
- Physician and specialist consultations and visits
- Diagnostic tests like lab work, X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs
- Hospital stays
- Physical therapy
- Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications
- Medical equipment and supplies such as a wheelchair, crutches, bandages, or a hospital bed
However, a reasonable settlement offer goes beyond covering all of your medical expenses.
#10. Your Lost Wages and Income
Often personal injury victims are forced to take some time off of work. They need time to recover physically from their injuries and may also attend frequent doctor visits or other medical appointments. With severe and catastrophic injuries, the victim may never return to work.
You deserve fair compensation for your lost wages, no matter how much time you have or will miss from work due to your injuries. Your attorney may hire a specialist, such as an actuarial accountant, to help determine how much money your lost wages will amount to if you can’t return to work.
#11. Your Pain and Suffering
There’s more to a personal injury claim than just medical expenses and lost wages. You also deserve compensation for your accident-related, non-economic losses, suffering, and inconveniences.
Lawyers typically call these pain and suffering, and they can include:
- Physical pain and discomfort
- Mental anguish
- Scarring, disfigurement, or dysfunction of a body part
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
While receiving monetary compensation for these types of losses and disturbances won’t change them or get rid of them, being fully compensated for them can help relieve you of additional financial burdens and help make your life easier moving forward.
#12. Your Patience
Believe it or not, there’s a direct correlation between the value of your settlement and how long you are willing to wait. If you are patient and can wait to receive your settlement, you will likely get a higher one. If you are impatient and need the money right now, you can expect to receive a lower settlement. Your attorney can help direct you regarding the right amount to settle for.
Insurance adjusters often take advantage of claimants who desperately want their money now. They attempt to talk to them to offer them a lowball settlement before they even have a chance to meet with a personal injury attorney.
Adjusters know that if they haven’t yet spoken to a lawyer, it’s unlikely that they truly understand what their claim is worth. This eagerness to recover makes a claimant more likely to accept any offer they receive. You can protect your claim by remaining patient and getting a personal injury attorney on your side as soon as possible after sustaining a personal injury.
Reasonable Settlement Offers are Relative
What might be a great settlement offer in one case can be a low one in another. Good settlement offers are relative to the specific claim. However, rest assured that when you work with an experienced personal injury attorney, you will receive the best settlement offer possible. Your attorney will litigate your claim on your behalf if it’s not a reasonable offer.
If you haven’t already contacted a personal injury attorney, now is the time to do so. Contacting one as soon as possible will help preserve your legal rights and options and prevent you from missing the lawsuit filing deadline, which depending on your state, is usually between one and four years after the date of your injury.
Your lawyer will also ensure you do not accidentally accept a settlement offer for less than you need to cover your losses. Having legal help is a win-win situation.