How Do I Know What My Personal Injury Claim is Worth if I Was in an Accident in Utah?
If you were injured by the negligence of another, you may be able to recover compensation with assistance from a skilled Utah personal injury attorney. But what factors determine the value of a personal injury claim? And are there any limits on how much compensation an injury victim can receive after being injured in Utah? Salt Lake City car crash lawyer Darwin Overson explains some factors that impact the worth of an accident claim.
How is a Settlement Negotiated After Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Utah?
There are two ways to get compensated for an injury that was inflicted through negligence. The victim can:
- File an insurance claim. In this situation, the victim is called the “claimant.”
- File a lawsuit. In this situation, the victim is called the “plaintiff.”
In many cases, the accident victim will file an insurance claim before filing a civil suit, such as a truck accident lawsuit or slip and fall accident lawsuit. If the injury victim and the insurance company are able to negotiate a settlement after the claim has been filed, it will not be necessary to file a lawsuit. Litigation is considered to be a more extreme remedy than settling, but sometimes, going to trial is necessary to protect the injury victim’s best interests.
Once the at-fault party’s insurance company has been notified of the accident, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to review the claim. His or her job is to determine whether the policyholder was actually at fault for the claimant’s injuries. The duration and complexity of the claims process varies, depending on the factors like:
- The severity of the victim’s injuries.
- The availability of evidence, such as wreckage and/or police accident reports.
- The number of witnesses, if any.
- The time it takes to analyze the victim’s medical records.
- How long it took for the victim to seek medical treatment after being injured.
- The insurance company’s willingness to make a reasonable offer.
Once all of the evidence has been gathered, your attorney and the insurance company can start negotiating, a process which begins when your personal injury lawyer sends the insurer a demand packet. It is common for insurance companies to offer low-ball settlements, which you should not accept before consulting with an attorney. For example, if you were injured in a motorcycle crash, a Salt Lake City motorcycle accident lawyer can negotiate for a more reasonable amount.
The worth of personal injury claims can vary tremendously, even for the same type of accident. The value of your claim depends on many factors, such as:
- Whether the injury left a scar, or any other sort of permanent disfigurement.
- Whether your ability to earn income will be affected in the future.
- Whether you are supporting dependents financially.
- The physical and emotional pain and suffering resulting from your injury.
- Your current income level.
- The severity of the injury.
- The length of time you will need ongoing medical care.
- The number and type of surgeries or other procedures you will need.
While many claims can be settled, it may become necessary to sue the party at fault if the negotiation process breaks down. In either case, a quality attorney will use clear, honest language to keep you fully informed about your rights and responsibilities, the progression of your claim or case, and the advantages and drawbacks of any strategy you pursue.
What if My Medical Expenses Exceed the Insurance Policy Limits of the Party at Fault?
It’s important to make distinctions between an insurance claim and a lawsuit, not only because they are handled very differently, but also because there are significant differences as they pertain to limits on compensation. In short, the worth of your injury will be impacted by whether you sue or file a claim.
If you file an insurance claim, you will be subject to the applicable policy limits, though it may be possible to collect additional compensation beyond the policy limit by:
- Collecting under the defendant’s umbrella policy, if one exists.
- Suing the at-fault party and possibly additional defendants, depending on the situation.
Policy limits themselves can vary widely, depending on:
- The type and purpose of the insurance.
- Whether the policyholder has opted to purchase the bare minimum coverage, or has additional coverage.
For example, Utah drivers are required to purchase certain levels of vehicle liability insurance coverage, with minimums ranging from $15,000 to $65,000 (or $80,000) depending on whether one person is injured, multiple people are injured, or property damage occurs. Some drivers stick to these minimums, while some have much more extensive coverage, and some have no coverage at all.
If the claim involves medical malpractice, the pertinent policy limits are likely to be quite different. According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, “Most policies offer limits of coverage ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 and $1 million to $3 million. The first number is the maximum amount the insurance company will pay per claim during the policy period, which is usually one year. The second amount is the maximum the company will pay for all claims during the same policy period.”
If you file a lawsuit, you will be subject to Utah’s “damages caps,” which are limits on how much compensation can be awarded in a lawsuit where the plaintiff prevails. Fortunately for plaintiffs, Utah does not cap “economic damages,” which means there are no limits on how much compensation you can recover for expenses and financial losses, like your hospital bills.
Until recently, there was a $450,000 cap on non-financial or “non-economic damages,” like pain and suffering, in medical malpractice lawsuits involving wrongful death. However, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that these caps were unconstitutional in 2015. This ruling does not apply to non-fatal instances of malpractice.
For more information specific to the type of injury you suffered, you may be interested in browsing the articles in our legal resources library.
Review Your Injury Claim with a Salt Lake City Car Accident Lawyer
If you or one of your family members was hurt in an accident in Utah, you should talk to a Salt Lake City personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. You may have grounds for a claim or lawsuit, depending on the situation.
Attorney Darwin Overson of Overson Law has more than 33 years of experience handling a wide variety of injury claims, including auto accidents, product liability, construction accidents, skiing accidents, and more. Call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143 right away for a free and confidential legal consultation.