In order to negotiate a settlement amount for a car accident case, your attorney has to decide what would be a reasonable amount of money you would be willing to accept. In other words, he must decide how much money should you receive in “damages.” Damages is a term that refers to the losses you experienced that the party who was at fault has to compensate you for.
There are two principle categories of damages available to you if you were injured in a car accident: economic, “special” damages, and non-economic, “general” damages. Special damages are losses that stem from the accident itself—medical bills, lost income if you missed work, property damage and any other out-of-pocket expenses, such as prescriptions.General damages refer to pain and suffering—physical, as well as the invisible pain such as emotional hurt and anxiety brought on by the accident and any injuries you suffered. This invisible pain is part of how settlements are determined when personal injury cases go to trial, so it makes sense that settlements arrived at out of court should take this pain into account, too.But, how is this calculated?
Usually, to calculate the general “invisible” damages, the special, economic damages will be added up and multiplied by what’s called a “multiplier.” Multipliers at the low end will be 1.5 or 2, with 4 or 5 being the high end. The total after multiplying gives you the amount that will be demanded for your general damages, the “invisible” pain and suffering. We will then negotiate for this amount plus the amount of your special damages—your economic losses—for full, proper compensation.
Choosing which multiplier to use depends on many factors from your case. The adjuster and we will consider factors including the severity of your injuries, whether or not you will have a fast, complete recovery, how your injuries affect your daily life, and whether or not the other party was obviously at fault.
Choosing which multiplier to use will also likely be argued between the adjuster and us. This is why it’s important to be realistic from the beginning. However, while it’s rare that a case would call for a multiplier higher than four, it does happen. Here’s a list of factors that would likely all need to be present for you to realistically use a multiplier higher than four.
- You must have had medical exams that detected your injuries.
- Your diagnosis and treatment should in large part be from physicians and hospitals, as opposed to physical therapy or chiropractic centers.
- Your injuries must be painful and more dramatic, rather than less—perhaps requiring surgical treatment, or injuries that cannot be fully repaired.
- Your recovery must take six months or longer.
- You must suffer permanently—pain, immobility, scarring, etc.—in a way that is documented by professionals. Your medical records must clearly reflect that you will suffer future degenerative or recurring problems.
If all of these factors are present, it is probable—though not guaranteed—that the insurance adjuster will agree to using a multiplier higher than four.
Due to the nature of settlement negotiations, we always begin with a higher demanded total so that the inevitably lower offers the adjuster make in return do not affect your receiving full and proper compensation.