There are three missteps that can have a dramatic effect on the valuation of a personal injury case, and ultimately on the financial recovery or compensation received. The first two are related concepts: overvaluing on the one hand, and undervaluing a claim on the other. Failing to secure proper medical documentation and opinions is the third oversight that can lead to a less than optimal recovery in a personal injury case.
Believing that your personal injury case is worth more than it, realistically, is can be problematic in any number of ways. Differences in opinion of a few hundred, or potentially a few thousand, dollars are not likely to be a serious impediment to claim resolution for most personal injury cases. For example, if you believe and contended that your personal injury case is worth $14,000 and a claims adjuster believes it is worth $12,000, most likely, that is a case that can resolve if both parties compromise their respective positions to some extent. If, on the other hand, you believe your claim is worth $150,000, and an experienced personal injury attorney who has performed a detailed case analysis, gives you their best opinion that your claim is worth $20,000, the perception that a case has a value far in excess of a reasonable settlement range is likely to preclude successful settlement negotiations. To be sure there are outliers. Anyone who has worked in this field long enough has had cases where there was no settlement offer, or an offer of a few hundred dollars, but after trial, an award was made of many thousands of thousands of dollars. The overwhelming majority of cases do not fall into that category, where clearly exceptional circumstances are present.
A skilled, experienced personal injury attorney will be able to give you a range of value for your case.
An offer that falls within that range is typically considered reasonable value. Having unwarranted or unsupported expectations that are far above the predicted reasonable settlement value range is an obstacle to any meaningful settlement discussion, and would likely have a preclusive effect on the possibility of any pretrial settlement.
The risk involved in an undervaluation scenario is quite simply leaving money on the table. Where there is a failure to fully understand and comprehend the potential exposure, or areas of exposure, for the defendant or their insurance company, there is the potential that the claim has not been evaluated properly. Although experience has shown me that undervaluation scenario is much less prevalent then in overvaluation situation, the inherent and intrinsic dangers and effects are perhaps greater. Where an injury case precedes along an overvaluation path, the only tangible component that is lost is the chance of amicable settlement and perhaps the savings of some litigation expense. Ultimately the cases is tried, and although the recovery might not meet the inflated expectations of the plaintiff, a recovery as fixed by a jury or a judge is nevertheless obtained. If a personal injury claim for proceeds along and undervaluation path, the risk of course is that settlement dollars are in effect “left on the table”. Here, the defendant and their insurance company are willing to accept that the claim is worth more than the amount assigned by the Plaintiff. In this situation, the case may settle for an amount that is less than an insurance company might be willing to pay.
Medical evidence is, in many ways, is the engine that drives injury based litigation. It is, minimally, one of the most important factors in any such litigation. Certainly, this is true in workers compensation claims. To a great extent, this notion holds true in personal injury litigation as well. Any injured person that plans to be a successful plaintiff in a personal injury suit must secure medical evidence offered within a reasonable degree of probability that:
- establishes a causal connection between the injury causing event and any subsequent injury
- establishes that the treatment received was reasonable, necessary and related the event
- establishes that the charges for medical procedures were reasonable, usual, customary and in accord with charges for like services, at the appropriate time, in the appropriate geographic area
In an appropriate case, medical opinions about the degree or extent, or the permanence of an injury, or the nature of any impairment, may be required. In an appropriate case, detailed medical opinions about the reasonable probability of future medical treatment, care and attendance might be required. The failure to secure these opinions, and other evidence, can have a significant derogatory impact on any settlement discussions, as the claims adjuster might be unwilling to consider components of a claim that lack appropriate support. The failure to secure needed medical evidence at trial can result in the outright denial of a claim.