How to Estimate Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Personal injury lawsuits could compensate you for the entirety of your pain and suffering and lost future wages. However, you must avoid common mistakes to protect your right to adequate compensation. Before doing anything, you must understand New Jersey’s laws surrounding personal injury lawsuits and how the state calculates damages.
Formula for Estimating Damages
When you hire a trucking accident attorney, they may calculate an estimate of the damages and compensation that you could receive. In New Jersey, attorneys estimate damages in a personal injury case by looking at your medical specials and using the general damages multiplier.
Expenses that count as medical specials include:
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Lost earnings and wages
- Future lost earnings and wages
- Property damage
The general damages multiplier ranges from 1.5 to 5. How this number is chosen is based on how severe your injuries are. It’s difficult to quantify this because each case is unique, and more than one type of damage is involved. A trucking accident attorney will do their best to choose the most accurate multiplier based on the details of your case.
Factors Considered for the General Damages Multiplier
All aspects of your pain and suffering, including their impact on your spouse and family, are taken into consideration to determine the severity. This is why it’s challenging for an individual to determine the multiplier on their own. Attorneys who have experience with personal injury lawsuits could give you a more accurate estimate.
Don’t Accidentally Admit Fault
When you have a personal injury claim, it’s important that you don’t accept fault for the accident. Apologizing to the other driver could be taken as admitting you’re responsible even if you think that you don’t have any fault. Be careful with your words when you speak to insurance adjusters too. You don’t want to be seen as admitting any level of responsibility. New Jersey determines fault based on percentages. If you are over 50% at fault for the accident, then you won’t be eligible to recover damages.
In wrongful death cases, you could receive compensation for funeral costs and the family’s emotional distress. You could also recover your loved one’s medical costs before their death if they didn’t immediately die from the accident. New Jersey may rule that the defendant must compensate you for the lost value of household services or the lost value of wages and benefits, including those that could have been earned in the future had they lived.
If the court finds you at shared fault for your damages, then your compensation is reduced by the percentage at which you’re responsible. Insurance adjusters may also bring up this modified comparative negligence law during settlement negotiations if they think that you are partially at fault.
Choice No Fault
New Jersey has a choice no-fault system for car accidents. Those who have a basic car insurance policy, instead of a standard insurance policy, may have to make their injury claim with the other driver’s personal injury protection (PIP). PIP claims don’t offer compensation for pain and suffering damages.
Residents with basic car insurance are allowed to file a lawsuit if the car accident caused significant scarring, significant disfigurement, permanent injury, loss of a fetus, a loss of a body part or death. If you were in a truck accident, you are also allowed to sue for pain and suffering.
When Should an Attorney Get Involved?
Settlement negotiations usually won’t go well if there is a question of who is at fault or you’re seeking more than a few thousand dollars in compensation. If you need compensation for future damages that you’ll incur because of your injuries, then it’s advised you involve an attorney as well.
Because of the complexity of trucking accidents compared to regular car accidents, it’s best to have an attorney involved. The driver of the truck might not be responsible. It could be the cargo owner, the cargo loader, the truck manufacturer or the employer who’s responsible. A thorough investigation is needed to piece together if a lack of maintenance or other issue contributed to the accident.
Some insurance adjusters make an initial offer to you that is too low for what your case is worth. They do this because some people accept the offer without realizing that they could get more compensation. If you don’t feel comfortable negotiating, then it’s best to allow an attorney to speak on your behalf. A good negotiation involves understanding accurately what your claim is worth. The greater the complexity of your damages, the greater your need for an attorney to help ensure you receive what you should.
Keep Accurate Records
After any accident, you need to get a medical examination as soon as possible to help protect your right to full compensation for your injuries. The opposing side will argue that you are partially responsible for your medical bills when you don’t get a diagnosis or treatment quickly enough.
Keep accurate records of your symptoms and medical visits regardless of how minor they initially seem. The adrenaline in your body after an accident can mask pain. Certain injuries might not be immediately apparent either. If you have headaches, pain or other problems after your initial medical checkup, go to the doctor again. You might have an injury that the doctor wasn’t able to catch. Showing that you’re doing everything in your power to diagnose and treat your injuries protects your right to compensation if the court determines the other party is at least partially at fault.
Avoid Speaking to Trucking Company Representatives
Like insurance adjusters, trucking company representatives will often attempt to reduce how much compensation they must pay you. They sometimes check on the accident scene and talk with you to hear your account of events and to determine if you were at fault. You can let them know you will let them speak to your attorney in order to avoid talking to them. Remember that anything you say could be used against you.
Write Down How the Events Unfolded
As soon as you’re able to after the accident, write down or create a voice recording of what happened leading up to, during and after the accident. All of these details are important in piecing together what may have caused the wreck. Share this account of events with your attorney. It will help them come up with an accurate estimate of your potential compensation in a lawsuit. You might be less at fault than you initially realize. Only a proper investigation of what happened will determine the percentage fault.
Be Careful of What You Sign
Don’t sign medical release forms or other documents that insurance companies try getting you to sign without fully reading and understanding the implications of doing so. Some insurance companies will use your past medical history against you if you sign a medical release form for them. Other documents that you sign could limit your ability to seek adequate compensation.
Be Careful of What You Say on Social Media
Remember that the other side will do a thorough investigation to accurately assess the percentage fault of each party. What you say on social media can be used against you. Sometimes, your own insurance company also looks at your social media to determine if you had more fault than they initially thought.
And it’s not just appearing as if you’re at fault that should be avoided. Unfortunately, if you present yourself positively and as if you’re completely fine on social media, insurance companies and the other side may question if your symptoms really are as severe as you say they are.
It’s usually recommended that you don’t post at all on social media until your lawsuit has been concluded or settled to be on the safe side. Focusing on your healing and your lawsuit is better for your mental well-being as well. There’s a lot of negativity on social media that can just add to your stress.
Personal injury lawsuits are sometimes necessary to receive the full compensation that you’re entitled to. Calculating how much you should get is challenging to do on your own because you don’t have experience with personal injury settlements and lawsuits. Determining the multiplier to use is tricky, which is why it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer who has the experience. Contact the New Jersey attorneys at RAM Law by phone at 732-394-1549 or online to schedule a consultation for a truck accident.