Auto accident involving two cars

10 Factors That Can Affect What Your Car Accident Case is Worth

The value of a car accident claim depends on numerous factors, many of which are within your control. Understanding how these factors affect your claim can help you avoid errors and mistakes that could lower the value of the claim.

Ten Factors That Can Impact the Value of a Car Accident Claim

Issues that can affect how much you might receive for a car accident claim include:

1.  Liability for Causing the Collision

To recover full compensation for damages caused by a car crash, the other driver or party must be entirely responsible for causing the car accident. If there is any doubt as to who caused the crash, the value of your claim decreases. Therefore, investigating the cause of the crash and gathering evidence to prove liability is crucial.

Allegations of comparative fault are used to reduce the value of your claim. The laws regarding comparative fault vary by state. In California, you could be 99 percent at fault for the cause of a car crash and recover up to one percent of the value of your damages. 

However, in Nevada, if you are 51 percent or more at fault for the cause of the crash, you cannot recover any money for your damages. In both states, the amount of compensation you receive for your claim decreases by the percentage of fault assigned to you for causing the car wreck.

2.  Statements About the Accident

Any statements you make at the accident scene can impact the value of your injury claim. For instance, if you say, “I’m sorry,” you could be accused of admitting you were at fault for the cause of the accident. Never apologize or admit fault at the accident scene. 

Likewise, any statements you give to an insurance company or questions you answer for an insurance claims adjuster could hurt your claim. Insurance adjusters are trained to “get people to talk.” The more you talk about the accident, the better chance the adjuster has of obtaining information the company can use to deny or undervalue your claim.

In most cases, it is wise to talk to a car accident attorney as soon as possible, especially if the claims adjuster is pressuring you to make a formal statement.

3.  Severity of Injuries

The severity and type of injuries a person sustains in a car crash impact the value of a claim. Traumatic and catastrophic injuries increase the value of a car accident claim. Minor injuries that do not require significant medical treatment lower the value of the claim.

Examples of injuries that can increase the value of a claim include, but are not limited to:

  • Paralysis
  • Severe burns
  • Amputations or loss of limbs
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Any permanent disability

Severe injuries generally result in more damages. Medical and personal care are more expensive for traumatic injuries. Also, traumatic injuries typically result in a higher amount of lost income because the duration of the recovery is longer. 

4.  Delays in Medical Treatment

Insurance companies search for ways to deny valid car accident claims. Delays in medical care give companies a reason to question your claim. 

The insurance company may claim that the car crash did not cause your injuries. It may argue that if you had been injured in the car accident, you would have seen a doctor immediately. It is generally best for your health and a future injury claim to see a doctor as quickly as possible after a car accident. 

5.  Financial Damages

If another driver is entirely responsible for causing the car accident, all financial damages should be reimbursed in a car accident claim. Therefore, the higher your financial damages, the higher the value of your car accident claim.

Financial damages in a car accident claim can include:

  • Loss of income and benefits
  • Medical expenses
  • Personal care costs
  • Medications and medical equipment
  • Therapies and counseling
  • In-home health care
  • Help with household chores
  • Travel expenses
  • Legal costs

Careful documentation is vital. You can only receive reimbursement for financial damages that you can prove you incurred.

6.  Activities During Recovery

Remember, nothing you post online is private. A defense attorney may gain access to your social media posts and other information posted online. It is best to avoid using social media accounts until after your car accident claim has been settled.

If you were to post a picture of yourself at your niece’s pool party, a jury might believe you are lying about the extent of your damages. It would not matter that you were in chronic pain and left 10 minutes later. The perception would have already been created.

Failing to follow your doctor’s treatment plan can also hurt the value of your claim. An insurance company may argue that you caused your injuries to become worse by not following the treatment plan. Because you caused your injuries to worsen, you do not deserve full compensation.

To avoid problems with your car accident claim, follow your doctor’s orders, avoid activities that contradict your injury claim, and stay off social media.

7.  Pre-Existing Conditions

Insurance companies often use pre-existing conditions as a way to undervalue car accident claims. The company claims your injuries are from a prior accident or medical condition instead of being caused by the car crash.

Having a pre-existing condition does not mean that you cannot recover compensation for a car accident claim. However, it can complicate the case. Always tell your attorney about any prior accidents and any medical conditions.

Most states require insurance companies and defendants to accept accident victims “as is.” In other words, you are entitled to compensation even if the accident caused a prior condition to become worse.

8.  Available Insurance Coverage

California and Nevada require drivers to carry minimum liability insurance. Unfortunately, the minimum insurance coverage is very low. If you sustain a severe injury, your car accident claim is likely to exceed the minimum coverage amount.

However, the insurance company is only required to pay your claim up to the policy limits. Therefore, the amount of insurance the other driver carries could impact the value of your car accident claim.

You could be entitled to additional compensation from your insurance company if you carry underinsured motorist coverage. 

9.  Permanent Disabilities and Impairments

Accident victims who sustain disabilities and permanent impairments are entitled to compensation for future damages such as:

  • Ongoing medical treatment
  • Personal care 
  • Future loss of income and benefits
  • Decreases in earning potential
  • Future pain, suffering, and loss of quality of life

The amount of future damages may be significant. Lost wages over a person’s lifetime could total millions of dollars. Medical experts, financial experts, economists, and other experts can calculate the value of future damages based on numerous factors.

10.  Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer

The insurance company is not going to tell you how much your claim is actually worth. It wants to pay as little as possible to settle your claim. Without an attorney, you cannot be sure that the insurance company is offering a fair amount to settle your claim.

Also, most insurance companies are familiar with the record and reputation of lawyers who handle injury claims. Because the insurance company knows that you have someone on your side who is knowledgeable about injury claims, it may take the claim more seriously and offer a higher settlement amount to avoid litigation.

Therefore, hiring a personal injury lawyer may give you the best chance of recovering the maximum value for your car accident claim.

Medical bill

How are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?

When a person is injured in an accident, the person generally sustains damages. If another party caused the accident, the victim might be entitled to compensation for those damages. 

Examples of cases in which a person might recover compensation for damages include:

  • Car accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Nursing home abuse cases
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Premises liability cases
  • Product liability claims
  • Boating accidents
  • Bicycle accidents

Damages in a personal injury case generally include financial damages and non-economic damages. The person may be entitled to punitive damages, although it is not common in most cases. Punitive damages “punish” the person who caused the injury for gross negligence and wrongdoing. 

Calculating Financial Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Financial damages are the economic losses incurred by the accident victim. Examples of financial damages include:

  • Medical bills and cost of treatment
  • Personal care and in-home health care
  • Help with household chores
  • Loss of wages, salary, and benefits
  • Decreases in earning potential
  • Travel expenses
  • Legal costs

The value of financial damages is the actual cost of an item or financial loss. Unfortunately, calculating non-economic losses is more complicated.

Calculating Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Pain and suffering” is the term used to describe non-economic damages. Under personal injury laws, a victim can receive compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the accident. 

Examples of pain and suffering damages include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress, including anxiety, PTSD, and depression
  • Mental anguish
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Disabilities and impairments
  • Loss of enjoyment of life or quality of life
  • Loss of consortium (loss of relationships with others, including spousal intimacy)

Valuing pain and suffering is challenging because a person’s experience after a car accident is unique and subjective. Each person experiences injuries differently. The same injury could cause one person great pain and distress, but another person may only suffer minor pain and inconvenience. 

Because there is not a “bill” or “invoice” for calculating pain and suffering, insurance companies consider several factors when valuing pain and suffering damages:

  • The type and severity of injuries the person sustained
  • The overall discomfort and pain associated with those types of injuries
  • The duration of the recovery
  • How the injury impacted the person’s daily life, including personal relationships, work, activities, etc.
  • The types of medical care required to treat the injuries
  • Whether the person sustained a permanent impairment or disability that requires ongoing care and treatment

Other factors may be considered when valuing pain and suffering damages based on the facts and circumstances of the case. Unfortunately, there is not a standard formula prescribed by law to calculate pain and suffering.

Multiplier Method vs. Per Diem Method

Many insurance companies use one of two methods for calculating pain and suffering damages.

Multiplier Method

The multiplier method uses the total cost of repairing the injuries (medical bills) as a basis for the value of pain and suffering damages. 

Depending on the above pain and suffering factors, the insurance company assigns a number for pain and suffering damages, usually between 1.5 and 5. Traumatic injuries, lengthy recoveries, and permanent impairments generally result in a higher multiplier. 

Pain and suffering damages equal your total medical expenses multiplied by the number. For example, if your total medical bills equal $50,000, and the multiplier is two, your pain and suffering damages would be worth $100,000.

An insurance company fights to keep the multiplier as low as possible. Your personal injury lawyer builds a strong case to argue for a higher multiplier based on the above pain and suffering factors.

Per Diem Method

The per diem method is used in some cases to calculate pain and suffering damages. The per diem method involves assigning a daily rate for pain and suffering. 

The value of your pain and suffering damages is the per diem multiplied by the total number of days between the date of injury and the date your doctor states you have reached maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement is the point at which no further medical treatment will improve your condition. 

The above pain and suffering factors are the basis for the per diem amount. Cases involving catastrophic injuries and disabilities usually have a higher per diem rate.

Working With a Personal Injury Lawyer

An insurance company has one goal – avoid paying large injury claims. Therefore, the claims adjuster is going to fight to keep the value of your pain and suffering damages as low as possible. Because pain and suffering are subjective, it can be easy for an insurance company to claim that a person is exaggerating.

Attorneys who handle personal injury cases understand how insurance companies calculate pain and suffering. They understand which factors can increase the multiplier or the per diem rate. They also know how to use medical evidence in a case to maximize the figures.

If you believe the settlement offer is low, it is a good idea to speak with a lawyer before accepting the offer. Once you settle your injury claim, you cannot pursue legal action for more money, even if you discover your damages are worth much more than the insurance company paid to settle the claim.

What Happens If I Don’t Show Up for Jury Duty?

Juries are used in both civil and criminal cases. For example, you may have a jury trial in a pedestrian accident case or a slip and fall accident case. You may also have a jury if you are charged with a crime and request a jury trial.

Penalties for Failing to Serve on a Jury

You must appear for jury duty if you receive a jury summons. The court may excuse your jury duty for a variety of reasons, but failing to show up for jury duty can result in penalties.

According to NRS 6.040, failing to attend and serve as a juror can result in a contempt of court charge. The judge may issue a fine of not more than $500 for missing jury duty.

Does My Employer Have to Let Me Off Work for Jury Duty?

Claiming that you cannot miss work is not a sufficient reason to miss jury duty. Nevada law requires employers to allow employees to miss work for jury duty. Employers who do not make accommodations for jury duty could be fined up to $1,000 and serve up to six months in jail.

An employer who fires an employee for attending jury duty could face up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Additionally, the employee may have a claim for wrongful termination.

How Can I Get Out of Jury Duty in Nevada?

There are some reasons why the court may excuse a person from jury duty. Common reasons why a person may request an excuse for jury duty include, but may not be limited to:

  • the person is 70 years of age or older;
  • the individual has a physical condition or disability that makes serving on a jury impractical;
  • the person maintains a fictitious address because of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual assault reasons;
  • service on a jury was completed within the last year; and,
  • the individual cares for a person with a disability or has young children with no options for care other than the individual.

If you have a conflict in your schedule with jury duty, the court may postpone your jury duty until another session of court. However, you need to contact the Clerk’s Office for the Nevada court in which you are to appear for jury duty as soon as possible. The sooner you contact the court, the better chance you have of the court granting your postponement request.

Disqualification for Jury Duty

Some people are not eligible to serve on a jury. Common reasons for jury ineligibility include:

  • minors under the age of 18 years;
  • people who are not United States citizens;
  • cannot speak English fluently;
  • individuals convicted of treason or felons who have not had their civil rights restored; and,
  • people who have been certified by a physician as being incapable of serving on a jury because of mental or physical impairments.

Before you assume you would be disqualified from jury duty, contact the Nevada Court for further clarification.

Preparing for Jury Duty in Nevada

If you cannot get out of jury duty, prepare for your service by finding out where you need to park and what time you need to appear. You should make sure that you leave plenty of time to arrive at court, locate a parking space, and enter the courthouse. Most courts provide detailed instructions for jurors on their websites.

Many courts have rules for attire in the courtroom. As a general rule of thumb, you may want to avoid wearing hats, sunglasses, flip-flops, shorts, tank tops, and garments that have offensive images or language. Business casual attire or church clothing is usually the best choice for jury duty attire.

Most courts do not permit jurors to bring cell phones in the courtroom. You can check with the Clerk’s Office for the rules regarding electronics in the courtroom. However, you may want to bring a book to read during long waits.

Serving on a Jury is an Important Duty

The right to a jury trial is an essential part of our legal system. While jury duty may be inconvenient, it is important. If you have a personal injury case against another person, that person may request a jury trial.

During the trial, you and the opposing party each present evidence and testimony to support your claims. The jury decides the facts of the case based on the evidence and testimony.

At the conclusion of the case, the jury considers all evidence and renders a verdict. Either party may appeal the jury verdict if they are unhappy with the verdict. The key to remember during jury duty is that if you were one of the parties, you would want everyone on the jury paying attention and using their best judgment to decide the case instead of wondering why they could not get out of jury duty.