When you first begin the process of negotiation in your car accident claim, it is very important to have a full understanding of the potential value of that claim. You need to know how much you can recover, too, which is not going to be the same as the value of the claim. Start by finding out what the maximum potential recovery for the car accident claim could be.
To do this, you’ll need to know how much insurance is available for your claim. You should find out how much liability coverage the at-fault driver has by using the NRS 690B.042, which in Nevada requires the other driver to release proof of their liability insurance when they receive a list of your health care providers and a receipt of medical authorization. If you look into the insurance company of the other driver, you may be able to get some kind of idea of how much insurance coverage might be available. While some insurance companies will only offer minimum polices (with the minimum required insurance in Nevada), larger companies (like State Farm, Allstate, Farmers) will provide polices that are above this minimum. The minimums that you need to be aware of for liability insurance coverage in Nevada are $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.
Depending on other variables, you may be able to find additional liability coverage insurance polices. For example, the other driver may not own the vehicle, meaning that you can recover money from the insurance company of the driver and the owner of the vehicle. The insurance company of the owner of the vehicle will provide primary liability coverage and the insurance company of the driver will provide secondary liability coverage. This is particularly common with employees who are driving the vehicle of their employer, and in these situations there is likely to be a larger commercial policy.
With very large businesses, there may be layered coverage, so that one company provides the initial liability policy and other companies provide the layered excess policies. If you discover that the other driver’s insurance policy is at or above $100,0000 per person and $300,000 per accident, there is a good chance that an umbrella policy will provide excess liability coverage up to $1 million.
A car accident attorney will be able to help you figure out exactly how much liability coverage is available for your specific claim and will then help you take a look at your own insurance. You may have medical payments coverage on your Nevada car insurance policy, and that will mean that you don’t have to repay the medical bills that aren’t covered by the other driver’s insurance. This can also substantially increase the net recovery of your claim, though some circumstances will cause this to be offset. For example, if you make a claim for an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist with your own company, you may not receive as much medical payments coverage.
You will be able to calculate the maximum potential recovery of your claim when you examine all of the insurance coverage that is available for your car accident. Do not count on the at fault driver being able to cover damages that are above and beyond what their insurance can cover. This is rare.
In many situations, the actual value of the car accident claim is much higher than what will be covered by liability and uninsured/underinsured coverage.
Many people wonder if they can get more money than the liability limits from the insurance company of the at-fault driver. It is possible in some situations, but it is not very common or likely. The way to attempt this would be to seek an assignment from the defendant of his or her bad faith cause of action with his or her insurance company. You can do this if the insurance company refused to settle your claim within their limits and your judgment is above the limit of the insurance coverage. You will then file a suit to assign liability of the claim to the insurance company.
Once you know the maximum amount that you could potentially recover from your car accident claim, you need to figure out the worth of your claim. This can hard to do in the beginning, but it helps to know the basic and general rules for doing so.
To begin with, you need to know that insurance companies see injuries as more serious and probable when the property damages to the vehicles are higher. This means that they will be more likely to offer a higher settlement amount and avoid going to trial.
In many situations, the vehicle won’t show a lot of damage, especially as new technology keeps cars intact after a lot of accidents. In a case where there is minimal damage, the insurance companies will view it as a low impact claim and will offer a very low settlement amount. You can then expect the case to wind up in litigation where a jury may not sympathize with the injuries of a low impact case. The defense will be working against you to suggest that you are dishonest, that your injuries are not real or significant, and that you are only suing for undeserved profit. They will hire plenty of experts, doctors, and engineers, to testify that there was no injury potential caused by the accident, regardless of whether or not you ended up needing surgery or other significant medical care for your injuries.
If the at-fault driver is accused of egregious behavior (such as drinking, doing drugs, speeding, racing, or other reckless behavior), this can greatly raise the value of your claim. The insurance company won’t want to take this case to trial because the jury will not sympathize with the defendant.
Your claim will also be worth more if no pre-existing injuries exist. If there are pre-existing injuries that you have been treated for and/or filed claims for, and if your claim is focused on these areas, you can still recover a settlement, but it may be worth less.
Remember that an insurance company can always access your history of filing claims when they receive your social security number or birth date because all accident claims are indexed within a country-wide computer database that most insurance companies work with.
In some cases, there will be fault on both drivers (comparative fault). If this is so, your claim will have a lower value. If you are not at fault in any way, then your claim will have a higher value. If you did have some fault in your case, the insurance company will attempt to maximize the amount of fault that you are liable for in an attempt to reduce the value of your claim. The rule in Nevada is that you cannot recover anything if your fault in the accident is over 51%.
Whether or not you’re going to end up in litigation can often be predicted by the insurance company’s first settlement offer. For example, if your medical bills are over $15,000 and the insurance company only offers $1,000, you can expect to have to fight harder to receive a fair settlement amount.
Although a lot of people will tell you that having larger medical bills in your car accident case is sure to maximize your recover, this is not always the case. In the example above where your injuries create over $15,000 in medical bills, you may have received treatment from a chiropractor without your doctor’s referral. Simply receiving treatment like this without a referral can constitute an argument that the treatments were excessive. Your claim will have a higher value if you make sure that your injuries are substantiated by thorough evaluations and diagnostic testing and that all of your treatments are approved and referred by your health care provider. Remember that you will still have to pay your medical bills if you end up losing your case.
What Other Factors Can Increase The Value Of Your Claim?
When your injuries are clearly visible in person or in a diagnostic test (like an x-ray), your claim will have a higher value. If your injuries are not visible, then the claim will be worth less overall. A jury will be more inclined to sympathize with visible injuries and assess more value to these, meaning that the insurance company will want to avoid a trial where injuries like the following are visible:
- Significant Bruising
- Broken Bones
- Significant Scarring
- Open Wounds
Lost wages will also add value to your claim if you can verify that you have been unable to work due to the seriousness of your injury. Permanent physical disability, which can include disfigurement or lost functioning of part of your body, will also increase the value of your claim.
You can also find that your claim has more value if you’ve experienced missed opportunities to enjoy and promote your family, your social life, your education, your work-related training, your recreational activities, etc. Even emotional damages like stress, depression, and embarrassment can raise the value of the claim. If you experience strain on relationships, are unable to care for children and other dependents, or find that the accident interferes with your sexual relationships, these factors can also result in a claim that has a higher value.
Special damages (medical expenses) differ from general damages (pain, suffering, other losses). Many people believe that the value of a car accident claim can be determined by multiplying medical bills. One example is to multiply the total amount of medical bills by three. This system is not favored by insurance companies because it indicates that more medical bills will result in a more expensive claim.
When it comes to lost wages, you cannot multiply the amount, but are only going to receive compensation on a dollar for dollar basis.
How much your claim is really worth can depend on so many factors that it is wisest to discuss your case with an attorney to get a more accurate estimated potential recovery. In some cases, a jury will give very little compensation compared to what a claim should be worth, and in others, they will give a much higher judgment than what the settlement is worth, especially if there was egregious conduct.
Another major factor in establishing the value of your claim will be the reputation of your attorney. If your attorney has a high peer rating or a high rate of success in car accident cases, your claim will be worth more. On that note, you can still win a bad case with a bad attorney and you can still lose a case with a good attorney.
You also need to keep in mind that an insurance company will try to downplay the significance of future treatment and medical expenses. These future costs increase the value of your claim, but you will want an attorney on your side to argue the case.
Should You Litigate Your Auto Accident Claim?
It is not an easy task to accurately calculate exactly what your car accident claim in Nevada is worth, and a jury may struggle to assign a specific monetary value to your case. There are a few things to think about when it comes to whether or not you should take your claim to litigation.
In some cases, an insurance adjuster can actually earn a commission for settling your claim for a lower amount than what they allowed to by the insurance company they work for. The insurance adjuster will always be motivated to settle the claim for less, and even more so in these situations.
An auto accident trial can also be very time consuming and very expensive. The medical experts alone can cost $5,000 to $10,000 to testify, and you might need multiple experts and doctors to do this.
When it comes to your own personal injury case, your either going to face a jury that is sympathetic to your injuries or a jury that is not. If a jury member expresses that he or she has had a personal injury claim in the past, the defense will quickly strike that jury member from the case. This is why jurors who are pro-plaintiff are more honest during questioning, and jurors who are pro-defendant are more likely to have a hidden bias that may not be discovered during questioning.
In most cases, a personal injury accident will settle before it ever gets to litigation. However, it may be necessary for the attorney and health insurance carriers to compromise to ensure that the injured person is adequately compensated for their claim.
Ultimately, every case will be different, and it will not be possible to figure out the exact value of your claim until an extensive investigation and insurance adjuster review is completed. Even once this is done, the results may not be entirely accurate. When it comes to insurance adjusters, the goal is to get you to settle for as little as possible, so you need to be aware of this as your case is investigated.
Having an auto accident attorney can make all the difference when it comes to receiving adequate compensation for your case. Your attorney will focus on the following factors to determine the true value of your auto accident claim:
- Value of Vehicle – Your attorney will take into account the pre-accident value of your vehicle and the cost of repairs that are necessary.
- Liability – Your attorney can also help you to establish your percentage of split liability or shared liability. This will lessen the recovery you can receive if you were partly at fault.
- Physical Injury -Your attorney will also account for any physical injuries that have occurred with a thorough review of medical records and expenses.
- Non-Economic Damages – Your attorney will calculate non-economic damages, like pain and suffering and lost ability to enjoy life.
- Additional Factors – Your attorney will investigate the details of your accident to establish any additional factors (like road and vehicle defects) that may affect your case.
Learn more about the value of your case by contacting a Nevada auto accident attorney today.