What is your auto accident case worth?
The short answer is probably a lot more than what the other driver’s insurance company is offering. A comprehensive study from the insurance industry itself showed that auto accident injury claims settle for an average of three to four times more when you’re represented by an experienced attorney.
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Frequenty Asked Questions about the Worth of an Auto Accident Case
Q. Does the state where my crash occurred matter?
What your case is worth changes depending on if you were injured in a “pure tort state” or a “No Fault” state.
Historically, attorneys and claims adjusters would determine settlement values in pure tort states by putting a multiple on your “specials,” that is, the total dollar amount of your medical bills and wage loss. The exact multiple would vary, depending on where the crash occurred, and other factors. Then the attorneys and claims adjusters would come up with a rough settlement number.
This has changed significantly with Colossus and other insurance company claims software programs. The attorney representing you, and his or her reputation at trial, is now one of the most important factors that insurance companies use today.
Michigan is a good example of a No Fault state. Some states, like Michigan, have very unique laws that make them different from the rest of the country. These states also often have injury threshold requirements, meaning that a person injured in a motor vehicle accident must suffer an injury that’s sufficiently serious in order to recover money damages, such as pain and suffering compensation in a lawsuit filed against the insurance company of the driver who caused your car accident.
Whatever state you were injured in, our attorneys can give you free evaluation of what your case is worth today.
Q. What are the qualifications to make sure you talk to an experienced, licensed attorney who can help you determine your automobile accident case value?
Our attorneys have worked with excellent automobile accident attorneys and have helped people throughout the country. If your accident occurred outside of Michigan, we can make a free recommendation on your behalf to a highly regarded, experienced local attorney who’s licensed in your state. This attorney can then answer your questions in detail and help you determine what the fair settlement value of your auto accident case will be in your legal venue.
In addition, attorney Steven Gursten is the current President of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association, a national association of auto accident attorneys. Steve has lectured at over 200 legal seminars across the country, teaching lawyers how to litigate car and truck accident cases, and how to maximize settlement value. Steve is the Past-Chair of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group. He also serves on the executive boards of several preeminent national lawyer organizations, including the Melvin M. Belli Trial Lawyers Society, the Taos Injury Lawyers Group, and the American Association for Justice Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group. In this capacity, Steve and the other attorneys at this law firm have worked with excellent and experienced auto accident attorneys throughout the country.
Q. What are the factors that determine how much my case is worth?
Here are some of the factors that insurance companies and insurance adjusters consider in assessing the settlement value of your injury claim after a motor vehicle accident in the state of Michigan:
Insurance policy Limits
- The liability policy limit of the at-fault driver who crashed into you.
- The liability policy limit of the owner of the vehicle being driven by the at-fault driver who crashed into you.
- The coverage limit on your uninsured and underinsured motorist policies.
- Whether there was no or very minor vehicle damage, significant vehicle damage or vehicle damage only, and no injury.
- Whether your injuries are fully resolved with minor treatment.
- Whether you’re still having pain and receiving medical treatment.
- The type of injury. For instance, an injury to neck, back or spinal cord or a minor sprain or strain, that is now resolved. Also, brain injury, lost consciousness or post-traumatic amnesia are considered.
- Whether you have fractures or an injury requiring surgery.
- The amount of time from work missed, or whether you’re off of work and/or have been disabled from work by a treating doctor.
Truck accidents and cashes involving commercial trucks
- If you were injured in a crash with a commercial truck, the minimum bodily injury liability policy limit is significantly higher than automobiles. Under federal law, trucks are required to have $750,000 in bodily injury liability insurance.
Q. How do insurance companies determine the value of a case?
Insurance companies use software programs to help determine the value of a case on their end, meaning what they want to offer to settle your case before it can go to trial. One of those programs is called Colossus. It is used by many of the country’s largest insurance companies, such as Allstate. Here’s a list of “Colossus Value Drivers”:
- Your diagnosed injuries.
- Your symptoms and the length of your symptoms.
- Your medical treatment and its duration.
- Your referrals to specialists.
- Your diagnostic testing and imaging testing, such as MRIs and EMGs that objectively manifest your injury.
- Your medical doctor’s prognosis.
- Your medical doctors. Generally, many of these claims software programs discount chiropractic treatment.
- Your impairment level. Your impairment level reflects lifestyle impact. It can include duration that you’re unable to return to work and what medical doctors have disabled you from working, performing household activities and enjoying hobbies and activities that you did before your automobile accident.
- Whether or not you have any pre-existing conditions, prior injuries, insurance claims or lawsuits.
- Your lawyer. Today, the insurance companies keep track of your lawyer and his or her track record. Does a lawyer settle cases “short” as they get closer to trial? Has it been years, or even decades, since your lawyer took a case to trial? Who the lawyer is can be one of the biggest value drivers in claims software programs. Bad faith litigation has exposed that some insurance companies will pay a settlement for up to four times more if you have an attorney who is experienced in litigating motor vehicle accident cases and has a reputation for being willing to take a case to trial if the settlement offers are too low.
Q. Do I need a lawyer?
The good news is, often you may not. The vast majority of automobile accidents are minor, and you may not need to hire a lawyer. Many smaller claims that do not involve injuries but do involve vehicle damage can be often be resolved without an attorney at all, under the state’s small claims courts or if the state has a mini tort law, just by submitting the correct forms and information.
However, if you were hurt in a car accident, speaking with an experienced lawyer is always a good idea. A lawyer can help answer your legal questions and make sure you’re protecting your legal rights. And when it comes to determining what your case may be worth, or what the settlement value is of your case, an experienced lawyer can make sure the other driver’s insurance company isn’t trying to take unfair advantage of you.
Another important takeaway is for people who are not represented but who are contacted by insurance company adjusters is to beware of “low-ball” settlement offers. There is, after all, a reason insurance companies try to contact accident victims and settle cases shortly after a car accident. The reason isn’t because they like to give away money. It is because it’s in insurance companies’ financial interest to do so.
Q. The insurance company is calling me. Are they offering what my auto case is really worth?
After a car accident, people will often find adjusters calling them at home, writing them letters, and even knocking on doors. Our clients have told us it feels like they’re literally being stalked by adjusters from the insurance company.
Why are they doing this?
Because insurance companies know it is in their financial interest to make settlement offers quickly, often just days or weeks after a car crash.
The insurance industry calculates that a represented claimant (a person who has hired a lawyer to represent them) may cost the insurance company up to four times more than an unrepresented claimant. That fact came from a study that was performed by McKinsey & Company consulting, which was hired by Allstate, the “good hands” people. It also began the advent over the past 25 years of insurance companies using injury claims software, such as Colossus.
This means one of two things for you:
If you were involved in a car accident, you have an injury that you and your doctors feel is fully resolved and is truly minor, you missed little or no time from work, your injuries have had no impact on your lifestyle, and an insurance company adjuster calls you at home and wants to write you a check, I often tell people to take it.
But if you’re still hurting, if you’re missing work, or if you have suffered any injury involving a traumatic brain injury or injury to the spine or spinal discs in your neck and back, then it’s not worth rushing into a settlement. At this stage, you truly have no idea what your auto accident case may be worth, or if these injuries can become progressively worse and disabling. Often, what can seem as minor can require surgery and have serious medical complications.
Our attorneys always recommend you discuss your injuries with a qualified and experienced auto accident lawyer so you can learn about all of your legal rights under No Fault, and what your settlement options may be. You could be leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table – and giving up vital legal rights and protections by settling too soon.
Remember, you don’t have to take what’s being offered by the insurance company.
Michigan is a very different state and our No Fault and auto accident threshold laws usually mean some amount of time must pass before you and your attorneys can have a clear idea of how much your auto case is worth.
We hope this information has helped you get a better understanding of what your case may be worth, and what the auto laws are in Michigan that you will be required to meet in order to recover a settlement.
We have listed on this page some of the key factors that go into determining what insurance companies consider when deciding upon the settlement value of an auto accident case that’s in litigation. Remember, the entire point of an insurance claims adjuster contacting you early on after a car accident is that he or she is seeking a substantial discount of what your case may be worth.
If you have further questions, our attorneys are happy to help and answer any questions you may have.