Legal cases involving accidental injuries are broadly referred to as personal injury cases. They can include all types of claims, including car accidents, dog bites, even construction accidents. Through the legal process, you can recover financial compensation – known as damages – for your losses.
The majority of personal injury cases are resolved outside of court, often through settlements. A skilled Long Island accident lawyer can often negotiate a favorable outcome with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Compensation in personal injury lawsuits can include money for lost wages, property damage, medical bills, future medical treatment, pain and suffering, and more.
At The Odierno Law Firm, our team of personal injury lawyers aggressively advocates for the rights of accident victims. We work hard to help you get maximum compensation for your injuries, whether we resolve the case through a settlement or go to trial. Reach out to schedule a free initial consultation with a Long Island personal injury attorney.
What Is a Personal Injury Settlement?
A personal injury settlement is an agreement that is reached after an injury victim files a claim or a lawsuit for an accident. Generally, in exchange for financial compensation from the at-fault party (defendant), the victim (plaintiff) agrees to give up their right to pursue legal action against the defendant for the accident. Because these types of agreements involve important legal rights, it’s critical that you do not agree to or sign any type of settlement before consulting with a lawyer.
In personal injury cases, a settlement may encompass three types of damages: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages are considered compensatory damages because they compensate an accident victim for their losses. Punitive damages punish someone who engaged in intentional or reckless conduct (such as drunk driving).
Economic damages pay for direct financial losses. They are usually proved through documentation such as medical bills, invoices, pay stubs, and estimates. Examples of economic damages include:
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Future medical care
Depending on the case, you may have other types of economic damages. For example, if you suffer severe injuries that leave you permanently disabled, then you may also recover money for modifications to your home and/or vehicle to make it accessible.
Non-economic damages pay for intangible losses. These are harder to prove, but an experienced Long Island personal injury attorney will use their experience and knowledge of similar cases to come up with a number. Non-economic damages include things like:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
While non-economic damages don’t have a particular dollar figure associated with them – unlike an estimate for car repairs – they are no less important. For many people, the emotional toll of an accident is far more lasting than any physical injuries.
Punitive damages are available in cases where the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly – something more than the typical negligence (carelessness) for most personal injury cases. There is no cap on punitive damages in New York. Punitive damages are awarded by a jury, so they are typically not part of a settlement.
Finally, in a wrongful death claim, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may bring a lawsuit to recover damages. A wrongful death settlement may include money for funeral and burial expenses, reasonable health care expenses, any financial support that the deceased would have contributed, the value of support and services that they would have provided, conscious pain and suffering of the deceased, the value of parental nurturing and care, and the survivors’ lost inheritance. Wrongful death cases have very strict rules regarding compensation, so it is important to consult with a lawyer who has experience in these types of claims.
How Is a Personal Injury Settlement Determined?
To understand how personal injury settlements are determined, it is necessary to understand the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit. In a typical case, an accident victim will file a claim with the responsible party’s insurance company, either on their own or through a lawyer. Typically, working with an attorney will help you get more compensation for your losses.
A lawyer will draft what is known as a demand letter to the insurance company. This letter will explain the facts of the case, why their insured is responsible under New York personal injury law, and then make a demand for compensation. This demand will be calculated based on the losses that the injury victim has suffered, using documentation like bills and receipts, expert witnesses, and knowledge of similar cases.
Insurance companies often use a formula that is based on a multiplier to come up with a value for a personal injury case. Generally, the amount of economic damages will be multiplied by a number from 1.5 to 5 or more to come up with a value for non-economic damages. The smaller number is for minor injuries, while the larger number is reserved for cases with more severe injuries.
For example, consider a case where a person suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other physical injuries in a bus accident. They will have lifelong deficits as a result of the accident. Their economic damages – including medical treatment and lost wages – are already over $500,000. Because this is a more serious injury, the total amount of their economic damages will be multiplied by a higher number, such as 4. This may lead to a non-economic damages award of $2,000,000.
Keep in mind that insurance companies are motivated to keep accident settlements as low as possible. They often underestimate non-economic damages, such as by using a much lower multiplier than your own attorney would use. It is critical that you do not simply accept the insurance company’s valuation of your case, as their goals do not align with yours.
Your lawyer will typically not agree with the insurance company’s valuation of your damages. They will develop a strong argument based on New York law, the facts of the case and their own experience to push back against the insurance company’s assessment. They will fight to get the insurance company closer to your original demand – and an amount that more fully compensates you for your losses.
Once your attorney sends a demand letter, the insurance company will usually respond with a counter offer. The two sides will go back and forth to negotiate an agreement that works for both parties. When necessary, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit to protect your rights and ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve for your losses.
Will I Get a Personal Injury Settlement for My Case?
The overwhelming majority of personal injury claims are resolved outside of court. In many cases, this means that the case is settled. However, it is sometimes necessary to go to court to get the money that you deserve for your injuries.
There are many reasons why insurance companies won’t offer a fair settlement. For example, during the discovery process, the parties exchange information about the case. If the insurer learns something that they think diminishes the value of your case – such as you being partially at fault for an auto accident – then they may try to negotiate an even lower settlement.
In the same way, your lawyer will request documents and evidence from the at-fault party during discovery. If they learn something from this information – such as if the driver of the car that rear-ended you was texting someone at the time of the crash – then they could use that to strengthen their negotiation position.
It is important to understand that the chances of going to trial for a personal injury claim are very low. However, it is possible. If the insurance company won’t give you the money that you deserve for your injuries, then your lawyer may take the case to trial. Typically, negotiations will continue right up until the eve of trial.
At trial, your attorney will present evidence, make arguments and question witnesses. The insurance company will have an opportunity to present their own case. At the end, your lawyer will ask a jury to return a verdict in your favor.
Insurance companies generally don’t like to roll the dice and take a case to trial. If you have a tough, experienced attorney by your side, they are far more likely to offer you a fair settlement. In this way, having skilled legal representation can increase the odds of a favorable resolution – and reduce the chances of going to trial.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Settlement?
It depends. In cases where liability is clear, it may take just a few months to get a settlement. However, if the insurance company disputes some aspect of your claim – including the extent of your injuries and who was responsible – then it may take closer to a year to resolve the case. If your case goes to trial, then it could take a year – or even several years – to settle it.
At the Odierno Law Firm, we are committed to keeping our clients updated throughout the process. We will advise you of your case status, and let you know what to expect based on our experience. To talk to a Long Island personal injury lawyer, reach out to our law offices today.
How Much Can You Get in a Personal Injury Settlement?
The value of your case is based on several factors, including the severity of your injuries, the size of the at-fault party’s insurance policy, and whether you were partially at fault for the accident. During a free initial consultation, your lawyer will give you a ballpark estimate of how much it might be worth. This number may increase or decrease as the case proceeds.
While no one can guarantee any particular outcome, the best way to get the compensation that you deserve for your injuries is by working with a Long Island personal injury attorney. They will work hard to get a settlement that fully compensates for your losses. Contact The Odierno Law Firm today to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team.
Will My Personal Injury Settlement Be Taxed?
In most cases, personal injury settlements for your direct financial losses (economic damages) will not be subject to personal income tax from the IRS. For example, the money that you get to cover your medical bills and your lost wages will be taxed. If you suffered a physical injury, then your non-economic damages – like emotional distress and pain and suffering – will not be taxed.
However, some parts of a personal injury settlement, like punitive damages, emotional distress not linked to a physical injury, and interest on the settlement, are taxable. A skilled Long Island personal injury lawyer will understand how these settlements are taxed, and can structure the settlement appropriately. Call The Odierno Law Firm today to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
Being hurt in any type of accident can be scary and overwhelming. You may not know what to do, or where to turn to help. The Odierno Law Firm is here for you.
From our law offices in Melville, New York, we fight for the rights of accident victims throughout Long Island. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a Long Island personal injury lawyer, give us a call at 631-994-1802 or fill out our online contact form.