If you've been injured, whether in a car accident, slip-and-fall, by a defective product, because of negligent maintenance, in an attack by a vicious dog or by some other means, the most important thing is your recovery. You need the right medical treatment, rest, rehabilitation and time in order to get your health back. Unfortunately, your injury could affect more than your physical health; the stress of missing work, piling up medical bills and financing your treatment could actually be setting you behind in your recovery.
With those worries at the forefront of your mind, you could be tempted to accept the first settlement offer that an insurance company presents to you. You should think very, very carefully about doing that, though, because accepting a settlement could mean that you are jeopardizing valuable future legal rights.
Have you thought about the financial ramifications of your injury?
Particularly if you've never been involved in a legal issue before, you may not realize the types of damages to which you are entitled following an injury. The various different types of allowed claims can be well demonstrated with an example. Let's say you were hurt in a car accident because a distracted driver ran a red light and struck your vehicle. That driver is found to be 100 percent at fault for the crash.
Obviously, the other driver's insurance company will need to pay for the repairs to your vehicle. You also deserve compensation to cover your medical expenses related to the accident, which can include:
- Ambulance transport
- Emergency room charges (including for the facility, individual physicians, tests, X-rays, lab work, medications, medical equipment like crutches and casts, and more)
- Primary care physician co-pays for follow-ups
- Specialist referrals
- Physical therapy
- Pain management (this could involve palliative care specialists or alternative treatments like chiropractic care, acupuncture, steroid injections or therapeutic massage)
There are other, incidental costs that can also be directly tied to your injury. These should also be accounted for in an insurance settlement, and will depend on the extent of your injuries and your prognosis for recovery, but may include:
- Lost wages
- Physical disability
- Mental health concerns (many accident victims end up depressed or develop anxiety; it may be possible to recover compensation for treatment like antidepressant medication or psychotherapy to better cope)
- Necessary domestic charges or rehabilitation associated with your injuries (if you, for example, become paralyzed in an accident, you may need to put in a wheelchair ramp or stair lift to accommodate you; you may also need help around the house while you adjust)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship or consortium to your loved ones
This list isn't exhaustive, and you could possibly suffer losses directly tied to a personal injury that might not be included here. Understanding the broad range of financial implications of a serious injury is important when you've been hurt; if you don't know to what you are entitled, there is a very good chance you could unwittingly accept a settlement that is far less than what you need and deserve. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you run a cost/benefit analysis on any proposed insurance settlement, and help you determine whether to accept it, whether a counter-offer is appropriate, or if litigation might be the best route to ensure that you are fully compensated.