A Washington Injury Lawyer Discusses Pain and Suffering Settlements
Pain and suffering is part of every case that involves an injury, and every personal injury victim is entitled to pain and suffering compensation.
Pain and suffering includes such things as emotional distress, loss of companionship, disability and disfigurement. While it is a fairly straightforward matter to calculate a dollar figure for medical expenses and wage loss “simply add up the all of the bills and hours missed from work” it is more difficult to grasp how pain and suffering settlements are determined, explains a Washington injury lawyer.
How much can I expect from a pain and suffering settlement?
The amount of a pain and suffering settlement depends upon the nature and extent of the injury. The more serious the injury, the more compensation you will receive. For example, a permanent injury with ongoing pain and suffering is eligible for a higher award than one from which you have completely recovered and that has no lasting effects. There is also compensation for emotional pain and suffering, such as the loss of a loved one.
What happens if the case cannot be settled through the negotiation process?
For example, lets say you are in a car accident where Mrs. Smith runs into your car. Mrs. Smith is insured by Acme Insurance. If you can’t settle the case through the negotiation process, you would sue Mrs. Smith. Acme Insurance will hire a lawyer to represent Mrs. Smith at no cost to her and will pay for any damages for which Mrs. Smith is found responsible up to the limits of her insurance policy. In this example, Mrs. Smith’s policy pays up to $50,000, but it is undisputed that your damages are actually $100,000.
At this point, a Washington injury lawyer at The Law Offices of Loren S. Etengoff will determine if you have under insured motorist coverage. This is coverage that you have purchased from your insurance company that allows you to make a claim with your insurance company for the difference between what the under insured motorist’s policy will pay (in Mrs. Smith’s case, $50,000) and what your under insured motorist policy will cover.
It is rare that a Washington injury lawyer at The Law Offices of Loren S. Etengoff would attempt to go after a person’s assets, because if they have a great deal of assets, it is likely they will have adequate insurance coverage. If they do not have much in the way of assets, they can simply file bankruptcy so it is likely that going after the assets of Mrs. Smith in this case would not benefit the injured party.
Who will pay for my medical bills during treatment?
You may assume that your treatment will be covered by Mrs. Smith’s insurance company (Acme Insurance); however, this is not the way it works. Acme Insurance will not pay for your medical treatment until the case is settled, and the case is not settled until you reach maximum medical improvement.
First, the extent of your medical expenses will not be known until you have finished treatment. But more importantly, your pain and suffering settlement depends on factors that won’t be discovered until your course of treatment has been completed.
For example, if you are only at 80 percent recovery after reaching maximum medical improvement and your pain and suffering is expected to continue for the rest of your life, you will be eligible for a greater pain and suffering settlement than a person who recovered fully in six months.
In the meantime, your medical expenses will be covered by your Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This is coverage you have purchased through your insurance company. In Washington, the standard policy will pay up to $10,000 in medical bills incurred up to three years from the date of the accident.
PIP insurance is primary and pays before your health insurance or the other person’s insurance company. This gives you the freedom and right to choose any type of doctor you wish, regardless of your health coverage. So if you want to see a chiropractor or a physical therapist or an acupuncturist, you can make that choice.
What can happen, though, is that your insurance company may not want to pay the $10,000 and may recommend that you contact a doctor they suggest. You agree to see their doctor, only to have that doctor say you’re fine, which gives the insurance company an excuse to cut off your PIP payments. By hiring a Washington injury lawyer to manage your pain and suffering case, you have an advocate who can advise you in such situations and direct you to the appropriate doctors.
It’s important to remember that when the insurance company has the power to select your physician, that physician may place the interests of the insurance company above your own. If you wait to retain a lawyer until after you’ve had a dispute with your insurance company following a PIP exam, you have made the case that much more difficult, which could result in a reduced pain and suffering settlement.
A good rule of thumb is when in doubt, consult a personal injury attorney. And remember, personal injury cases create no out-of-pocket expenses for you because you only pay the attorney after the pain and suffering case is settled.
Contact The Law Offices of Loren S. Etengoff today and find out if you have a case that will result in a pain and suffering settlement.