Most lawyers will tell you that the first step in determining what a reasonable settlement might be in a personal injury claim, such as an auto accident, is calculating a reasonable amount of money you might accept to give up your claim. Insurance companies and attorneys rely on a specific formula to get a starting point for settlement negotiations. A common formula uses a multiplier plus your medical expenses to calculate an estimate of your non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. This amount is added to your economics losses, such as medical bills, property damage and lost income, to give you an amount from which you can negotiate.
A settlement calculator takes into account:
- Medical expenses, which are the total of all your medical bills including those you did not pay out-of-pocket
- Property damage, commonly used in auto accident cases
- Lost earnings, if you missed work because of your injuries
- Future lost earnings, if you will be missing any work in the future due to your injuries
- Future medical expenses, if you will require continued treatment
- A multiplier for general damages because it is tricky to quantify ‘pain and suffering’
When you and your attorney decide on an amount, you must then determine and adjust the settlement amount according to what percentage of fault for the accident belongs to you. If your own carelessness or negligence contributed to the accident, the law requires that your award be reduced by the percentage of fault. There are three basic types of contributory and comparative negligence rules. These are:
- Pure comparative negligence: In states like New York, the amount of your award will be reduced by your percentage of fault with no limits.
- Modified comparative negligence: In states such as Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont, the amount of your award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. However, if your own fault is more than 50%, you cannot receive damages. Therefore, the settlement amount is much less than your damages and can even be zero.
- Contributory negligence: In states such as Alabama, Maryland and Virginia, you cannot receive damages if you are even 1% at fault. Your settlement amount would then be zero.