Nine Factors That Determine How Much To Expect From a West Palm Beach Car Accident Settlement
Jenelyn | June 8, 2023 | Car Accidents
West Palm Beach sees more than its share of car accidents. Most accident victims settle their claims via private settlement. The question then becomes, “How much are you going to settle for?” Many factors determine the value of your initial settlement, and you shouldn’t settle for a dime less than your claim is worth.
Factor #1: Your Insurance Coverage
Unfortunately, Florida leads the nation in the percentage of uninsured drivers—more than 25%. Florida’s mandatory minimum insurance coverage is meager compared with other states. All you need to comply with the law is:
- $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance for your own bodily injuries; and
- $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) insurance for property damage you do to another driver’s car.
Other forms of auto insurance include uninsured motorist insurance, collision insurance, and comprehensive insurance. All of these forms of insurance are optional.
Factor #2: The Other Driver’s Insurance Limitations
Shockingly, Florida does not require its drivers to purchase bodily injury liability insurance. This means that the other driver might not have any. Additionally, if the other driver purchased only the minimum amount of PDL and your car was totaled, $10,000 might not be enough to cover your losses.
If the at-fault party was a commercial trucker, by contrast, the driver likely has more than enough insurance to cover your claim.
Factor #3: Comparative Fault
The concept of “comparative fault” applies when more than one party is at fault for an accident. Florida’s comparative fault system was recently modified to prevent parties that were more than 50% at fault for an accident from recovering any compensation at all. If your fault was 50% or less, however, a court will reduce your compensation by your percentage of fault.
Factor #4: The Extent of Your Injuries
In a Florida car accident, if your injuries are not “serious,” you must rely on your PIP insurance to cover them. Florida law includes some very specific wording that defines the term “serious” for insurance purposes. It is possible, although not likely, for your claim value to exceed $10,000 (the minimum PIP insurance policy limit) and still not be “serious.”
The question of whether your injuries are “serious” is one of the ambiguous areas where lawyers fight it out. For example, your injury is serious if it involves a “significant” loss of an “important” bodily function. But how significant” is “significant”? How important is “important”?
In the case of an amputation, for example, the case is probably open-and-shut. Less obvious cases can be difficult to predict in advance.
Factor #5: Your Lost Earnings and Diminished Earning Capacity
How long did your injuries keep you out of work? Have you returned to work yet? If you have, are you able to work the same amount of hours at the same job? Have your injuries resulted in a permanent disability that prevents you from resuming your pre-accident duties?
All of these issues go into calculating your lost earnings and diminished earning capacity. If you are young and your disability is severe, you might need an expert to help you calculate your losses.
Factor #6: Your Property Damage
You don’t have to prove that your injuries are “serious” to sue the at-fault driver for property damages or to file a third-party claim against their PDL insurance. In other words, even in a no-fault state like Florida, courts handle property damage on an “at-fault” basis.
Factor #7: Non-Economic Damages
“Non-economic damages” refer to hard-to-count psychological losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Because these losses are so intangible, it is difficult to predict how a court will value them.
How much is your pain worth? $50? $50,000? A lot depends on your lawyer’s communication skills.
Factor #8: The Overall Strength of Your Claim
The amount of money you are able to settle for is very strongly related to the overall strength of your claim. Unfortunately, it’s not the truth that matters so much as evidence. The more favorable admissible evidence you have collected, the more likely it is that the other side will offer a generous settlement. A good lawyer can help you gather admissible evidence.
One way to gather evidence for eventual settlement is to file a lawsuit and engage in the pretrial discovery process. Pretrial discovery is a way of gathering evidence that is in the other party’s possession. Since a court must supervise the discovery process, you cannot engage in it unless you first file a lawsuit. That doesn’t mean you will necessarily go to trial. You can file a lawsuit to gain access to pretrial discovery, and then drop it as soon as you reach a settlement.
Factor #9: Your (or Your Lawyer’s) Negotiating Skills
Your negotiating skills (or your lawyer’s) are completely irrelevant to the quality of your claim. If you have a strong claim, it shouldn’t matter how well you can negotiate. On the other hand, if you have a weak claim, you shouldn’t be able to strengthen it through smooth talk and skillful bargaining.
The reality is, however, negotiating skills matter a great deal. You can be sure that the opposing party, at least if it is an insurance company company, will send an experienced insurance adjuster to negotiate against you. Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators. Fortunately, so are experienced personal injury lawyers.
The Assistance of a West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Is Critical
Your choice of lawyer will probably be the most important decision you will make in your entire case. Everything else pales in comparison. Accordingly, schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. You are under no obligation to hire the lawyer just because you participated in a consultation.
Remember also that under the contingency fee system that most personal injury lawyers use, you only pay legal fees if you get compensation.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in South Florida
If you’ve been injured in an accident, please contact our experienced personal injury lawyers in Florida at Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today. We have three convenient locations in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.
Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Boca Raton Law Office
7000 W Palmetto Park Rd #500
Boca Raton, FL 33433
Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Fort Lauderdale Law Office
200 S.E. 6th Street #203
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – West Palm Beach Law Office
319 Clematis St #203
West Palm Beach, FL 33401