Nobody pulls out of their driveway in the morning planning to get in an accident, but the unfortunate reality is that every day across the United States, there is an average of 16,438 car accidents. No matter how safe and diligent of a driver you may be, you will always be at the mercy of the others on the road, and if someone chooses to drive in a negligent or reckless way, you and your passengers are at risk of an injury — or even wrongful death. After an accident, it is common for the victims to file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company, or with their own insurance policy in the unfortunate event that the responsible driver was the 1 in 4 Florida drivers who is illegally uninsured. Regardless of who you will seek compensation from, the most important thing is that you get the money you deserve, which can be more difficult than expected.
Insurance companies focus almost solely on paying as little as possible for any given claim, regardless of the fact that their policyholder caused the accident, and regardless of the extent of the damages the victims suffer. If you take on the insurance claims process alone, you can be certain that the insurance adjuster assigned to your case will spend a significant amount of their time looking for ways to poke holes in your claim, NOT looking for every damage you are entitled to. Working with a personal injury attorney is the best way to get the money you deserve while getting the space you need to focus on your recovery.
Contact Lewis & Castagliola, P.A. For a Free Car Accident Consultation Today
We offer a free case evaluation to victims of auto accidents so we can discuss the specifics of the St. Petersburg crash, the injuries and damages sustained, and get a better sense of how we can work together. Trying to make sense of your situation — especially as you try to come to terms with your injuries and the impacts on your life — can be overwhelming, and this anxiety and stress can lead to many people simply accepting the first offer from the insurance company. We will not agree to the low offer the insurance company makes, and will instead fight on your behalf to get you the money you deserve.
Contact us now so we can start working on your case today. The sooner we are representing your case, the sooner you can forget about taking on the stress of your insurance claim and focus solely on your recovery and getting your life back on track.
The Importance of Working With a Car Accident Attorney
From the moment the insurance company learns of your accident, a claims adjuster will be assigned to your case to go through all of the relevant information and ultimately offer you a settlement check to cover the damages you have suffered. The problem with this investigation, though, is that it is exceptionally one-sided, and insurance companies are almost solely focused on paying as little as possible to settle claims. When the claims adjuster interviews you about the accident, request copies of invoices and receipts or requires you to go through an independent medical exam, their primary goal is to limit the amount of money you are eligible for by identifying loopholes, technicalities, and other methods to place as much blame and responsibility on you as they are able.
At a time in your life where you are in pain, distressed, and losing money from missed work as your medical bills pile up, the pages of legalese they present to you about why you deserve so little can be overwhelming, and few people choose to fight back on their own. Your options at this point are to a) negotiate directly with the insurance company; b) accept the one-time payment and waive your rights to any future action, or; c) hire an auto accident attorney in St. Petersburg, FL to fight for what you deserve. We encourage you to work with an attorney so you are not shouldered with the financial burden of someone else’s reckless decisions.
You Deserve a Fair Settlement
You are entitled to compensation for all of the damages you incur, contrary to what the insurance company would like you to believe. Too often, people accept the initial settlement offer in a panic as they watch their bills mount and their wages dip, but when you are working with a personal injury attorney you can explore a variety of ways to ease your financial burdens as they fight to get you the money you deserve. When a personal injury victim approaches the insurance company on their own, the adjuster knows that they have more leverage to reach a low settlement than if the victim is represented by a St. Petersburg auto accident attorney from the start. When you are working with Lewis & Castagliola, P.A., they will know you mean business.
Less Stress = A Better Recovery
It’s been repeatedly shown that stress can significantly impede recovery from physical injuries, and the insurance claims process is nothing if not stressful. When you have an experienced attorney handling your case, you won’t need to take on the emotional burden of the claims process; instead, you will be able to get updates on your case as we take on the heavy lifting. In addition to reducing your stress, knowing you are working towards a settlement that will adequately compensate your damages can keep you from returning to work too early, straining injuries by pushing too hard, or ignoring your needs out of financial obligation. We want to make sure that you are taken care of physically AND financially so you can get your life back on track on your own terms, and out of respect for your own needs.
Calculating a Fair Settlement After a St. Petersburg Car Accident
The most important question throughout our work together is that of compensation: how much are you owed as a result of your injuries and the associated damages of your car accident? At first glance, it may seem that a fair settlement simply addresses your property damage, your medical bills, and your lost wages, but this could not be further from the truth. The reality is that there are many damages, both financial and emotional, that you deserve adequate compensation for, and these amounts are something that personal injury attorneys are very experienced and skilled at calculating.
The following are the two types of damages your attorney will be seeking on your behalf, known as economic damages and non-economic damages, as well as an explanation of comparative fault, a legal mechanism that can have a significant impact on your final award.
Economic damages are the basis of your insurance claim and cover any damage that has a measurable value. If this seems confusing, it will make more sense when you understand what non-economic damages are, and what they cover. Economic damages include things like your medical bills and all of the costs associated with your recovery, which tend to make up the bulk of your claim. In addition, they include your lost wages and any impacts to your ability to earn money, as well as a range of additional expenses and losses.
If you had to hire services such as a driver, a cleaner, someone to go grocery shopping for you, or any other service that you were unable to perform on your own due to your injuries, your attorney will also include these in their negotiations, as these costs are a direct result of your accident. There are many other economic damages that may or may not apply to your case, each of which your St. Pete car accident attorney will be able to explore with you.
Non-economic damages tend to be more complicated to calculate, and are typically met with more resistance from the insurance company due to their abstract nature. Non-economic damages seek financial compensation for impacts that do not have a set and measurable dollar value, including things like the pain and suffering you have endured from your injuries, the emotional toll that the trauma of your accident and the agony of your injuries, and many more. Insurance companies tend to balk at a victim’s request for non-economic damages but are more receptive when an experienced attorney submits these damages as part of their negotiations.
There are a number of methods at a personal injury attorney’s disposal to quantify non-economic damages, and it is important for them to seek the maximum amount you deserve without making egregious or unrealistic requests that could damage negotiations. One such method involves a scale that indicates the severity of your cumulative non-economic damages and then using this number as a multiplier against your economic damages. For example, if you and your attorney have determined that your non-economic damages are a “2” and you have $100,000 in economic damages, then this method will seek 2 x $100,000, or $200,000, in non-economic damages.
Pure Comparative Fault
Calculating all damages is a major step in the process, but Florida uses a rule known as pure comparative fault that will also have a significant impact on the amount you ultimately receive. Pure comparative fault allows for a victim to receive compensation even if they had some degree of responsibility in the accident, known as contributory negligence, and reduces the final award by the amount they are held responsible. For example, if you were in an accident and the insurance company argues that you could have taken action to avoid it, they may claim that you are 20% accountable for the accident.
When a percentage is assigned to the victim, their final settlement is reduced by this amount. Using our previous example of $100,000 in economic damages, a 2x multiplier for $200,000 in non-economic damages, and 20% comparative fault, your total damages would be $300,000, and your final settlement would be reduced by 20% to $240,000. As you can imagine, insurance companies will try to use this rule to their advantage as aggressively as possible, so at the same time your lawyer is calculating your damages, they will need to fight to be sure that you do not accept any more liability than is accurate.