How Lawyers and Insurance Companies Evaluate Illinois Injury Claims for Fair Settlement Value


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One of the most common questions that a personal injury lawyer is asked is what the value of a claim is. However, this is often difficult to compute and subject to a number of important variables. However, a personal injury lawyer can help an accident victim estimate the potential value of his or her claim.

High and Low Value Determined by Insurance Company

To an insurance company, the lowest potential settlement value of the claim is an outright denial while the high is whatever the insurance company is willing to pay to avoid having a sizable verdict lodged against it by a judge or jury. If the insurance company finds that a claim is justified, it may offer a low settlement to a victim. The insurance company representatives are hired to serve the insurance company’s interests, usually by offering as low of offers as possible to have a minimal impact on the insurance company’s bottom line. Insurance adjusters may offer a low settlement when a victim is not represented by legal counsel because the victim is often over his or her head. The victim may not realize the full value of his or her claim, and the insurance company may try to take advantage of this factor by offering a quick settlement value before he or she hires a personal injury lawyer. The insurance company may also make low offers if a victim is represented by a lawyer that never takes cases to trial. While the vast majority of accident claims are settled, the insurance company may lack an incentive to settle for a fair value if it does not reasonably believe that a jury verdict may be the alternative.

Recent Verdicts and Awards

The value of a case is also influenced by recent verdicts in the jurisdiction in similar cases. A jury consists of a panel of individuals in the jurisdiction. Juries in the same jurisdiction may reach similar results between cases. Likewise, the insurance company and lawyer may consider similar cases and what they settled for to estimate the value of the current claim.

Type of Injury Claim

The type of injury claim can also impact the total value of the claim. For example, a minor car accident claim would be worth less than a car accident claim that resulted in permanent disability. Motorcycle accident claims may be worth a different amount on average than other types of accidents. A wrongful death claim would likely be worth more than other types of claims. Medical malpractice claims may result in larger settlements, but they may be much more expensive to litigate.

Liability

When liability is clear, the value of the claim increases. The insurance company may be concerned that the jury will give a larger verdict, especially if the defendant’s acts were particularly egregious. In contrast, if liability is in question, the value of the claim will be lower. The personal injury lawyer will first have to prove that the defendant was responsible for the accident and then prove the extent of damages.

Damages

Damages represent how the plaintiff suffered harm because of the injury. Damages include the harm that can be easily quantified, such as medical expenses and wages or income that is lost because of the accident. They also include unquantifiable factors, such as mental anguish and pain and suffering. Potential damages include past and future medical expenses, lost earnings based on missed work, reduced income because of a permanent effect on a person’s ability to work, property damage, disfigurement, pain and suffering and emotional distress.

The Plaintiff’s Degree of Fault

Illinois uses a modified comparative fault to factor in the plaintiff’s own negligence. In Illinois, if the plaintiff is more at fault than the defendant, he or she is barred from pursuing the case. However, if the defendant is at a higher degree of fault, the plaintiff can pursue the case, but his or her compensation will be reduced by the amount of fault that he or she was responsible for. For example, if the plaintiff suffered $50,000 in damages but is found to be 10 percent at fault, his or her compensation would be reduced by $5,000 for a maximum value of $45,000. The insurance company will discount the value of a possible settlement by the plaintiff’s own degree of fault.

Legal Assistance

A personal injury lawyer can review a case and give an estimate about the potential value of a case and represent the victim’s interests throughout the process.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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