If you've been injured and are considering a personal injury settlement, you may be wondering how much to ask for. The amount you can receive in a settlement varies depending on the severity of your injuries, but there are some factors that will influence the offer made by the insurance company.
In this post, we'll discuss some of those factors and give you an idea of what to expect in terms of a payout. Keep in mind that every case is unique, so it's best to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to get a better idea of what you could potentially receive.
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Types of Personal Injury Settlements
A personal injury settlement is an agreement between the plaintiff (that's you, or whoever filed the claim), and one or more defendants (the insurance company for the person who injured you, or for a third-party responsible for your injuries).
In North Carolina, there are two different methods of settling a case. In a lump sum personal injury settlement, a single payment is given to the plaintiff in exchange for waiving the right to future claims related to the incident. In a structured settlement, a series of payments are made over time and court oversight is required as long as the defendant has financial responsibility for injuries.
These two methods may also be combined, such as receiving part of your compensation now, and part later. North Carolina law requires that a structured settlement must be approved by the court before it can become finalized, however, generally, this is a much slower process than negotiating a lump sum settlement.
Lump Sum Personal Injury Settlement
A lump sum personal injury settlement refers to a single, upfront payment that is awarded to a person who has suffered injuries or damages due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another party. This type of personal injury settlement is a negotiated agreement between the injured party (plaintiff) and the party at fault or their insurance company (defendant), often facilitated by legal representatives.
Instead of receiving periodic payments over time, the plaintiff receives a one-time payment that covers all agreed-upon damages and compensation.
Lump sum personal injury settlements can cover various types of damages, including:
- Medical Expenses: Compensation for past and future medical bills related to the injury, such as hospitalization, surgeries, doctor's visits, medications, and rehabilitation costs.
- Lost Wages: Reimbursement for income lost due to the injury, including missed work days, reduced earning capacity, and potential future lost wages if the injury results in a long-term disability.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and the overall suffering experienced due to the injury. This can be more challenging to quantify, as it involves non-economic damages.
- Disability and Impairment: Compensation for long-term or permanent disability, impairment, and the impact on the plaintiff's quality of life.
- Loss of Consortium: Compensation for the loss of companionship, support, and services of a spouse or family member due to the injury.
- Property Damage: If the injury also resulted in damage to the plaintiff's property, such as a vehicle in a car accident, this can be included in the settlement.
- Legal Fees and Costs: The settlement may also include reimbursement for the plaintiff's legal fees and costs associated with pursuing the claim.
Benefits of Lump Sum Personal Injury Settlements
Lump sum settlements offer certain advantages. They provide immediate access to funds, allowing the injured party to cover medical bills and other expenses promptly. This can be particularly helpful when facing financial strain due to the injury. Additionally, lump sum settlements bring closure to the legal process, sparing both parties from prolonged litigation.
Pitfalls of Lump Sum Personal Injury Settlements
However, there are also potential downsides. Calculating an appropriate lump sum requires accurately estimating future medical costs, lost wages, and non-economic damages. There's a risk of underestimating these costs, which could leave the plaintiff financially vulnerable in the long run. Consulting with legal and financial professionals is essential to ensure that the settlement amount adequately addresses present and future needs.
Lump sum personal injury settlements vary widely based on the circumstances of each case, the extent of the injuries, the degree of fault, and the jurisdiction's laws. It's crucial for injured parties to consult with experienced personal injury attorneys to negotiate a fair and just settlement that encompasses all relevant damages and adequately supports their recovery and well-being.
Structured Personal Injury Settlement
A structured personal injury settlement is an alternative to a traditional lump sum settlement in personal injury cases. In a structured settlement, the compensation awarded to the injured party is paid out over a period of time in the form of regular, scheduled payments, often spread out over months, years, or even decades. These payments are typically managed by an insurance company or a qualified third party, ensuring that the injured party receives a consistent stream of income to cover their ongoing needs and expenses.
Structured settlements are particularly common in cases where the injured party has sustained long-term or permanent injuries that will require ongoing medical care and support. Instead of receiving a single lump sum payment upfront, the injured party receives periodic payments that are tailored to meet their financial needs, including medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs.
Advantages of structured personal injury settlements include:
- Steady Income: Structured settlements provide a reliable source of income over an extended period, which can help injured parties manage their expenses and maintain financial stability.
- Tax Benefits: In many cases, the income from structured settlements is tax-free, which can be advantageous compared to taxable investment earnings.
- Long-Term Financial Security: Structured settlements help ensure that the injured party's future financial needs are met, especially if they are unable to work due to their injuries.
- Protection from Mismanagement: The structured settlement is typically administered by a professional, ensuring that the funds are managed and distributed responsibly.
- Customization: Payments can be customized to align with the injured party's changing needs, such as increased medical expenses or major life events.
- Avoiding Lump Sum Pitfalls: Structured settlements reduce the risk of mismanaging a large lump sum of money, which could be spent quickly or invested unwisely.
It's important to note that structured settlements are not suitable for everyone. Some injured parties may prefer the flexibility of a lump sum payment, especially if they have immediate financial needs, such as paying off debts or purchasing necessary items. Additionally, the terms of a structured settlement are binding once agreed upon, and changing the structure of the settlement after it's been established can be challenging.
The decision between a lump sum settlement and a structured settlement depends on various factors, including the injured party's financial situation, the extent of their injuries, and their long-term needs. Consulting with a personal injury attorney and a financial advisor is crucial to fully understand the implications of each option and make an informed decision that best suits the injured party's circumstances.
How to File a Personal Injury Claim
Filing a personal injury claim involves several essential steps to seek compensation for injuries sustained due to another party's negligence. Begin by promptly seeking medical attention for your injuries and collecting any relevant evidence, such as accident reports, photographs, and witness statements.
Next, consult a personal injury attorney who specializes in your type of case to evaluate the merits of your claim and guide you through the legal process. Your personal injury attorney will assist in preparing a comprehensive claim, including a description of the incident, your injuries, and the damages you're seeking.
The claim is then typically submitted to the responsible party's insurance company, initiating negotiations. Throughout the process, maintain open communication with your attorney, adhere to legal deadlines, and consider their guidance on whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to litigation if a fair resolution cannot be reached.
Steps for Filing a Personal Injury Claim
- Immediately seek medical attention if you are injured.
- Gather evidence at the scene of the accident, including photos and witness statements.
- Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your case.
- Cooperate with your lawyer and provide any requested documentation.
- Do not speak to the insurance company or sign any documents until you have spoken with your lawyer.
- Wait for a settlement offer or go to trial if necessary.
How to Calculate Reimbursement
First, start with your injuries and the associated costs. Your medical expenses are a good place to start as well as any prescriptions or other treatments you may have undergone. It's worthwhile to get an itemized list of your expenses from your attorney, who can help you obtain all the invoices for these items if necessary.
Next, think about how your injuries have affected your life. Perhaps you are unable to return to work or need modifications made to your home in order to accommodate a decreased level of mobility. Document any lost wages you have experienced due to your injuries, including money you have paid out for child care or transportation costs.
Additionally, include a non-economic damages amount. North Carolina is one of many states that recognize the concept of pain and suffering when awarding personal injury settlements. You can ask for compensation for both current and future expenses.
How Much Can You Ask for in a Personal Injury Settlement?
In North Carolina, you can receive up to $1 million in a lump sum settlement or a court-approved structured settlement. However, you cannot ask for an amount that's more than three times the size of your North Carolina state maximum for pain and suffering damages. If you have suffered serious injuries resulting in long-term disabilities, you could receive over a million dollars in North Carolina.
How Are Personal Injury Settlements Paid Out?
Personal injury settlements are typically paid out through a structured process that involves several steps. The specific details can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the nature of the case, and the terms of the settlement agreement. Here's a general overview of how personal injury settlements are paid out:
- Settlement Agreement: Once the parties involved in the personal injury case (usually the injured person and the at-fault party or their insurance company) agree on a settlement amount, they will draft a formal settlement agreement. This agreement outlines the terms and conditions of the settlement, including the amount to be paid and any other relevant terms.
- Release of Liability: Before the settlement amount is paid, the injured party is usually required to sign a release of liability form. This form states that the injured party agrees to accept the settlement amount as compensation and, in exchange, releases the at-fault party and their insurers from any further liability related to the incident. This prevents the injured party from seeking additional compensation later.
- Payment Method: Depending on the terms of the settlement agreement, the payment may be made in different ways. In a lump sum payment, the entire settlement amount is paid to the injured party in one payment. In a structured settlement, the settlement amount is paid out in installments over a specified period of time. This can be beneficial for larger settlements, as it can provide a steady stream of income over the long term.
- Payment Distribution: If the settlement is a lump sum, the payment is usually distributed to the injured party's attorney (if applicable) and then to the injured party after deducting any legal fees, medical liens, and other outstanding debts related to the case.
- Taxes and Fees: Generally, personal injury settlements are not taxable as income. However, specific circumstances may lead to taxation, such as if the settlement includes punitive damages or interest. It's important to consult with a tax professional to understand the tax implications of the settlement.
- Legal Fees and Costs: If the injured party hired an attorney, their legal fees and costs are typically deducted from the settlement amount before the injured party receives their portion. These fees are usually outlined in the contingency fee agreement signed between the injured party and their attorney.
- Medical Liens and Subrogation: If the injured party's medical bills were covered by health insurance or other sources, there might be medical liens or subrogation claims against the settlement. This means that the medical providers or insurers might have a right to be reimbursed from the settlement proceeds for the costs they covered.
- Distribution to the Injured Party: After deducting legal fees, costs, medical liens, and any other applicable deductions, the remaining settlement amount is distributed to the injured party.
It's important to note that the process can vary based on the specific circumstances of the case and the laws of the jurisdiction in which the case is settled. It's advisable for individuals involved in personal injury cases to consult with legal professionals who specialize in personal injury law to ensure they understand the settlement process and their rights.
North Carolina Personal Injury Settlement Laws
North Carolina state law limits the amount of compensation you receive for your injuries. The North Carolina Personal Injury Damages Act provides North Carolina residents with a maximum payout of $1 million in a lump sum settlement or court-approved structured settlement, and $3 million for pain and suffering damages. North Carolinians cannot ask for more than this amount.
North Carolina also has an "innocent plaintiff rule" which provides North Carolina residents with a maximum payout of $1 million for injury or wrongful death claims against North Carolina state governments. North Carolina is one of the few states that have limits on non-economic damages, so it's important to understand what these are before negotiating your settlement.
Tips for the Best Personal Injury Settlement
- Have a specific amount in mind. Some attorneys will discourage you from going into a negotiation asking for a specific dollar amount, but this gives the attorney a starting point and a chance to counter-offer.
- Be patient. There may be a number of reasons why it's taking a while for your settlement offer to come in--this could include waiting on medical records or an investigation.
- Do not accept the first offer. Often, insurance companies will make a lowball offer to see whether you are interested in negotiation. It's important to remember that insurance adjusters do not represent your best interests and can't provide you with any legal advice.
- Stay informed by keeping detailed records of all communications with your attorney, including phone calls and emails. You should keep copies of medical records for any treatment you have received.
- Put the final agreement in writing.
Contact Us Regarding Your Personal Injury Settlement
We know that personal injury cases can be complicated, which is why our attorneys work hard to ensure you receive the best possible outcome. Contact our team today at 910-295-2525 to learn more about how we can help you.
Disclaimer: The information seen on this website, including the article above, is not legal advice or legal counsel. If you wish to speak to a personal injury lawyer, contact our North Carolina personal injury attorneys directly using our online form or by calling 910-295-2525. While our law firm is located in North Carolina, our attorneys have tried personal injury cases and work with clients across the country, from Raleigh, Fayetteville, Pinehurst, and Sanford, to Virginia, Illinois, Oregon, and California to Florida. Call our experienced attorneys today.