If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you probably want compensation from the responsible party for your injuries. As a result, you may decide to file a personal injury claim.
However, filing a personal injury claim doesn’t always involve a lawsuit. Here are the differences between minor and major personal injury claims so that you can decide on the best course of action to seek compensation for your injuries.
What is a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is when a person seeks to recover compensation for bodily injuries (including injuries to a person’s body and mind) that are the result of another party’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing.
Many people believe that a personal injury claim automatically means a lawsuit. However, the overwhelming majority of personal injury claims are settled out of court. Settling out of court saves costs, reduces risk, and – in the end – can put more money in your pocket.
The most common types of personal injury claims are car/motorcycle/bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, accidents on another person’s property or at a business, negligence in providing medical care and treatment, trip and falls, assault and battery claims, and product defect accidents (product liability, where a product malfunctions and causes a person injury).
Minor Personal Injury Claims vs. Major Personal Injury
Minor personal injury claims generally include “soft tissue” injuries – injuries to muscles, ligaments, and tendons (e.g., sprains, strains, pulls). Major personal injury claims include accidents that resulted in permanent injury, dismemberment, loss of bodily function or even death. Regardless as to whether the injury is minor or major, if you didn’t cause it, you shouldn’t be forced to bear it!
Although we see millions of car accidents per year, it is uncommon for a large percentage of these accidents to be considered major or extremely serious. Most of them are smaller fender benders. However, there may also be the occasional fatal injury. Either way, it is important to go through the process from beginning to end to ensure that you are adequately compensated for any injuries or other damage.
Many injuries that you initially thought were minor and didn’t result in any pain can actually strengthen and become much worse in the days following the accident. This is why receiving the right kind of medical attention immediately following the accident is so important- even if you don’t think it is necessary.
What You Should Know About Whiplash
This is one of the most common injuries that can occur during an accident. It may not present with serious symptoms right away, but you may begin to feel the pain in the following hours or days. Some symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, arm pain and weakness, headaches, jaw pain, dizziness, back pain, and fatigue.
Whiplash is one of those injuries that if it isn’t caught right away, it will be a lot harder to prove later on if the case goes to trial and before a jury. You may not be able to receive compensation for injuries associated with whiplash if the medical bills do not state the injury.
Whiplash can fall into the category of both minor or major depending on the severity. Some may prove to be more severe and chronic which can ultimately cause a prolonged period of partial disability. On the other hand, all symptoms may pass in the days following the accident.
Tissue Injuries Following an Accident
Soft tissue injuries are quite common following an accident because of the maneuvers and dodges that might have happened in an attempt to avoid a collision. Soft tissue injuries are damage done to muscles, ligaments, and tendons and can also accompany contusions and bruising.
Like whiplash, it may be hard to place this kind of injury into a category because it all depends on the severity of the injuries. Some soft tissue injuries may end up requiring surgery for correction and contusions can cause long-term, permanent damage and can also lead to internal bleeding and bruising.
Also, there may be the possibility of extensive nerve damage following a corrective surgery for soft tissue injuries which means you may be entitled to more in the way of compensation through your personal injury claim.
Soft tissue injuries are graded on their severity using a scale from Grade I through Grade III as follows:
Grade I injuries often refer to sprains, strains, or minor tears. This type of injury is minor and should heal within a few days.
Grade II injuries are partial tears that cause some form of joint instability. Again, these types of injuries can be considered more minor if they heal on their own within a few days; however, the more major Grade II injury will call for surgical intervention.
Grade III injuries are complete tears that will definitely require surgery for the chance to heal properly. You will also feel much more pain with this Grade then you do with the others, and you may lose the ability to use the joint or limb until it is fixed. This is a much more major injury to consider when filing your personal injury claim.
How Insurance Companies Value Personal Injury Claims
When determining the exact amount of compensation for your claim, the insurance company will use a damages formula, which includes a variety of factors, to determine a dollar figure for your injuries and other perceived losses that you may have experienced. This damages formula includes:
- Liability – Did the insurance company’s insured act negligently or intentionally wrongful?
- Type of injuries (major or minor) and Damages (medical bills, lost wages/lost income, property damage) – How much will it take to compensate the injured person?
- Plaintiff’s character/reputation/criminal history – Can the insurance companies find a way to discredit the injured person?
- The cost to the insurance company – Will it cost the insurance company less money to simply pay the injured person or to pay their lawyers to fight it?
- Plaintiff’s legal counsel – Does the injured party’s lawyer have a good reputation? Is he/she competent? Skilled? Is he/she willing to go to trial?
At the start of the claims negotiations process, the insurance adjuster will determine the total medical expenses related to your injury. Then, the adjuster will use this figure to determine how much you are owed for nonmonetary losses, including pain and suffering.
Finally, any loss of income is added in to determine the final figure. However, this calculation does not produce a final compensation amount. It is simply the amount that will be used to determine where negotiations should begin regarding your claim.
The following is a more thorough breakdown of compensatory damages you may be entitled to:
Medical Treatment: this includes all costs associated with your care from the injury resulting from the accident. This also includes reimbursement for any treatment you have already received and any treatment that you may be required to have in the future.
Income Loss: if your accident was more severe, then you may find that you are unable to work due to the injuries you sustained. In this case, you may be entitled to compensation for the income you are losing from not being able to work. Additionally, for more severe injuries in which your ability to make that income in the future was lost, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss of earning capacity as a result of the accident.
Property Loss: another damage not to be overlooked during your personal injury case is property damage. Vehicles, clothing, or any items that were damaged as a result of the accident, as long as it can be proven, may be covered. Fair market value is usually applied in these situations.
Pain and Suffering: your pain and suffering are also taken into consideration when you file your personal injury claim. This also includes any ongoing pain you may still feel in the future as a result of the accident and your injuries sustained therein.
Emotional Distress: while this can sometimes pose a challenge to prove, you may be able to receive compensation for the psychological impact you sustained because of the accident. Did the accident interfere with any of your past hobbies, exercise, or recreational activities? Do you find that it is increasingly difficult to fall asleep and you experience heightened levels of anxiety? You may be entitled to compensation for these major injuries.
When to Hire a Lawyer
For a major personal injury claim, you should hire an attorney.
Indeed, you should always hire an attorney if you are entitled to pain and suffering and/or emotional distress damages. Although your injuries must also reach a set threshold to be admitted to a court, a lawyer may still be useful in helping you to settle your claim out of court.
Minor personal injury cases can turn into major cases.
If you are not yet aware of the full extent of your injuries, your medical team may learn that your injuries are actually more extensive than you previously believed. Don’t agree to a settlement before you know exactly how bad your injuries are because you will lose the right to file any and all future claims regarding your accident.
Consider a Personal Injury Lawyer in San Diego
A San Diego personal injury lawyer can see the legal aspects of your matter that may ultimately decide whether you get paid or not, regardless as to the other party’s negligence, their wrongdoings, or your injuries.
Don’t spin your wheels trying to keep up with the insurance companies or other lawyers, get one yourself and fight for your rights.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, Walker Law can help you review your legal options and may help you to obtain compensation.
Don’t delay and put off receiving the compensation you rightly deserve because of the injuries you or a loved one suffered from. An experienced personal injury attorney is familiar with the law and can use this legalese to ensure that you are doing everything within your power to win the case.
You will not have to worry about missing a deadline to submit and file paperwork, and you can have someone to help with the insurance adjusters on the case. You don’t have to go through this complicated process alone.
Contact us today via email or call us at (619) 839-9978 to schedule your free consultation.