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Mr. Barlow is the Author of "The Ultimate Guide to Accident Injury Cases in Hawaii." Available at:
Worked for the
United States Air Force
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Is Getting Injured in an Accident Like Hitting the Jackpot?
For some reason, there is the belief in our culture that if you get hurt in an accident you are going to get a huge settlement and you'll be set for life. Who knows exactly where this belief comes from. It may be from the intriguing news stories involving big settlements. It may simply be due to the fact that we are a greedy culture. After all, capitalism is based on greed. It's okay to be "greedy" as long as you are going after something you deserve. However, if you are seeking for more than you deserve than greed can end up backfiring.
Long gone are the days when insurance companies were afraid of lawyers and the court system. Those days when insurance companies would just throw money at settlements to try to resolve claims are gone. Insurance companies are a huge business. Over the last couple of decades, they have worked hard to figure out how to pay out as little as possible on injury claims. They have settlement and jury award information on millions of cases to compare to. They have powerful computer programs to compute how much a case should settle for. After all, the less money they can spend on settling claims, the more money they will have to make entertaining TV commercials to try to get as many paying policyholders as possible.
Getting injured in an accident is NOT like hitting the jackpot. It is not a windfall of money. It is not a way to be set for life. The system involving insurance companies, courts, and injury lawyers is set up to hopefully get you the compensation to make you "whole" after an accident. After settling cases, we very rarely have clients celebrating because they got tons of money that they weren't expecting. Often our clients are glad that the process is over and that they got a fair settlement to compensate them for their pain, suffering, wage loss, medical bills, etc.
The clients who expect more than they deserve end up doing themselves a big disservice. They end up dragging out their case longer than necessary. They end up going through much more stress than they need to. Sometimes they even end up going through the legal process to try to get more than they deserve. This process involves attending depositions that could last 5-10 hours. They could end up having to attend an arbitration which could last 3-6 hours. Finally, they could even have to sit through a jury trial which could last 3-5 days. Each step of this process can be very stressful. Sadly, some people go through this process and end up receiving about the same amount that was offered by the insurance company years prior.
Too often people get caught up in their case and don't take a step back and think about how it must look to a casual observer. For example, we have had many clients over the years who were involved in very minor accidents, yet they expected huge settlement amounts. We're talking about accidents with very light damage to the bumper. A casual observer would look at pictures of the damage and wonder how anyone could possibly be injured in such an accident. Yet, our clients are making it sound like some sort of massive collision with incredible amounts of damage. The bottom line is that if there is very little damage to your vehicle, then you should be very reasonable about the amount you expect for a settlement. Don't get caught up in the excitement of the claim process and try to get something you don't deserve. In the end, you will just be causing yourself a lot of stress for nothing.
Most people have not been involved in car accidents in Hawaii. Therefore, most people on a jury will not have been in a car accident. Most people on a jury pay for car insurance. Many people who pay for car insurance think that their insurance premiums are high because of frivolous lawsuits and injury lawyers. How do you think your case will be decided by a jury of 12 random people who haven't been injured in an accident? It won't go well. If you want to take your case in front of a jury you better have a case that will make the jury feel bad for you. Jurors are human. If you have a very tragic case involving fractured bones, surgeries, and scars, they will be generous and they will want to punish the bad driver. But if you don't have a serious car accident that will make the jury feel bad for you, then they may be inclined to punish you for wasting their time.
Many jurors will be missing work to sit on the jury for a week. Some of them may be getting paid. Others who are self-employed or work on commission will be upset that they are sitting there for a week losing money. You better give them a reason not to be upset at you. If you have a tragic case then they may not mind and will award you a fair amount. If you have a silly case with very little damage to the vehicles, then you will most likely regret your decision to take your case to court.
So, in the end, it all comes down to whether or not you are willing to accept the settlement offer from the insurance adjuster. Most of the time the settlement offer is somewhat reasonable. Yes, there are some settlement offers that are below a reasonable amount and there are even some that are above a reasonable amount. If the settlement offer is very unreasonable than you will want to consider taking the matter to court. Here's a great idea: get some advice from your lawyer. Sincerely ask for his or her advice. Don't ask for advice expecting to hear the answer you want to hear. After all, you are paying for your lawyer to give you advice, whether it's something you want to hear or not. We've always found it strange how rarely clients will ask us for advice. They decide what amount they want and that's what they expect regardless if it's reasonable or not. Needless to say, this strategy is not effective. It all comes down to the amount that the adjuster determines to be the value of the claim after reviewing your medical records, medical bills, and wage loss documentation.