One Of Hawaii's Top Auto Accident
Worked for U.S. Air Force JAG
Millions obtained for our Clients' Car Accident Injuries
What's A Fair Settlement Amount For A Hawaii Injury Case?
This is one of the most common questions we’re asked as injury lawyers. Understandably, our clients would like to know what a fair settlement amount is. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple. First of all, the word “fair” is subjective. After doing this for over ten years, we’ve found that all of our clients have a different definition of “fair”. Some clients think that small settlement offers are fair, while others think that much larger settlement offers are not fair. After all, how does one put a price on their pain? As injury lawyers, what we think is fair, may not be considered fair by our clients.
In our professional opinion, asking what amount is fair is the wrong question to ask. It’s not a helpful question to ask because the answer doesn’t help one decide whether to settle a case or not. The helpful question to ask is this: Considering the settlement offer that the insurance adjuster has made, should I accept their offer or take them to court. That’s the real question that needs to be answered. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether your lawyer thinks a settlement offer is fair or not. He’s not the one who gets to decide whether to accept the offer. Only the client can make the ultimate decision of whether to take a settlement offer or go to court.
When it comes to deciding whether to take the case to court or not, this is where you want to get as much advice from your injury lawyer as you can. He’s the one who has been to court many times. He’s the one who has an idea of how things may go with a jury. Your lawyer can explain to you the risks and benefits of going to trial. There are many risks of going to trial. There are the expenses of trial, such as the $315 complaint filing fee, deposition expenses, records expenses, etc. There’s also the stress of going to trial. It takes a couple of years to go to trial. The defense attorney will want to take your deposition which will take 2-8 hours. This can be very stressful. The arbitration and trial itself can be time-consuming and stressful.
One of the biggest risks of going to trial is not knowing what a jury will decide. Juries can be very unpredictable. In general, most jurors haven’t been injured in car accidents, so they will probably not be very sympathetic. Most jurors pay for car insurance and naturally think that their rates are high because of injury cases. So, it can be very risky to take an injury case in front of a jury.
A risk of going to trial is that you could lose. Again, this comes down to the unpredictable jury. If you do lose, then the judge may order you to pay for the defense attorney’s fees and costs. This can be very expensive.
When making the important decision whether to accept a settlement offer or not, you need to consider whether you think a jury will award you much more than what the adjuster is offering you. You don’t want to go through the time and expense of trial if you think the jury will award you the same or a little more than what the adjuster is offering. If you think that the adjuster is being somewhat reasonable, then it doesn’t make sense to go to trial just to try for a little more.
Our clients who have the easiest decisions to make is when the insurance adjuster offers a ridiculously low amount. This is the only time when it’s somewhat easy to decide to go to court. Otherwise, if the car insurance company is offering you an amount that is anywhere near reasonable, then you should think long and hard about accepting it before you make the decision to trust your case in the hands of a jury.
One of the complicated parts of an injury case in Hawaii are medical liens. Most of us have health insurance and we think that our health insurance company simply pays the bills they receive and will never ask to be reimbursed for bills that they’ve paid. This assumption is usually true; however, one exception is when you’ve been involved in an auto accident in Hawaii. The medical insurance companies in Hawaii such as HMSA, Kaiser, and HMAA, have clauses in their insurance contracts which state that if you’ve been injured in an accident and you receive compensation for those injuries, then you have to pay them back for the bills that they’ve paid. The initial reaction by most people is that this isn’t right. You pay your health insurance premiums and expect your insurance company to pay the bills and not ask to be reimbursed when you settle your injury case. We can also look at it from the medical insurance company’s point of view: they lost money because of the bad driver so they think they have the right to be compensated for their losses.
These health insurance companies hire collection companies to try to get the money back that they’ve spent on someone’s injuries due to an accident. The agents for the collection companies receive commissions based on how much they get back for the health insurance companies. One of the techniques of the collections companies is to do anything they can to get the information about the car insurance companies involved in the case. Their main goal is to place a lien on the case with the car insurance companies. Once a lien is placed on the case, then the car insurance adjusters won’t settle the case unless the injured person agrees to have them take out the medical lien amount from their settlement proceeds and pay the collection company the amount they’ve requested.
We do everything that we can to get the collection companies to discount the amounts that they’re requesting. If the collection company has placed the car insurance company on notice of their lien, then it is very difficult to get them to reduce their lien. This is because they know that they are in a position of power. They know that the case can’t be settled until their lien is resolved. In these situations, they will usually only reduce their lien by about 10% at the most. If the collection company hasn’t placed the car insurance company on notice, then we are in a much better position to get them to reduce their lien amount. This is because they know that we’re the ones in the position of power. When we settle the case the client will usually request that we hold funds from the settlement in our client trust account to resolve the outstanding liens. We can then take as much time as we need to get the collection company to reduce their lien. In these situations, we can usually get them to reduce their lien by about one third.
This is an area of law that is constantly changing. There was a recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision which greatly limited the ability of the health insurance companies to get compensation for the medical bills that they paid. Whether the health insurance plan is an ERISA plan or not makes a big difference in how much of the medical bills have to be paid back.
Medical liens from Med-Quest (Department of Health Services) are supported by statute; but, the good thing about Quest liens is that they are required to be reduced by one third. Quest liens are known as super liens because statutory law requires that they are paid back.
Medical liens from Medicaid, Medicare, and Tricare are also considered to be super liens because federal law requires that they are paid.
Each of these different health insurance companies and government agencies has different processes and procedures for requesting reductions and paying back liens.
THE LAW OFFICES OF DAVID W. BARLOW
Honolulu, HI 96813
Big Island Office