When you are seriously injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, it is natural to feel powerless.
You may feel as though you are at the mercy of insurance companies as you navigate the complicated and wearisome claims process.
While these feelings are aggravating, there are steps you can take to remain in control of your situation and increase the settlement value for your personal injury.
How Is Settlement Value Calculated?
How much money you can recover after an accident depends on a variety of factors.
Facts such as who is at fault, the severity of any injuries, and the value of any property damaged all influence the bottom line in a payout calculation.
To better comprehend how a settlement is estimated, it’s important to first understand the legal concepts at play.
Pure Comparative Negligence
New Mexico law takes into consideration how each party’s actions contributed to the accident and assigns each of them a percentage of the fault.
For example, if a driver taking a left turn misjudges the distance between oncoming cars and collides with a van in the intersection, they may be at fault for failing to yield to traffic.
However, the jury may take into account the van was significantly exceeding the speed limit when they entered the intersection and may determine they are partially to blame for the collision. They may assign the left-turning vehicle 85% of the fault and the speeding van 15%.
In a personal injury claim made by the van driver against the car driver, the van driver’s damages award will be reduced by 15% because the accident was 15% their fault.
There are three different categories of damages an injured party may recover after an accident.
Economic damages are designed to compensate for tangible financial losses. Examples of economic damages include:
- Medical expenses,
- Lost wages,
- Property damage,
- Future lost wages, and
- Future medical expenses.
You are able to present evidence of economic damages using records such as hospital bills, earnings statements or vehicle repair invoices.
Noneconomic damages are often referred to as “pain and suffering.” Assigning a monetary value to emotional anguish can be a difficult task.
While determining the impact of a tragedy on someone’s mental well-being is a subjective calculation, generally the more severe the accident, the greater the degree of pain suffered. Examples of noneconomic damages include:
- Physical pain,
- Emotional distress,
- Loss of sleep,
- Loss of companionship, and
Witness statements and therapist’s testimony are two of the ways you may be able to demonstrate pain and suffering.
A court may impose punitive damages on a party it believes exhibited grossly negligent misconduct.
It can be difficult for a plaintiff to make the case for a punitive damages award as they must be able to prove the offender acted maliciously, willfully, or recklessly.
Punitive damages are meant to punish the offender and to deter similar behavior in the future.
Generally, there are no specific limitations to the amount of punitive damages a court may award in New Mexico.
There is an exception to this rule when the action for damages is against a government entity or public employee.
How to Increase My Settlement Value
Now that you understand the components of a settlement claim calculation, there are specific actions you can take to ensure you have the best chance of receiving a fair settlement.
File a Police Report
A police report details the cause and circumstances of the accident from a neutral third-party point of view. This will help accurately determine each party’s percentage of liability.
It will also describe any contributing factors such as weather and road conditions.
The more the court understands what led to the injuries and damages, the better they will be able to assign fault and calculate a fair damages award.
Take Photos of Damage
In addition to a police report, photos of the scene are helpful to preserve your memory and to present visible evidence. Important details to document include:
- Weather conditions,
- Road conditions,
- Property damage, and
It is also important to get statements, as well as contact information, from anyone who witnessed the accident. Memories fade with time, so it is best to get witness statements as soon as possible.
See a Doctor
Even if you don’t believe your injuries are serious, it is important to get the opinion of a medical professional.
What might start out as minor aches and pains could quickly transform into something more serious, such as a spinal injury. Make sure you comply with the treatment your doctor recommends.
Attend all physical therapy appointments and take any prescribed medication. These actions will help to show a direct link between the accident and any medical conditions, potentially increasing the value of your settlement claim.
Keep Detailed Expense Records
Recovery expenses can quickly add up after an accident. Keep receipts from any transaction connected to your recovery. Examples of often overlooked expenses include:
- Supplemental domestic services such as child care or lawn maintenance,
- Transportation costs to get to and from medical appointments, and
- Specialized recovery products such as ergonomic pillows.
The more money you are able to show you lost as a result of the accident, the greater the value of your settlement claim.
Keep track of any work you miss recovering. You will be in a better position to recover financial losses when you have detailed records of all the expenses incurred or potential earnings lost.
Hire an Attorney
The most advantageous step to take to increase your settlement value is to get help from a professional.
You have a better shot at justice when you have someone on your team who knows the laws and the most effective strategies to employ them.
Reach Out to Our Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys
At Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C., we have significant experience taking on insurance companies and arguing for our clients in a courtroom.
Call us today to learn how we support our clients through a wide range of traumatic experiences and work to hold those at fault responsible.