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Answers To Questions About Compensation Received After An Accident

Many accident victims have questions about the amount of compensation they may be entitled to receive as a result of an accident. Here are answers to some of the most frequently-asked ones.

Q. I was hurt in an accident. How much am I entitled to recover?

A. The answer depends on several factors, including the type of injury you suffered, how long-lasting and severe your pain is, your past and future medical expenses, your past and future lost income, any scarring or disfigurement, and changes you have had to make to your lifestyle. Your attorney can evaluate these factors, and then, based on settlements and jury awards in the community for similar injuries, estimate how much compensation you might recover.

Q. Can I receive money after an accident even if I had preexisting health problems?

A. Yes. The fact you have a preexisting health condition will not stop you from making a claim and recovering your damages. Whoever causes the accident takes you in the condition you are in at the time of the accident. If the accident makes you worse, then you can recover damages. The fact that someone in better health would not have been hurt as badly as you were does not make any difference. For example, suppose you have a bad knee and get injured after slipping on an unsafe floor in a market. Just because you have a bad knee will not affect the market’s obligation to pay for your injuries.

Q. Can I still get damages if the accident was partly my fault?

A. Yes. In most states, accident victims can recover money even if they are partly at fault for their accident (though rules vary between states about what level of fault prevents you from making a claim). Your damages will just be reduced by the amount of your fault. For example, suppose in the slip and fall accident described in the previous question you are found to be 25% at fault, perhaps because you weren’t fully paying attention. Also assume that your damages (medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering) are found to be $10,000. In this case, because you were 25% at fault for the accident, your damages will be reduced by 25%, or $2,500. You will still recover $7,500.

Q. I know an accident victim who suffered the same kinds of injuries I did, but received a different amount of money. Why?

A. Every accident and every accident victim are different. Many factors go into determining how much an accident victim will receive for his or her injuries, including the person’s medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. A change in just one factor can have a big impact on the amount of compensation someone receives.

Q. Shortly after my accident I settled my case and signed a “release” without consulting a lawyer. After my settlement I found out I had more serious injuries. Can I get more money?

A. Probably not. If you signed a “release of all claims,” you likely have lost your right to make another claim. Only in very limited circumstances can a person “undo” a settlement that he or she signed. This is one of the main reasons why it’s vital to consult your lawyer before settling your accident claim or signing anything from the other side or an insurance company. Many accident victims sign a quick settlement but later discover their injuries are a lot worse than they first thought. When they try to go back and get more money, they discover they can’t do so. As a result, they end up paying for most of their injuries and losses themselves. Consulting your lawyer before settling your accident claim can prevent this from happening to you.

Q. How do I know how much to settle my accident claim for?

A. This is a crucial question, since as the above question shows, once your claim is settled, you are usually prevented from getting any more money. You usually cannot get a good idea of what a fair settlement is until you know the full extent of your injuries and losses. Your lawyer can be especially helpful in advising you how much to settle your accident claim for, since lawyers know all the different types of damages you can receive after an accident. They also know what courts have awarded for accidents and injuries like yours, and can evaluate the strength of your case. By considering these and other factors, your lawyer can help estimate the value of your claim. You can then evaluate if a settlement offer is fair.

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