How do I determine whether or not an personal injury settlement is fair?

My minor daughter was the passenger in an accident where the driver was intoxicated. She was transported by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated for whiplash, breathing issues from the air bag and a slight concussion. His insurance is offering to pay all medical bills and pay her $500. Do you think this is a fair offer?

Asked on August 21, 2014 under Personal Injury, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Typically the most you could get would be the amount you'd be entitled to if you sued and won. In a case like this, you could recover her medical costs, which are being paid. You could recover your lost wages, if you missed work such as, for example, to take your daughter to the hospital. And IF there is  long-term effect or impairment, then an additional award for pain and suffering may be available too.

If you don't have much lost wages, and if the medical costs are being paid for, then the question is, has the whiplash or concussion caused lasting issues for your daughter? If she will have restrictions on her activities, or face some chronic pain or weakness or lack of coordination, etc., she could get a potentially signficant pain and suffering aware in trial--thousands or in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars.

If she will not have lasting impairment, then she'd either get no pain and suffering award or a small one. In that case, the cost of suing--which is what you'd have to do if you cannot settle--would likely outweigh the extra money you'd get.

So, while every case is different, and ideally, you should discuss this case in detail with an attorney, as a general matter, if there is lasting impairment, the settlement is too low. If there is no lasting impairment, then while it would not be inappropriate to try to get a little more money (say an extra $1,000 to $1,500 over medical costs, instead of $500), at the end of the day, as an alternative to the time and cost of a lawsuit, the offer may be a fair one, since you will save a lot of time and money by not having to sue.


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