Should I Settle My Spinal Cord Injury Claim?
Should I Settle My Spinal Cord Injury Claim?
Spinal cord damage from car accidents or medical malpractice is irreversible. It’s also an expensive endeavor, and the insurance company is probably eager to settle your claim. But with proper medical treatment, rehabilitation, and a lot of hard work, many injury victims can still lead fulfilling lives.
If you or a loved one are living with a spinal cord injury, don’t accept the first settlement the insurance companies offer. You need to ensure that your compensation can cover all your ongoing medical and care needs.
Keep reading to learn more about personal injury settlements and how to determine whether to settle your spinal cord injury claim.
What Is a Personal Injury Settlement?
A settlement is a legal agreement between the injured person and the insurance company that provides lump-sum compensation for their injuries. Typically, after filing a personal injury claim, you (or your legal representation) will try to negotiate a settlement and avoid going to court.
However, if you settle your injury case, you give up your right to a lawsuit or any additional compensation. That means that even if your condition worsens, you can’t go back and demand more money. If you settle for less than your case is worth, you could be setting yourself up for future hardship.
Personal Injury Settlement Basics: Types of Damages
Before we talk more about spinal cord injury cases specifically, let’s go through a quick run-through of what factors can influence the size of a settlement.
The basic types of damages you can claim are:
- Economic damages: These are the tangible costs associated with your injury—not only medical costs, but also things like loss of earning potential, adjustments that need to be made to your home, etc. They are meant to compensate you for your out-of-pocket expenses.
- Non-economic damages: This covers more intangible loses, like reduced quality of life, inability to enjoy activities, and pain and suffering. Although it’s not easy to put a price tag on these kinds of damages, your settlement offer should consider them as well.
- Punitive damages: These damages are “above and beyond” penalties meant to punish the at-fault party, rather than compensate the injured person for their loses. They may be considered in cases where there is substantial, clear evidence that the at-fault party was egregiously negligent or reckless (for example, excessive speeding, intentional acts of violence, etc.).
Benefits of Settling an Injury Claim
There are many benefits to accepting a fair settlement offer, including:
- Faster Resolution: On average, taking a case to trial takes longer than negotiating a settlement.
- Less Stress: Trials can place significant psychological stress on victims. They can also be physically demanding for someone with mobility difficulties caused by a spinal cord injury.
- Guaranteed Outcome: A jury might award you more compensation than a settlement, but they could also award less, or nothing at all. With a settlement, you have a guaranteed and known payout.
- Privacy: When you settle a personal injury claim out of court, all details are kept private, including the settlement amount. If you go to court, the information is public. This includes not only the settlement amount, but all evidence submitted, witness testimony, arguments made by the lawyers, etc.
Should I Accept a Settlement Offer for My Spinal Cord Injury?
Ultimately, most personal injury cases do settle out of court. But remember, the first settlement offer made by the insurance company usually shouldn’t be taken. They are trying to settle your case quickly and cheaply with the least possible risk, and may not be thoroughly considering your long-term needs.
Especially with spinal cord injuries, where both long-term financial losses and pain and suffering can be especially significant, you should always talk to a personal injury lawyer first.
Before accepting a spinal cord injury settlement, you must be completely sure that it is fair and will cover your long-term medical expenses and other care needs. To do this, you’ll need to understand and consider several factors.
1. Assess the Severity of Your Spinal Cord Injury
The spinal cord is made up of a bundle of sensitive nerves and tissues. It carries messages between your brain and the rest of your body. These messages help you move, breathe, feel pain, and perform essential functions. Damage to your spinal cord can result in partial or complete loss of motor control, loss of sensation, and paralysis of both legs (paraplegia) or even all four limbs (quadriplegia or tetraplegia).
Early on, when you’re healing and your doctors are still assessing your injury, your future may seem uncertain. However, over time, you’ll get a better sense of your abilities and ongoing medical needs.
Typically, we discourage spinal cord victims from settling their claims until their condition is stable. If you settle too early, you may agree to an amount that does not adequately cover a lifetime of medical care and assistive services.
2. Consider How a Spinal Cord Injury Will Affect Your Life
The body is a complex and interconnected structure, and damage to the spine can impair functions such as breathing, temperature regulation, or bladder control, often for the rest of your life.
Spinal cord injuries can have significant long-term effects on your quality and way of life, such as:
- Having to find a new job that is less physically demanding
- An increased dependence on others for routine activities
- Difficulty exercising or partaking in certain hobbies (loss of enjoyment of life)
- Trouble forming or holding social or sexual relationships (loss of consortium)
Often after a spinal cord injury, it’s the “little” things you can’t put a traditional price on—like being able to play with your children, or enjoy your hobbies, or socialize with others—that are the most painful for accident victims and their family members. In addition to your medical bills, mobility aids, and other financial damages, your settlement should take these harder-to-calculate (but very real) non-economic damages into account.
3. Calculate the Total Value of Your Damages
Spinal cord injuries are notoriously difficult to value accurately because of their long-term effects. Online calculators cannot provide an accurate estimate because they are not designed to anticipate the level and years of care required for a spinal cord injury. Therefore, you should always consult with a lawyer before settling.
The insurance company will try to settle your claim for as little as possible—and you should never assume that it has your best interests in mind. A spinal cord injury lawyer, on the other hand, will advocate for you and demand fair compensation for all your losses, including:
- Ongoing inpatient or outpatient health care
- Lost income and loss of earning capacity
- Physical rehabilitation programs
- Assistive tools or mobility modifications to your home
- Emotional distress and changes to your way of life
At Crosley Law, we frequently consult with doctors and long-term care experts during settlement negotiations so that we can get our clients the compensation they deserve.
Crosley Law: Standing Up for Spinal Cord Injury Survivors
Spinal cord injuries are complex, frequently catastrophic, and often result in significant settlements or results at trial. Making sure you have strong a strong legal team supporting you before you make any final decisions can give you the best chance at a fair settlement, not to mention peace of mind and a chance to focus on healing from your spinal injury.
If you’re considering a spinal cord injury settlement, Crosley Law can help you determine whether the insurance company made a fair offer. Our law firm has a long track record of helping people with catastrophic injuries navigate their legal claims and would love to learn more about you and your situation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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Crosley Law Firm, PC is a professional corporation of trial lawyers focused on representing individuals and families who have suffered serious personal injuries or wrongful death. If you’ve been injured, fill out the form for a free consultation, or call 210-LAW-3000.