I am currently settling a case from June 2006 and they want to settle for $15000. After medical cost and lawyer fees, should I pursue Arbitration?

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I am currently settling a case from June 2006 and they want to settle for $15000. After medical cost and lawyer fees, should I pursue Arbitration?

Auto Accident occurred while I was in the passenger side. I saw the impact and braced myself so I suffered neck and back injuries which has made it difficult for me to maintain a job, let alone do daily household things including now its very difficult to care for my 9 month old son without being in pain after certain movements, holding him in my arms and standing or sitting for prolonged period of time. I believe that due to my injury I should be compensated for my hardship. My lawyer asked for $47500 however, they want to settle for just $15000. Which I believe to be unjust and insufficient

Asked on May 19, 2009 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

L.M., Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

I'm sorry you've suffered with your injury for so long.  Pennsylvania is a confusing combination of both "no fault" and "at fault." The "no fault" provision of the Pennsylvania system applies to medical expenses and lost wages, so each insured or their passenger looks to his/her own automobile policy for benefits, regardless as to the cause of the accident or whether the insured was personally responsible for his or her injuries. The "fault" provision of the Pennsylvania system applies to pain and suffering and other 'non-economic' losses, so the person who acted negligently and caused another's injuries is responsible for compensating the injured for his or her damages.I assume that your attorney filed suit against the responsible party since the statute of limitations on personal injury cases is two years from the date of the accident, meaning you either have to settle it or file a lawsuit within two years.  I'm wondering how much liability insurance the at-fault driver has.  The minimum amount required in PA is $15,000 and that could be why they are offering that amount for your "at-fault" damages of pain and suffering and any other non-economic damages.  Perhaps that's all there is.  Your attorney should get a copy of their policy declarations to see what the limits are.  Understand that this amount does not include your medical bills--those get paid by the no-fault coverage on the driver's policy.  If that is all there is for liability coverage, and you have underinsured motorist coverage on your own policy, you can make a claim for the excess. I believe you can also opt out of the no-fault system completely in Pa and go with traditional tort liability.  Check with your attorney on this and on the amount offered.  If there is more in the "pot" and your medical bills are over, say, $7000 or $8000 or so, your attorney might want to do some more negotiating, or move ahead with the lawsuit or arbitration.

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Ordinarily, lawyers need fairly detailed medical evaluations of people's injuries, before deciding whether a particular settlement number is, or isn't, reasonable.  At the same time, the original number that a lawyer asks for, on behalf of an injured client, is often quite a bit above what he or she expects to get in the end.

Your lawyer is far more familiar with the facts of your case than anyone else.  As I'm sure he or she has explained to you, a settlement is not necessarily what you would get at trial, but it is certain and it is final -- you might get much  more at a trial or arbitration, but you would have to wait, first, to get through all of that, and then there could be further delays for appeals and such.

If you're not ready to trust your lawyer's advice, and you want to find someone to get a second opinion, you might want to visit our website, http://attorneypages.com


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