If you’ve ever done an Internet search on the legal aspects surrounding settling a bicycle crash case, you may have come across one of many settlement claim calculators. It seems to indicate an easy formula into which you can plug certain pieces of information and get the value of your injury claim. A basic formula used to calculate auto or bike accident settlements might include: compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and financial losses that include medical costs already incurred and medical costs that may be incurred in the future.
Calculating the value of any injury claim isn’t as simple as that. A claim’s value can be complex, depending on a number of factors that no claim calculator will ever take into account. The first thing a lawyer looks at in a car or bike collision is the issue of proving the driver—the other person—was at fault. Sometimes this is obvious, but there are circumstances when the defense may argue that the cyclist was also at fault. This argument raises the question of whether liability or fault was 100 percent on the driver or whether there was some plausible argument that the cyclist had some percentage of fault, perhaps 10 percent or 25 percent or even more.
Florida is a “comparative fault” state. Comparative fault involves the process of evaluating arguments that one or both of the parties may have been at fault in causing the crash. For example: a cyclist fails to stop at a stop sign or at an intersection with the red light and collides with the car after it had come to a stop before proceeding. Failing to stop at a stop sign or at a signaled intersection creates potential fault or liability on the part of the cyclist in any resulting collision. Under the bright white light of the law, the defense in this situation will always be arguing that at least some fault rests on the cyclist.
To a jury, if you, as a cyclist, bear some responsibility in a crash, it results in reducing the value of your claim by the percentage of your responsibility. If comparative fault is proven, it would reduce your claim by the determined percentage amount. That means the defense will simply offer less compensation. By way of perspective, failure to follow the rules of the road or do what you are required to do as a cyclist has real life consequences. In lawsuits, every possible factor is examined under a microscope surrounding safety and legality.
Moreover, many claims adjusters have no idea about the rules and regulations governing bicycle riding, let alone the risks involved when cycling in traffic alongside careless, inattentive drivers. If your lawyer is a regular cyclist, he or she will be able to deflect many of the baseless arguments by the defense about possible comparative fault in working to get your case settled.
You should never rely on a claim calculator in evaluating the complexities of a bicycle crash claim, particularly where serious injuries require future medical treatment. The future cost of medical care is complicated to evaluate. Those costs may include such things as the use of durable medical equipment, prescription medications, surgeries, loss of earning capacity in the future, as well ongoing pain and suffering that create emotional and mental distress, scarring, and permanent disability.
Your attorney may rely on a life care planner in calculating the cost of your treatment. This is a professional calculation of what it costs to take medications, undergo therapy, estimate the need for future durable medical equipment, and the attendant increases in the cost of these things over the course of your lifetime. Such costs are a significant part in determining the full value of any serious injury claim.
These are just some of the issues that should tell you that you cannot rely on a claim calculator to correctly assess the value of an injury case.