“My case is worth 3 times my medical expenses”—Problems With This Personal Injury Myth
One of the most common myths when handling injury cases is that there is some magic “multiplier method” for getting a certain amount of money offered by the third party insurance company. Most often, we hear 3x medical costs. We’ve even heard as high as 7x medical! That would be awesome! That sure would make our work a LOT easier!
Origins Of The Myth
So how did this myth get started? Well, it was somewhat true decades ago. Unfortunately, the myth continues in various forms all over the internet. Today, the multiplier myth is most often used on click bait websites to help simplify the personal injury process and get a person to sign up with a law firm. This myth is also passed along by friends who tell the injured person, “I got 10x my medical bills and I was hardly hurt!” The friend forgets to mention a few facts such as it happened in California in the 90’s, she was scarred by some object in the car, there was a permanent disability as defined by the AMA guidelines, or she actually broke a bone but decided not have the surgery (which was part of the settlement offer). Then, the person who is injured in “reality land” now assumes that if he or she racks up enough medical bills, there will be a much bigger settlement at the end. Much to the victim’s disappointment, she racked up $25,000 worth of medical bills and receives a $15,000 settlement offer for her soft tissue/whiplash injuries. Not good.
While it is true that “medically necessary” treatment has an impact on the value of a case, the insurance companies are always on the look out for injury victims who are faking or exaggerating claims. They hammer those individuals the most. They want the plaintiff’s attorney to file a lawsuit after a low ball settlement offer because the adjuster firmly believes a jury will not like the client. There are many studies to show that it’s a pretty successful strategy.
Once a lawsuit is filed, the third party is permitted to see a full medical history. They will poke around looking for ANY past injuries or issues to explain that your past medical conditions are the real problem. If the insurance company believes you are faking any of your symptoms, be prepared for an independent medical exam request. Their experts want to establish that you are a malingerer or committing fraud by faking your claim.
The third party experts might employ Waddell testing, the Autobiographical Implicit Association Test, or any other series of exams or tests to establish that your injuries are not real or are exaggerated. They can prove their assertion if the tests establish there is inconsistency between your physical findings and your stated symptoms. The goal is to make a pitch to the jury that you are faking it. So, while it’s important to be detailed as you describe pain and symptoms, never exaggerate to a medical professional. People who exaggerate run the risk of a physician labeling you a malingerer.
Obtain Guidance For Your Personal Injury Case
If you have questions about treatment or projected settlement figures, talk with your attorney. And, most importantly, don’t seek treatment simply to bolster the medical bills in your case. It will hurt you in the long run. The nature of the injury will dictate the range far more than the treatment. If you broke your arm but decided to forego an optional surgery, your broken arm will be compensated at a much higher amount than a person who has whiplash and elects to treat with various providers for more than a year. Additionally, where your accident happened can be one of the biggest predictors of the amount an adjuster will offer. The insurance companies are keenly aware of jury awards in various cities and counties. If your accident happened in a county where juries typically don’t offer much for soft tissues injuries, expect your settlement offer to reflect that information. This doesn’t mean you have to accept the low offer but it’s important to understand how your local jury might respond if you take the case to trial.
Every case is unique and it’s important to be informed by accurate information and not anecdotal stories. Again, always consult with your attorney about questions and don’t rely on internet searches about case results from a decade ago. If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation. Don’t compromise that settlement by listening to bad advice.