The state of Hawaii is known for being a tourists’ delight. However, it is not spared of its share of personal injury claims.
Whether you’re a tourist or a local, if you’ve suffered personal injuries in Hawaii due to someone else’s negligence, you’re bound to have several questions about legal liability and the compensation owed to you.
While there is no fixed formula to determine the settlement amount, here’s what you need to know about valuing your personal injury settlement.
What Is Considered Personal Injury?
When a person suffers an injury due to the negligence of someone else, he/she may have a personal injury claim. He/she may also have the right to receive monetary compensation from the responsible party/parties, as per Hawaii law.
This applies to negligent acts such as car accidents, dog bites, slips-and-falls, nursing home accidents, or construction-related accidents that resulted in serious injuries to the victim.
The injured victim can receive compensation, which is referred to as “damages” in the legal language. Hawaii law spells out various types of damages available to the victim. For example, some of the damages include compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.
Damages in a Hawaii Personal Injury Claim
In Hawaii, the compensation for personal injury may be awarded in three ways:
a. Economic damages: This includes compensating the victim for monetary losses incurred through their medical bills and expenses, repairs for property damage, and lost wages.
b. Non-economic damages: This addresses the non-monetary factors such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
c. Punitive damages: The court may award punitive damages to punish (and make an example of) the responsible party and deter similar unlawful behavior in the future.
Some states may put limits or “caps” on the amount that victims can receive for their injuries. While Hawaii personal injury law does not cap economic or punitive damages, it does restrict non-economic damages to $375,000 in most cases.
Valuing Your Personal Injury Case
It is nearly impossible to assign a fixed value to a personal injury case at the outset. Apart from negotiating an amount with the insurance company, the only other way to arrive at the value is by considering the damages involved. These damages differ from case to case.
If you come across an attorney who guarantees a fixed settlement value in your first meeting, it is a red flag. Avoid the attorney at all costs as the value of a personal injury claim is determined by the case’s unique facts and the circumstances surrounding it.
Further, the settlement amount to the victim of negligence may be limited if the responsible party is underinsured or entirely uninsured.
Dealing with the Insurance Company
Upon suffering a personal injury, it is best that the victim acts quickly to fully understand their rights and the process of dealing with the insurance company. Know for a fact that the insurance company will try its level best to minimize the settlement amount.
The victim may receive calls and letters, and even personal visits from the insurance adjuster. This is done to obtain as much information about the personal injury claim as possible. The adjuster gathers this information to estimate (“claims reserve”) the value of the case. They may also look for loopholes in the victim’s statements and try to trick him/her into accepting the minimum settlement amount.
It is not uncommon for the victims to take months to get their injuries correctly diagnosed. Moreover, the victim may be uncertain about some of the details related to their injuries. It is, therefore, best that the victim avoids speaking to the insurance company of the responsible party. It is recommended to have an experienced Hawaii personal injury lawyer by your side when you speak to anyone representing the insurance agency.
In some cases, the victim may be asked to provide a statement along with copies of his/her medical records. However, you should know that there is no legal requirement to provide any information or even speak to the responsible party’s insurance company.
Comparative Negligence Rule in Hawaii
In some cases, the victim may file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the responsible party, but may be told that he/she is partially or completely responsible for the accident that caused the personal injury. To resolve a situation like this, Hawaii has put in place a comparative negligence rule that reduces or eliminates damages depending on the percentage of fault assigned to each party.
For example, if the victim sustained injuries from a slip-and-fall accident at the mall because he/she was busy reading a product label and did not notice the spill on the floor. In such a case, the victim’s fault may be calculated at 10 percent, and the mall’s fault at 90 percent.
So, if the victim’s total damages are $1,000 and the comparative fault rule applies, the damages will reduce to $900, i.e. the total $1,000 minus $100 (10 percent of the fault).
If the victim is found to be 50 percent or more at fault, the damages to be awarded become zero, eliminating his/her chances of collecting any settlement at all. Insurance adjusters typically bring up this rule during settlement negotiations, which is why it is best to be prepared for it.
Understanding Personal Injury Litigation in Hawaii
As per Hawaii law, the victim can submit a settlement demand or file a lawsuit once he/she has reached the maximum medical improvement (MMI) or if the insurance policy limits are unable to compensate for the damages. This decision, however, depends on the statute of limitations and the negotiations between both parties.
Hawaii maintains a stringent statute of limitations, i.e. the timeframe within which the victim can file the lawsuit. If the lawsuit is not filed within this period (usually two years), the victim cannot make a personal injury claim or collect damages.
Receiving a favorable outcome in your personal injury case and getting sufficient compensation for your suffering can go a long way in making your life easier. However, it is near impossible to decipher a fixed settlement amount in settlement in such cases. In Hawaii, the personal injury law considers all case facts and circumstances when determining damages. It is important for claimants to be prepared with adequate evidence as well as to deal with the insurance agencies. Working with a seasoned personal injury lawyer in Hawaii can help you achieve a positive result. Your lawyer will fight vigorously to represent your case, protect your rights, and win you the settlement that you rightfully deserve.
Connect with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Hawaii
Feel free to speak to a skilled personal injury lawyer at Olson & Sons and discuss your case. Contact us to schedule a free consultation. Reach us at our Kona office at (808)331-3113. We routinely handle matters across Kona and Kamuela