Following a car accident, you may want to file a claim with insurance companies to recover compensation. However, you might need to figure out exactly how much to ask for in a car accident settlement, which could make it harder to get the full settlement you deserve. If you need to figure out how much to ask for, the answer depends on numerous factors that come into play.
Each car accident case involves a different settlement amount based on the specific damages, the degree of negligence, and other components of a claim. The following are some items to consider to better understand how much your case might be worth when negotiating with insurers.
It’s important to consider all of the specific damages incurred as well as the degree of negligence on the part of the other driver. Working with a car accident attorney can help ensure that you receive the full settlement you deserve and that your legal rights are protected.
Types of Damages in Car Accident Cases
One of the main elements to consider when calculating a settlement in a car accident case is the nature of the damages. Car accidents can involve serious injuries or fatalities and may lead to property damage, pain and suffering, and other damages. The damages and their severity will influence the compensation that victims may recover.
Here are some of the main categories of damages to consider when calculating a settlement:
Also known as special damages, economic damages are easy to quantify and come with set dollar amounts. They pertain to all expenses relating to a case that can lead to significant financial loss for victims. The nature of these damages may also contribute to certain non-economic damages and vice versa.
Economic damages in car accident cases may include:
- Medical expenses, including everything from immediate care and hospitalization to future care
- Ambulance rides
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Lost income resulting from recovery or disability
- Lost earning capacity stemming from a disability
- Property damage, including damage to vehicles and other belongings
- Modifications made to homes or vehicles to facilitate accessibility, such as ramps for homes and vans
Many car accident cases also involve different types of non-economic or general damages. Unlike economic damages, these refer to more intangible losses that victims experience on a personal level, such as physical pain and psychological distress.
Specific examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Anxiety, depression, and other types of mental anguish
- Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of consortium due to the inability to maintain a relationship
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment and quality of life
Wrongful Death Damages
If someone passes because of a car accident and another party’s negligence, victims’ loved ones may also be able to recover certain types of wrongful death damages. These can include various economic and non-economic damages the victim sustained before their death, along with damages resulting from the person’s death, including pain and suffering and funeral expenses.
Punitive damages may come into play if the negligence warrants them in a trial. A judge or jury must award these damages in court, and they only arise in cases involving gross negligence or malicious intent.
For example, if a driver speeds excessively while drinking and driving and causes an accident, this case may involve punitive damages to punish the offending driver.
Punitive damages make an example of unusually negligent defendants to deter similar behavior. However, most cases only involve compensatory damages.
Factors Influencing the Total Settlement Amount
In addition to the damages involved in a case, other influencing factors can contribute to a car accident settlement. These may include:
Whether Injuries Developed and Their Severity
One of the biggest factors that will impact your settlement amount is whether the accident resulted in injuries and the severity of those injuries. You may still be able to recover a substantial settlement even if injuries didn’t develop, but injuries typically increase settlements by a large amount.
The more serious those injuries are, the higher the settlement amount will likely be. Not only will serious injuries require more extensive and costly treatment and care, but they can also lead to disabilities and more severe pain and suffering, among other non-economic damages.
If an injury results in a permanent disability that prevents individuals from returning to work, the settlement amount could be especially high to compensate for lost wages, earning capacity, and the effects the disability has on the victim’s daily life.
The Amount of Time It Takes to Seek a Medical Evaluation
The settlement amount could also depend on when victims seek medical attention after a car accident. Even if injuries appear minor after an accident, getting a professional assessment from a doctor as soon as possible is important. Symptoms could start small and develop into more serious or life-threatening conditions later, but a medical professional can help diagnose and treat these symptoms early.
Seeking immediate care will help you begin the road to recovery. It will also show insurers that you take the accident seriously and that your injuries are valid and related to the accident. Otherwise, waiting too long to seek medical attention could compromise your case. For example, if you wait too long to seek care, insurance companies may be able to argue that the accident didn’t cause your injuries, even if this isn’t the case. Seeing a medical professional will also provide you with evidence that you may use to build your case in the form of medical records and bills.
Also, remember that you only have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations deadline differs in each state. You may have anywhere from two to six years after an accident to file a claim, which can pass quickly. Acting fast, including seeking immediate medical care to assess your injuries, will help ensure you get enough time if you decide to file a claim.
Another critical factor to consider is the amount and types of evidence involved in your case.
Evidence will prove the four main elements to recover compensation in a car accident, including:
- That the other driver or another party owed a duty of care to others
- That this party breached that duty of care through negligence or malicious intent
- That the breach led to an accident
- That the accident led to specific damages, such as injuries
You will need evidence in your case to help prove that negligence occurred and that it was the cause of the damages sustained.
There are many potential pieces of evidence that you may need to recover to build a solid case, including:
- Police reports
- Footage of the scene of the accident, including before, during, and after the accident occurred
- Photos or video footage of your injuries and property damage
- Admissions from other drivers
- Witness statements
- Medical records, bills, and receipts
- Personal notes, including specific details about the accident and how it transpired
You need to speak with a car accident attorney to discuss your case and get all this evidence. A lawyer can help obtain any evidence you cannot acquire, such as police reports, witness testimonies, and footage of the accident scene.
The Amount of Available Insurance Coverage
The insurance available on a policy can influence the settlement amount, as policies have specific limits. To avoid paying out the maximum amount, insurers may look for ways to reduce your claim or deny it altogether.
The statements you make to everyone after an accident, from other drivers and police officers to insurers, can impact your settlement. Generally, taking care before making any statements is in your best interest.
After an accident occurs, you should avoid admitting fault at any point. Even if you believe you may be responsible for an accident, you might discover that you’re not at fault. You should also avoid undermining your injuries and stating that you’re fine or good after the accident, as insurance companies may take this to mean that your injuries aren’t serious. Additionally, only provide insurers with formal statements about the accident’s events, particularly with an attorney’s help.
An experienced lawyer can help you prepare statements when communicating with insurers and others to avoid saying anything that might hurt your case.
One more consideration is the state laws in the place where the accident occurred. For example, some states are at-fault states while others are no-fault states. In at-fault states, negligent drivers must pay compensation for the damages resulting from an accident. In no-fault states, accident victims must first file a claim with their insurance companies, and their personal injury protection (PIP) insurance would provide compensation.
Unlike claims in fault-based insurance systems, no-fault auto insurance claims won’t cover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. No-fault laws in certain states also severely limit the compensation that accident victims can recover. However, in some cases, accident victims in no-fault states may be able to file a third-party liability claim, depending on the specific circumstances of the accident.
A lawyer can help you determine how state laws impact your case and the ability to file a liability claim against negligent parties.
Why You Shouldn’t Accept the First Offer From Insurers?
When negotiating with insurance companies, you may receive a settlement offer at some point. This offer may appeal to you, but your case may be worth more. Remember, insurance companies and adjusters aren’t working in the claimant’s favor when negotiating a claim. They want to avoid paying large settlements as much as possible, leading adjusters to find any reason to minimize payments or flatly deny claims.
If you accept that first offer from insurers, you won’t be able to recover additional compensation later in your case. As soon as you accept an offer, the insurance company will close the case and consider it complete. This risk makes it crucial to determine whether the initial offer is what your case is truly worth.
When you reject the initial offer, you’ll have the chance to make a counteroffer based on the actual value of your case. An attorney can help determine exactly how much your case is worth and negotiate with adjusters to reach a favorable outcome. If the insurer refuses to settle, you may also be able to work with your attorney to take the case to trial, but insurers are likely to settle to avoid the potential losses in a trial case.
Meet With an Attorney and Discover How Much You Deserve From Your Car Accident Settlement
Considering everything when assessing your case can help determine how much money you may recover through compensation. While it may be possible to do this alone, many potential factors can affect the total settlement amount. You’ll need to consider the injuries involved, the degree of negligence, the evidence available, and other factors that make it difficult to quantify compensation. This is where an experienced lawyer may help.
By consulting with a California personal injury lawyer, you can better determine what kind of settlement you can recover. They may also be able to represent you during the claims process, working to ensure that you get total compensation from liable parties.