How Much Is a Car Accident Claim Worth?By Stewart J. Guss on January 4th, 2020
This is one of the most common questions we get when speaking to our potential clients. While most would like an exact number, we unfortunately cannot provide this without first looking at the damages. Primarily, this is because EVERY ACCIDENT IS UNIQUE, and the injuries that victims sustain can range from minor whiplash to spinal cord injuries that result in permanent disability. Read on to learn what factors are considered when you visit the skilled car accident attorneys at the Stewart J. Guss Firm.
Victims’ Injuries Can Often Be Masked for Hours or Days
In the United States around two million people suffer a serious injury in a roadway accident EVERY YEAR. While it is good to know that not every car accident victim suffers a serious injury, what is frightening is that not everyone knows immediately after an accident whether they have suffered any injury at all. The reason for this is because our body’s initial reaction of fear and shock cam mask symptoms or a problem, even if you are seriously injured!
Victims may suffer headaches, back pain, or neck pain hours or even days after a car accident. Too often, you will not realize that you have suffered a car accident-related injury until these symptoms appear, making it a challenge to associate your injury with the accident. If you notice ANY new symptoms in the hours or days following an accident, even if you’re unsure whether they’re related to your accident, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Common Injuries Suffered in Car Accidents
Common factors in determining the value of a claim generally revolve around the types of injuries that can occur during a car accident. For example, someone who suffers soft tissue injuries is likely to collect less than someone who suffered a broken bone or internal injuries. While soft tissue injuries and broken bones are easily identifiable, oftentimes internal injuries are not identified for 24 to 48 hours after an accident.
Keep in mind, some injuries result in hospitalization, which also means missing time from work, or NOT BEING ABLE TO WORK AGAIN. This means your car accident claim will likely be worth more than the claim of someone who was able to return to work shortly after their accident. One of the potential monetary claims you can make is for lost wages, as well as for medical expenses.
Victims of vehicle accidents that require long-term medical care may be able to secure a larger settlement. Victims who suffer serious injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or other serious injuries, typically have larger bills and thus receive more compensation.
The type of vehicle being operated by the other driver will also play a factor in the severity of injuries. For example, a victim of a car accident involving an 18-wheeler is more likely to suffer a serious injury than someone who was involved in a fender bender with a smaller passenger car
Drivers Who Behave Negligently
Few of us give much thought to the other drivers on the road, outside of hoping they drive thoughtfully and carefully. Although we are a national law firm, we are headquartered in Texas and stay closely tuned to Texas accident data. Sadly, there are some STUNNING statistics about the types of crashes that occur on Texas roadways. MOST of the leading causes of crashes in Texas involve actions by motor vehicle operators who behave in a negligent manner. Some of these include:
- Alcohol-related accidents – During 2018, there were 14,345 total alcohol-involved crashes, including 4,986 on rural roads and 9,359 on urban roads. Unfortunately, in some of these accidents, victims lost their lives, leaving their families to decide whether they should file wrongful death claims.
- Crashes due to inattention – Distracted driving caused more than 84,000 crashes. This is a staggering number of accidents, and unfortunately, these accidents could have been avoided EASILY had the driver been paying more attention. More than 250 of these accidents resulted in a fatality.
- Speed-related crashes – Nearly 500 people lost their lives on Texas roadways due to speed-related accidents. In total, during 2018, 138,269 crashes were determined to be related to unsafe speeds. We expect better from those with whom we share the road.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 14,908 people sustained a serious injury because of a car accident EVERYYEAR. In fact, the same report shows an injury occurred every two minutes and seven seconds on a Texas road! Across the state, cars traveled 282.037 billion miles during 2018.
Steps to Take Following a Car Accident
First and foremost, if you are seriously injured seek immediate medical attention. Everything else can wait until after you’ve been examined or taken to the emergency room. If you are able you should collect documentation. Fortunately, today nearly all of us carry a cell phone, which makes it easy to take photographs, take notes, and store information. Photograph the entire area of the accident including damage to the involved vehicles, traffic signals, closest intersection, and ANYTHING else that may seem pertinent.
Supply the appropriate facts to law enforcement officers. Use CAUTION, HOWEVER, when discussing the accident, it is preferable to stick to facts and not speculation.
Seeking medical attention is crucial after a car accident. As we discussed before, symptoms may be masked by your adrenaline. You want to be sure there’s no internal bleeding or damages even if you don’t yet have symptoms. Generally, when law enforcement is notified that there has been an accident, an emergency medical team will come to the scene. Even if you decide not to take advantage of the EMS team at the scene, take the time to be checked out physically to document any obvious trauma, such as scrapes and bruising.
Contacting your insurance company AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after a car accident will further help you with your potential case. Remember, the insurance company will receive a copy of the police report, either because it requests that the police supply it, or because it asks you to obtain a copy on its behalf.
When speaking with the insurance adjuster, make sure to stick with known facts and avoid discussing anything speculative. You should also use caution when answering any questions that are posed to you since the insurance company will be interested primarily in MINIMIZING the amount it pays toward the claim.
Seek advice from a car accident attorney. This is an important step to take because, chances are, once the accident has been reported to the insurance company, things will begin to unfold quickly. Insurance adjusters may offer you a lowball initial settlement. Keep in mind, accepting these early settlements is generally NEVER a good idea, because you may be asked to waive any rights to future expenses, including medical bills, replacement of your car, or other damages that you may not be immediately aware of. A car accident lawyer can help protect you and preserve your rights after an accident.
How Damages Are Calculated After a Car Accident
Car accident victims are often unaware of what damages may be claimed after a car accident. There are two types of damages that you should consider: monetary losses and non-monetary losses. Both types of damages will be part of the final settlement reached either between your attorney and insurance company or the damages awarded by the court, should your case be heard in court.
Monetary damages are easy to calculate if you are injured and the injury is not expected to result in long-term problems. Hospitalization costs, lost wages, damage to your vehicle, prescription medications, rehabilitation costs, and any other expenses that are a direct result of the accident are considered monetary damages and are easy to prove with your MOUNTAIN OF BILLS AND RECEIPTS.
Non-monetary losses are much more complicated. Pain and suffering, mental anguish, and lowered quality of life are a few of the potential types of non-monetary damages to which you may be entitled to after a car accident.
For a victim of a car accident where the person was clearly acting recklessly, such as someone excessive speeding or driving while impaired, texting, or otherwise driving distracted, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to discourage the driver who was responsible for the accident to avoid repeating such actions in the future. These are awarded when the defendant acted with WANTON DISREGARD for the safety of others.
Deciding Between a Settlement or a Lawsuit
Most car accident cases do not require a court hearing or trial if you have hired a car accident attorney who has a proven track record of successful negotiations with insurance companies. Remember, it is not in the best interest of an insurer to take a case to court since juries are unpredictable and are generally able to make damage awards as they see fit.
INSURERS HATE GOING TO TRIAL! This means once the insurance company determines that you have hired a car accident attorney, it is more likely to begin negotiating in good faith. Of course, the other side of this coin is that the jury can sometimes find against a just claimant. Again, having the advice of a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer is your best bet to make your maximum recovery.
Victims of a car accident should always remember that while they have paid their insurance company to ensure that they are covered in the event of an accident, the insurance company has an incentive to pay as little as possible towards a claim. This is because these companies are interested in protecting their bottom lines. The less they pay towards a legitimate claim, the better off they are from a financial standpoint.
Insurance adjusters are well-trained in various methods to TRICK car accident victims into claiming that they were partially at fault for an accident, because the insurance company can then take advantage of such an admission and decrease its settlement offer. BE WARY OF INSURERS AT EVERY STEP OF THE PROCESS, and let your LAWYER do the talking!
Once you have hired a car accident attorney, you should refer any questions or documentation requests from the insurance company to your attorney. Even seemingly innocent questions, like how you are doing, can be the basis for denying claims, reducing the amount of a claim, or attempting to downplay your injuries!
There is no easy formula for determining how much a car accident claim is worth, because there are so many variables involved. The types of injuries sustained, the damage to your vehicle, how much time you lose from work, and the length of time you are going to need to completely heal from your injuries will always play a role in determining how much compensation you should seek.
Whenever you are involved in a car accident, it is a good idea to work with an experienced attorney, so you do not lose any of your rights. Families who have suffered the loss of a loved one are often uncertain as to what steps they should take. While the loss of a loved one cannot be thought about in terms of dollars and cents, your family may suffer a SEVERE economic loss as a result of the loss of income and other benefits.
Remember, in most cases, when you contact a car accident attorney, you can get a free consultation. Take advantage of this and make sure you understand what rights you have under the law to file a lawsuit. This is especially true if you suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one in a car accident.
Victims of car accidents in Texas should not have to suffer the financial losses that are a result of someone else’s negligence while operating a motor vehicle. A skilled lawyer can help protect your rights, hold the responsible parties financially liable, and give you peace of mind while you recover from your physical injuries. Contact us today to discuss your case and what you can get compensated.