When you suffer injuries in a car accident, you may have a legal case against the responsible parties. Filing an insurance claim or lawsuit could allow you to recover damages. However, every case is different. How much money you get from a car accident settlement depends on the details of the accident and your injuries.
Car accidents can range from minor incidents to catastrophic multi-vehicle wrecks. Whatever your case may be, a car accident lawyer can help recover compensation for your injuries and losses.
How Your Injuries Affect the Amount of Your Settlement
Several factors can affect the amount of any settlement that you seek for your injuries and other losses after a car accident. Namely, the type and severity of your injuries can have a major impact on your settlement. For example, a broken wrist will result in some medical bills for a limited period, while a spinal injury could require ongoing rehabilitation and medical care for months or even years.
The permanency of your injuries is also a significant factor in your settlement. If your doctors expect you to fully recover from your injuries, your settlement amount will likely be lower than if you suffered a permanent disability or disfigurement. Likewise, severe and permanent injuries usually result in higher medical costs than minor and temporary injuries.
Other Factors That Affect Your Settlement After a Car Accident
The impact of your injuries on your ability to work is also a critical factor in any settlement that you seek after a car accident. For example, you may lose income temporarily while you are off work to recover and heal from your injuries, but in the case of permanent impairments, you may be unable to return to your previous job or career field. This can lead to a loss of current and future income.
Other factors that may affect the amount of your car accident settlement can include:
- Your age and medical history
- How long you waited to seek medical attention after the accident
- The circumstances that led to the accident
- The degree of negligence or recklessness that caused the accident
Insurance companies may cite gaps in treatment or pre-existing conditions as reasons to reduce the value of your claim.
All car accidents affect victims differently—an injury that may be debilitating to one person may not be to another based on their circumstances before and after the collision. As such, every personal injury case may play out differently, even when they share similarities with others. The only way to determine how much your case is worth is by conducting a thorough investigation.
Types of Compensation in a Personal Injury Car Accident Case
Your settlement amount should account for all the economic and non-economic losses that you suffer as a result of a car accident. While not everyone experiences the same types of losses, most car accident victims have at least some of the following injuries and accident-related losses in common.
#1. Medical Bills
Anyone who suffers injuries in a car accident is likely to incur medical bills. Expenses for hospitalization, diagnostic testing, surgery, rehabilitation, and doctor visits add up quickly. If you continue to need medical care in the future, you can also recover damages for the estimated costs of future medical treatment related to your injuries.
Other types of medical costs may include:
- Emergency medical transportation
- Prescription medication
- Medical assistive devices and mobility aids
- Modifications to homes and vehicles to accommodate disabilities
If your injuries are serious or permanent, these expenses can be ongoing. For example, you may need home health or personal care indefinitely to remain living at home with a permanent impairment.
#2. Property Damage
Whether you were a driver or passenger at the time of the wreck, the accident may have caused significant damages to your motor vehicle. As a result, you may be able to claim the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle as part of your car accident settlement.
#3. Lost Income
If you must take time off work to recover from your injuries, you should ensure that your settlement amount considers those financial losses.
Furthermore, if your injuries result in a permanent impairment that prevents you from returning to your former job or leaves you unable to work at all, you could have a claim for loss of future income. The loss of earning capacity in the future also may be attributable to your injuries.
#4. Pain and Suffering
One common non-economic form of compensation is the physical pain and suffering that you experience in the aftermath of an accident. The recovery and rehabilitation process from some injuries is far more grueling than for others. Although you may find it challenging to place a precise dollar value on these losses, they can be just as, if not more devastating, than economic losses.
#5. Emotional Distress
The trauma of experiencing a severe car accident can leave you with nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and fear of traveling by car. Some of this mental distress may affect your life for years to come, which makes it a possible compensable item in your car accident settlement.
#6. Permanent Scarring and Disfigurement
Some injuries can result in permanent scarring and disfigurement that may require additional surgeries and treatment. These alterations to your appearance can be traumatic and add to your mental stress. As such, you may also be eligible for compensation for these losses in your settlement.
#7. Permanent Disability
If you experience a permanent disability or impairment following a car accident, you may have no choice but to give up on personal activities and pastimes that you previously found enjoyable. The permanency of your disability can profoundly affect your ability to enjoy life and fundamentally change your path forward. These changes also enable you to seek compensation in your car accident case.
Types of Compensation in a Wrongful Death Car Accident Case
If a car accident results in the loss of your loved one, specific surviving family members have the right to bring a wrongful death claim against those who are liable for the accident. The types of compensation available in wrongful death claims differ somewhat from those available in personal injury claims stemming from car accidents.
#1. Lost Financial Support and Inheritance
Eligible family members can seek compensation through a wrongful death claim for the financial support that their deceased loved one would have provided them. They can also seek financial recovery for the inheritance that they expected to receive had the wrongful death not occurred.
#2. Loss of Services, Care, Maintenance, Support, and Counsel
Surviving dependent children and spouses may seek damages for loss of services, care, maintenance, support, and counsel as part of their car accident settlement. If these were forms of support that the deceased party provided them before the death, they are losses that are compensable in a wrongful death case.
#3. Loss of Companionship and Love
Similarly, surviving family members can seek compensation through car accident settlements for the loss of companionship of their loved ones. Spouses may lose their lifelong companions, and children may lose their parents, who are supposed to guide them throughout their childhoods.
#4. Mental Pain and Suffering
Surviving family members are likely to experience significant mental pain, suffering, and grief from the death of their loved one. These family members also have the right to pursue compensation for those losses.
#5. Funeral and Burial Costs
Funeral and burial services are often extraordinarily expensive. These unexpected costs can be overwhelming for those left behind. The amount of money that you get from a car accident settlement can include these unanticipated costs for surviving family members.
Punitive Damages in Car Accident Cases
Punitive damages are another type of damage that may make up part of a settlement in a car accident case. Unlike other forms of compensation, the purpose of these damages is to punish the wrongdoers, rather than compensate victims for their injuries. Punitive damages are also designed to deter others from engaging in similar types of misconduct that harm others.
As a result, punitive damages usually are part of a settlement only in the most egregious and severe cases of negligence or recklessness. For instance, a car accident case involving a drunk driver or a driver breaking the speed limit that causes severe or fatal injuries to others might justify a punitive damages award.
Negotiating a Fair Settlement for Your Car Accident
Most car accident cases end in a settlement with the insurance company, long before you ever see a courtroom. As a result, you can expect your car accident attorneys to spend a great deal of time negotiating with the insurance company to reach a full and fair settlement. The exchange of information and evidence is a key part of successful negotiations in a car accident case.
#1. Evidence to Support Your Losses
Your car accident attorneys will immediately begin gathering the evidence necessary to support your claim for damages.
Some of the many forms of evidence they may compile in your case include:
- Medical bills
- Medical records and expert medical opinions
- Photos and diagrams of the accident scene
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Accident reconstruction reports
- Employment and education records
- Vehicle repair and replacement cost estimates
They will also likely ask you to give a detailed personal account of how your injuries have affected your everyday life since the accident. This account can include the challenges you face in completing your daily activities, your ability to pursue hobbies you once enjoyed, and your capacity to return to work in your chosen career. These statements can carry great weight in determining the settlement amount that you qualify for in a car accident claim. Your words matter!
Dealing With Insurance Companies
Insurance companies are in business to make a profit, not to compensate you for your injuries. The ultimate goal of the insurance adjuster is to deny your claim or pay as little as possible on your claim.
As such, insurance companies may use the following tactics to avoid a fair settlement:
- Ask you to give a recorded statement, which they later use against you
- Propose a settlement before you receive a clear medical prognosis
- Encourage you to sign a quick settlement so they are no longer responsible if your injuries lead to complications
- Feign sympathy to make you believe that they are on your side
Keep in mind the first settlement offer in your case is likely to be very low and not truly representative of the value of your injuries. The insurance company hopes to get you to sign a quick and easy settlement and waiver of your claim so that you cannot come back in the future and claim further losses. These offers are rarely in your best interests. That’s why you should never sign anything without getting legal advice first. A car accident lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company and provide the evidence necessary to support your claim. Together, you and your lawyer can work to secure a reasonable settlement in your case that represents the actual value of your losses.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today for Help
Understanding how much money you get from a car accident settlement is only one aspect of your car accident claim. If you want to learn about every step of the injury claims process from start to finish, you may wish to contact a car accident lawyer for advice and counsel. They can evaluate your situation, answer your questions, and explain how they can meet your legal needs.
Your attorney can handle the legal matters while you focus on recovering from your injuries after a car accident. Strong legal representation is the best choice for maximizing your car accident settlement award. Learn more today with a free consultation.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.