Learn About the Car Accident Lawsuit Process
If you sustain an injury in a car accident, you may be thinking about filing a car accident lawsuit. It is possible that the courtroom is where the case ends up. That said, plaintiffs should know going in that most car accident injury claims result in a settlement before trial. Also, many car accident insurance claims resolve via settlement before a lawsuit is filed.
Yet, there are cases where going to court is necessary, and there are advantages in doing so. There are various factors to consider before actually going through with a lawsuit.
Settling Before a Car Accident Lawsuit
Many injured parties will settle their claim before filing suit. Here is why you might want to consider this:
- You get paid faster
- You avoid paying attorney fees
- Avoid going to court; lawsuits may require several hearings
- You avoid relying on an unpredictable jury for compensation
- Going to court is not a guarantee of more money (or any money) in your pocket
The question you need to ask is this: Is it worth the risk of going to trial and getting nothing? It depends on what type of settlement offer you have in hand. If the insurance company is low-balling you or offers nothing, you may have no choice but to file a lawsuit.
Going to Court
It is usually best to try to settle your car accident claim out of court. But settlement may not be in the cards in your case. Here are the typical steps in the lawsuit process:
- Your attorney files your car accident lawsuit in court by drafting a legal complaint and sending it to the court. You also have to serve the other driver using a police officer, sheriff or process server. The other driver has 20 days usually to answer.
- You next take part in the ‘discovery’ process. You will ask for information from the other driver and he will ask for information from you. Information is obtained by exchanging written documentation. Or, you can request that your attorney depose the other driver.
- Trial is the final stage of the car accident lawsuit process. During the trial, the judge or jury will hear all the evidence from both sides and render a decision. The time it takes to prepare and represent you at trial can accumulate very expensive legal fees. It is important that you be sure that it is worth going to trial to resolve your case.
Remember you can settle the case at any point during the lawsuit process. The other side may decide to up their settlement offer once they see you are willing to go to trial. The mere threat of a lawsuit going forward could be all you need to get the settlement you want.
Did I Receive An Average Car Accident Settlement?
After a car accident, you may decide to file a car accident claim or lawsuit against the other driver. Many people suffer injuries that leave them with medical bills and lost work time. But after you have gotten your settlement, you might wonder if you received an average or fair amount of compensation. How do you know?
The first thing to realize is the value of the claim is dependent on many factors. The average car accident settlement depends on things such as: how severe your injuries are, how long you need medical treatments and rehabilitation, required surgeries, physical damage to your vehicle, medical bills, lost earnings, and more.
How Car Accident Claims Are Valued
There is no one-size-fits-all way that insurance companies value car accident claims and injuries. A common tool insurance adjusters use is a multiplier. The adjuster will multiply your special damages by a certain number. Generally, special damages are your financial losses from the accident, such as hospital bills, doctor bills, lost wages, and costs to repair your car.
Many insurance companies will add up your special damages and then multiply it by a number from 1 to 5. The basis is how severe your pain and suffering is.
For example, assume the total of your medical costs and lost earnings from your accident is $10,000. If the insurance company multiplies your special damages by 2 then your claim is worth $20,000. If you had worse injuries and pain and suffering and the adjuster used a 4, your claim would be worth $40,000.
How The Multiplier Is Determined
On average, insurance companies will multiply your special damages by 2 or 3 to determine your settlement. How the insurance company determines your multiplier will be what determines if you got a fair car accident settlement.
For many car accidents, injuries are minor to moderate and take minimal time to recover from. Those types of accidents are ones where a 2 or 3 multiplier may be appropriate. Car accidents with more severe injuries warrant a 4 or 5 multiplier.
But there is no simple answer for which multiplier the insurance company will use in a specific case. It depends on many things. Generally, lower medical bills and lost wages indicates that a 1-3 multiplier. If your medical costs are only a few hundred dollars, this suggests that your injuries resolved in one or two medical visits. If you only had one medical treatment, the insurance company might conclude that your pain and suffering was minor.
Yet, if your medical expenses were $50,000, the insurance company knows you were likely in the hospital and/or had many medical treatments. A hospital stay generally indicates more pain and suffering. In this case, a 4 or 5 multiplier might be applicable.
It is no surprise that auto insurance companies try to pay out as little claims as they can. Negotiating with the auto insurance company can be challenging. That is what your personal injury attorney is for.
How Much Should I Settle for After a Car Accident?
If you want to get as much money as possible out of your car accident settlement, most car accident lawyers recommend the following:
Maintain Accurate Records
If you were in a collision it is important to keep accurate records of the accident. You need to collect police reports. Also important are your medical treatment documents and witness statements.
The other driver’s auto insurance company will try to collect information to use against you. This would leave you at a major disadvantage if you failed to keep correct documentation.
When you hire your lawyer, she will finish this key investigation for you. Your lawyer will gather and present all necessary records when you go to settlement.
It is always wise to take photographs of the scene of the accident and your injuries. If you can, take pictures of where the cars ended up after the crash, as well as the damages to both cars at the scene.
Good photographs are an excellent piece of evidence that your lawyer can use. If the case goes to trial, having good photographs will act as a strong visual for the jury.
Don’t Accept the First Settlement Offer
Insurance adjusters use various methods to get you to agree to a smaller settlement. The adjuster could even attempt to get you to admit the accident was your fault when it was not.
The job of the adjuster is to get you to agree to a small settlement before an attorney gets involved in your case. Once you have an attorney, the adjuster will not be able to bully you into taking a low settlement offer.
Do What the Doctor Says
If you sustained injuries in a car accident it is important to continue to see your doctor until treatments are complete. If you do not follow your doctor’s orders, you could lose a lot of money in your settlement. The insurance company will check for any gap in your treatments and will argue that you were not hurt because you did not follow the doctor’s order.
The insurance company may decline to pay for medical bills that accumulated after the gap in treatment. Ultimately, some of your medical expenses may be not covered.
Keep Good Records
You should keep a good record of how your injuries are affecting your life. If your case goes to trial, it may be hard to remember how you were feeling at any particular time.
With a journal, you can make a clear picture to the jury about how much your injuries changed your life for the worse.
When trying to get pain and suffering compensation, it is helpful to have a detailed record of the activities you could not take part in because of your injuries.
File the Case Quickly
Every state has a statute of limitations for when you can file a personal injury claim. This can range from one to four years from the date of the accident. But the sooner you file the better. Some of the strength of your claim could be from the testimony of witnesses. The sooner that you get the case filed with the evidence fresh, the more likely you can get a good settlement.
You also should give your attorney plenty of time to build your case.
Get A Good Personal Injury Attorney
After an auto accident resulting in injuries, it is important to immediately get in touch with a good personal injury attorney. Also, never speak to the other personal auto insurance company until you have an attorney. If you say the wrong thing to the adjuster, you could end up losing much of the compensation you deserve.
A skilled attorney will handle the complex negotiations with insurance adjusters, ensuring that you receive proper compensation.
If you do not yet have an attorney, use our website to help you find a good personal injury attorney in your state.
How to Pick the Right Lawyer after a Car Accident
Selecting the right attorney to handle your claim is an important part of the car accident lawsuit process. Hiring the best lawyer for your particular case can ensure a successful outcome. While the process can be straightforward, there are many things to consider. Here are a few guidelines to help you determine if a certain attorney is right for your situation:
Select the Right Kind of Attorney
Those who have not faced legal challenges in the past may not realize that there is more than one type of lawyer. There is a wide variety of legal professionals who can help with things ranging from medical malpractice to entertainment law. It’s important to work with a lawyer who specializes in your particular area of need. A consultation with a divorce lawyer won’t get you very far in your whiplash settlement.
If you’re not sure which kind of attorney you need, do some searching online. A few simple keywords can often lead you in the right direction. Web search results can often point you to the kind of lawyer you need. This kind of narrowing of the field of choices can ensure you’re on track to find the attorney that’s right for your case.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve determined which kind of attorney you’ll need, you can decide on a professional who is a good match. Family and friends may give recommendations about attorneys they have used. Assembling a list of names can help guide your research.
Lawsuit Info Center also offers help in connecting people with the attorney that’s right. We can help those who have suffered injuries in car accidents connect with lawyers in their area. By calling our phone number and discussing your case, you’ll receive professional advice about the type of lawyer that’s right for you. Our unbiased opinions can give you the guidance you need.
Take Advantage of Consultations
Many attorneys offer free consultation appointments for prospective clients. These appointments serve as introductory meetings to explain your case and get insight. They also give you an opportunity to interview the attorney and get a feel for their experience. During a consultation, don’t be shy to ask about their past cases and their outcomes. How an attorney replies can give you a good idea of their success rate.
Consultation appointments can determine how comfortable you feel with a particular lawyer. Trust between a client and their attorney is paramount. If any of the answers to your questions make you feel uncomfortable or if you don’t trust their opinion, look elsewhere for representation. Only when you feel comfortable with a lawyer should you make the choice to hire them.
Consider the Merits of Your Case
Once you’ve found an attorney you like, ask about how they plan to handle your case. Is the person likely to settle out of court, or do they feel comfortable pursuing a trial in front of a judge and jury? Consider their communication style. Some attorneys handle everything on your behalf and notify you of important updates. But you may prefer regular updates of the progress of your case. Discuss these things with your potential attorney before you decide to hire them.
It’s also important to ask about the anticipated outcome of your case. Lawyers who promise large sums of money for a car accident, for example, could be cause for concern. Because every case is different, it’s difficult to anticipate the exact outcome of a specific situation. Attorneys should give ballpark figures instead of precise settlement amounts. When someone assures you a specific dollar amount, consider it a red flag.
Discuss Payment Options
Most car accident attorneys work on contingency. This means that no money is due until the case closes. At this point the attorney gets paid a percentage (typically 33%) of the final car accident settlement. This kind of fee structure is helpful for those short on cash. Still, it’s important to ask about the percentage of payment they expect for their services. Failure to do so could result in unfortunate and costly mistakes.
Some lawyers charge more than others. Lawyers base their fees on their experience, education and success rate. A high fee doesn’t necessarily indicate a better chance of success. It’s important to weigh your options before opting for one attorney over another.
Most Common Mistakes During a Car Accident Settlement
People respond to traumatic events in a variety of ways. Some people compartmentalize and handle decision-making in a logical way. Others go into survival mode. When your adrenaline is pumping, it can be difficult to make smart choices. Even after a traumatic car accident, victims can feel paralyzed by their options. This leads to errors in the car accident settlement process.
The days and weeks following a crash can be overwhelming for even the most cool-headed of people. If you’re hoping to avoid many of these common post-accident mistakes, follow this guide.
Skipping a Medical Exam
When you’re involved in a crash, it’s tempting to do anything in your power to put it behind you. After all, accidents are stressful. If you don’t notice an injury immediately after a collision, you may consider skipping out on a medical exam. If you’ve declined medical care, you could be making a big mistake.
The human body responds to trauma in curious ways. Many accident victims don’t realize they have suffered an injury until after they’ve left the scene of the crash. In some cases, it may take weeks for the body to show signs of common accident injuries like whiplash. Not seeking medical attention could result in difficulty connecting your injury to your accident.
For this reason, it’s important to get checked out after a crash even if you don’t think you’re hurt. The better you document your injuries, prognosis, and treatment, the more likely you’ll receive compensation. Early examinations can also help mitigate the impact the injury has on your overall health.
Forgetting to Collect Evidence
It can be difficult to remember the steps necessary to handle a collision. Failure to collect vital evidence can limit the damages you may collect. Of course, medical attention should take priority over evidence collection. After clearance by the paramedics, though, it’s important to take action.
You will need the contact and insurance information of the other driver involved. Also, be sure to collect official report details from the police officer on scene. Snap a few photos of the damage, your injuries, and the intersection where the incident occurred. If witnesses observed the crash, write down their names and contact information, too. By gathering initial evidence, you have a head start for your lawyer’s investigation.
Trusting the Insurance Company
It’s tempting to take the insurance company’s word when they say they’ll take care of everything. After all, you pay monthly premiums for this exact situation, right? While it’s easy to sit back and trust that the insurance company has your best interests at heart, it’s a mistake to do so. Insurers work to turn a profit. They’ll do everything they can to get out of paying accident victims what they’re owed.
While it’s important to be polite when working with a claims adjuster, it’s also important to be your own advocate. Talk to a car accident lawyer about what your claim is worth. Don’t be afraid to reject lowball offers from the insurance company. Even if they try to make their offer out to be significant, it’s worth doing your research.
Often, accident victims are more concerned with when they will receive their settlement, rather than how much it will be. Car wrecks can be expensive, after all. You may be facing expensive repair and hospital bills. You may question how you’ll ever be able to afford the unexpected upfront costs associated with the wreck. It’s difficult to resist taking the first settlement offered.
An insurance company will rarely offer their best settlement up front. Even if you’re in a tough financial spot, focus on the big picture of negotiation. If you’re serious about getting a fair offer, patience is key. Take time to build your case, and you’re more likely to see a settlement that’s fair.
No matter the circumstances surrounding your accident, it’s worth talking to an attorney about your legal options. It can be difficult for crash victims to know the value of their case, which is why we offer a free car accident settlement calculator on our website. Whether you opt to represent yourself or hire a lawyer, the resources available from Lawsuit Info Center can prepare you to face the insurance company.
How are car accident payouts calculated?
You can learn more about the common types of injuries and what they pay out on average here.
There is no exact formula for calculating the average car accident payout. If you only sustained damage to your car, policy limits are the basis of reimbursement. Just as no two car accidents are the same, no two car accident payouts are the same. A careful examination of the facts of your case and the insurance carrier’s rules determine the amount of your car accident payout.
Pain and suffering compensation is only awarded when you have been physically injured. An examination by a doctor immediately after an accident is critical, even if you don’t think that you’re injured. Often, injuries are not immediately clear and can take days to years to become noticeable. It’s a good idea to allow a doctor to determine if you have suffered any internal or unnoticable injuries.
For example, some car accident injuries, such as whiplash, may not become evident until a few days after the crash. If you wait too long to seek medical care, you might lose compensation for the car accident injury.
If you want to get a rough estimate of how much to expect from a car accident settlement, a good rule of thumb is to:
- Add up your expenses for medical bills, car repairs, and lost wages.
- Multiply that sum by three.
So, for example, let’s say you suffered injuries in a car accident and paid $4,000 in doctor’s bills. You also missed one week of work, which made you lose $2,000 in income. Your average car accident settlement would be approximately $18,000, because your total damages of $6,000 multiplied by three equals $18,000. Based on this estimate, your car accident payout is likely to fall somewhere between $14,000 and $28,000, depending on the exact circumstances.
Keep in mind, car accident payouts are generally higher for more severe or permanent injuries. You’ll also get paid more if the other driver was driving under the influence or was grossly negligent in operating their vehicle.
When filing an injury claim with the other driver’s insurance, you’re limited by their policy maximum. For example, if you suffered $30,000 in damages, but the other driver’s insurance limit is $20,000, you might need to sue the individual separately to reclaim the additional $10,000. Or, you might be able to file a claim with your insurance if you have under-insured motorist coverage to recover the additional damages.
Who pays my auto accident settlement?
If you have collision coverage and the crash was your fault, your insurance company will pay a certain amount to fix your car. If the cost to repair the damages is more than the value of your vehicle, the insurance company may consider your car totaled and give you a lump sum based on how much it’s worth.
Moreover, if another driver’s negligence caused the wreck, his or her insurance company should compensate you. The sum that the company offers may be much lower than you expect.
It’s easy to get reimbursed for funds that you’ve paid out. It’s challenging to put a fair price on pain and suffering.
What kind of payout should I expect from a car accident?
A variety of factors go into deciding the average payout for a car accident.
A judge or jury who hears your case will take into account:
- The types of injuries
- Treatment plan
- Length of therapy
- Loss of income
- Severity of the wreck
- Other factors
In most cases, a payout is only offered when the medical treatment is complete. Permanent injuries will influence the amount of compensation that you receive.
If you’re working with an insurance company after a car wreck, let them know if you’re still going through medical treatment.
What should I expect after a head on collision?
A head-on crash is one of the worst car accidents there is. If you sustain injuries in a head-on crash, you will need compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
Head-on crash cases are usually easier to prove than other car crashes. This is because there is often a lot of physical evidence available. Attorneys can look at braking times, skid marks, black box data, and more to prove who caused the accident. With these accidents, it is usually not difficult to show the jury what happened and why. For this reason, most head-on accident cases settle before trial.
Head-On Crash Accident Settlements
But what are head-on crashes worth at the settlement table? Research indicates the median award in head-on crashes is approximately $30,000. But this is misleading. Many frontal crash cases settle without a trial, and many of the cases reported involve back strains. Such accidents are usually minor parking lot incidents with little damage.
But there are many other examples of major head-on crashes that involve severe injury. These injuries are usually worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. In some of the worst head-on crash cases, the only reason the case did not settle for more was that the insurance coverage ran out.
Below are some sample head-on crash settlements that have been published online:
- 2014: $96,500 – A 21-year-old male filed a personal injury lawsuit after suffering severe injuries in a head-on crash where the other driver crossed the median. The plaintiff suffered a major ankle fracture and had to have two screws implanted. He was left with a permanent limp and could no longer work as a waiter. He claimed $34,100 in medical costs and $12,600 in lost earnings. The jury also awarded him $50,000 for pain and suffering.
- 2012: $950,000 – A driver was hit head-on by another vehicle that crossed the median. He suffered humorous, hip, and thoracic spine fractures. The gentleman had to have several surgeries to repair the humerus fracture and a right hip replacement. He had permanent scarring on his arms and legs. He received $600,000 for medical bills, $300,000 for future medical costs, $25,000 in lost earnings, and $25,000 in future earnings.
- 2013: $20,000 – A nursing assistant was injured when she was involved in a head-on crash. She suffered soft tissue injuries in the cervical and lumbar areas that required physical therapy. The total claim was $9,600 in medical bills and $2,040 in lost earnings. She was awarded $20,000 for medical bills and lost earnings and $8,200 in pain and suffering.
The above examples are to give you an idea of what similar cases might be worth. You should talk to an experienced head on accident injury attorney to learn more.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
In a car accident lawsuit, pain and suffering is the emotional distress and mental anguish that you have after the accident. Pain and suffering may result from:
- Physical pain and discomfort, whether it is permanent or temporary.
- Anxiety, memory loss, depression, insomnia, or other mental health issues
- Physical limitations, such as inability to hug your children or play with them.
- Loss of consortium with your loved ones
How Pain and Suffering Is Calculated in a Car Accident Settlement
There are two ways that pain and suffering compensation can be determined..
The first is the per diem method. This method assigns a dollar value for a single day (based on your daily wages), then multiplies it by the days affected by the injury. This method is rarely used by insurance companies to calculate pain and suffering..
The other way to determine pain and suffering is the multiplier method. This is most often used by insurance companies to calculate pain and suffering. This calculation adds up your economic damages and then multiplies them by a number from 1 to 5.
The tricky part with the multiplier method is figuring out whether your pain and suffering is worth a 1 or 5. You cannot tell the insurance adjuster that your pain and suffering is worth a 5. You have to provide documentation that justifies the multiplier you are claiming.
The only time you can claim a 4 or 5 for your pain and suffering is if the injury leaves you critically or permanently injured. For example, if the car accident caused spinal fractures that caused you permanent pain, you may be entitled to the maximum amount of pain and suffering compensation (5). But, if your injury involves only a temporary sprain, you can only use a 1 or 2 as the multiplier.
When negotiating a settlement, most insurance adjusters will add a small amount on top of your economic damages to cover your pain and suffering. You should talk to your personal injury attorney to determine if the settlement is fair.
You can expect more compensation for pain and suffering if you experience permanent disability and/or inability to work.
What is the Average Settlement Amount for Pain and Suffering?
This is a difficult question, and one that doesn’t have a universal answer. While you can attempt to use a settlement calculator, they are often not comprehensive enough to provide an accurate answer. As always, it’s best to talk to a professional.
Yet, we can talk a little about how to calculate the value of pain and suffering. The answers to the following questions may help you determine an amount.
What kind of injury did you sustain? A good lawyer will use the average number from the type of injury to help calculate pain and suffering.
What was your economic loss? How long were you out of work? Did you have to quit?
What are your noneconomic damages? Noneconomic damages include the following.
- Emotional distress (lost enjoyment of life, distress over a disability, humiliation, psychological trauma, PTSD)
- Loss of consortium (love and affection, care, companionship, spousal intimacy)
- Physical pain and suffering (slipped disk, necked pain, pulled muscles, to name a few).
How much of the fault was yours? Sometimes this number is 0%, and sometimes it is not. In a few states, being even partially at fault will entirely negate your claim, so it’s important to know.
The average amount from a pain and suffering case is between $15,000 – $35,000 when settled out of court. Generally, pain and suffering claims involve minor injuries so the settlement amounts are not as high when involving serious injuries.
If serious injuries accompany a pain and suffering case, payouts can be much higher.. The severity of an injury will almost always be the largest factor in determining a settlement’s value.
Talking to someone experienced will give you the best range you can expect in a pain and suffering claim.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Pain and Suffering Case?
It is not necessary for you to have a lawyer to go to court or send a demand letter for a settlement. However, there are cases in which pain and suffering would not pay out without proper legal representation.
A woman’s daughter had an accident in a rental car that resulted in pain and suffering as well as broken bones. Her daughter needed to have surgery to repair her arm. While the insurance company did cover the economic losses, they did not pay for pain and suffering.
Try as she might, the woman was unable to get help from the rental car’s claim company. They refused to answer her inquiries until she involved a professional lawyer. This was not because her daughter did not deserve a pain and suffering settlement. Rather, sometimes an insurance company can get away with inaction without proper legal pressure.
In the end, a very seasoned adjuster had taken on this case and the claim settled for over $150,000. This would not have happened without legal representation.
Nearly 100% of the $150,000 was for pain and suffering; less than $100 was for out of pocket medical bills. Without legal representation, the total payout for this claim would have been $43.
Negotiating a Car Accident Settlement
Car accidents are scary. Even if you end up with few to no injuries, the loss of control over your personal safety can be rattling. This is especially true when you’ve suffered serious damage to your vehicle, your health, or your personal property. After you’ve been in a wreck caused by a negligent driver, it can feel like your fate is out of your hands.
That sense of frustration continues as you navigate the requests of the insurance company. While we like to think of insurers as working for us, the truth is far less affirming. Insurance companies are out to make money for their shareholders. They’re looking to deny claims whenever they can. When they can’t, they offer the smallest settlements possible. For many accident victims their experience with the insurance company can be maddening. It leads many people to wonder: can I negotiate my car accident settlement?
Accident victims can negotiate the terms of their car accident settlement. Though easier with an attorney representing you, the process is possible independently. Keep reading to learn more about the best strategy to use to get the compensation you deserve.
How the Negotiation Process Works
When you inform the insurance company of your accident, the adjuster may make arguments against your claim. They may point out reasons why the incident wasn’t as devastating as you claim. In some cases, they’ll look for any reason possible to deny coverage. Often, they’ll offer an initial settlement amount that feels too low for your needs. You can counter or take time to think about the offer. Accident victims frequently turn to an experienced car crash lawyer for guidance.
An attorney can help you create a demand letter outlining your needs. In such a letter, you can list out your expenses associated with the wreck and how best to make you whole again. Medical costs, car repairs, lost wages, and even the pain and suffering you endured can be assigned a dollar amount. Demand letters provide a helpful starting point for negotiations.
Writing a Demand Letter
When creating your demand letter, have a lump sum in mind for understanding what your claim is worth. From there, consider how low you are willing to go in negotiations. Having a floor and a ceiling for negotiations is important – a good car accident lawyer can help you understand this strategy. This range is for you to keep in mind when negotiations begin in earnest. Keep your bottom line in mind when the insurance company pressures you to settle. You are under no obligation to share this information with the claims adjuster.
Instead, make sure your demand letter reflects the truth about your incident. Be clear in your demands and present evidence to back up your claims. Medical bills, reports from the doctor, pay stubs reflecting the work you missed and other documents can help bolster your claim. The more support you have in your demand letter, the better your odds of getting the settlement you deserve.
Resisting Low Offers
After the insurance company receives your demand letter, they’ll likely offer you a small settlement. While it’s tempting to put the whole thing behind you, taking the first offer is typically a bad idea. The initial offer should be the base from which you negotiate upwards. If they offer you a reasonable amount, make a counteroffer that is a little lower than the figure you requested in your demand letter. This signifies to the claims adjuster that you’re willing to compromise. A little more effort when bargaining should get you to a number you feel good about.
Another strategy to consider when low offers are in play? Ask the claims adjuster to justify their low-ball offer. Ask for specific reasons why the number is so low when compared to the costs you’ve incurred. Make note of their explanation and write a short letter responding to their argument. Depending on the strength of their logic, you may want to lower your demand amount. Wait until after the claims adjuster has received your letter to lower that amount. Ask for a response to your letter and see if anything has changed in their mind.
Get it in Writing
As negotiations continue, emphasize the emotional weight of your argument.. No dollar amount can be assigned to the emotional impact the crash has had on you . The weight of sharingan upsetting accident scene photo or a story of the impact the accident had on your child can sway even the most experienced of claims adjuster. Don’t stray from the facts, but don’t be afraid to appeal to the human nature of the person on the end of the line, either.
Once you get to a number you feel good about, be sure to get the agreement in writing. Outline the settlement you’ve agreed upon in a short letter to the adjuster. Include details about how much you’ve settled on, what the money covers, and the date you expect to receive compensation.
How are Car Accident Settlement Amounts Determined?
If you find yourself injured after a car accident, it is natural to ask what the value of your car accident settlement might be. Many assume that the auto insurance industry has devised a standard formula to determine the value of a personal injury claim. This is not so.
There are statistics compiled by auto insurance companies that suggest an average value for certain types of car accident claims. But it is rare for a particular claim to fit the exact profile of an average claim. The value of your claim depends upon many factors. Below is more information about some of the larger variables and how they can affect your auto accident claim.
A common way that auto insurance adjusters determine the value of an injury claim is to multiply your special damages by a certain number. Special damages are your financial losses from the accident. They include medical bills, lost earnings, out of pocket expenses, etc.
Using a Multiplier
A multiplier gets a rough estimate of what your total claim could be worth, including your pain and suffering.
In many auto accident claims, the adjuster may use a multiplier of 2 or 3 to come up with an estimated value. For example, let’s say that the total of your medical bills and lost earnings from your car accident is $5,000. If the auto insurance adjuster multiplied the sum by 2, then the claim would be worth $10,000. But if your pain and suffering is worse, they might multiply the $5,000 by 3, so you would get $15,000.
You may wonder why the auto insurance company is multiplying your special damages by 2 or 3. They are trying to guess what the jury might award you if the auto accident case goes to trial.
A multiplier of 2 or 3 is often used for a moderate or average amount of pain and suffering in a car accident case. If you suffered minor injuries, the multiplier might only be 1 or 1.5. Only people who have suffered long term or even permanent injuries would induce a multiplier of 4 or 5. You also would see the higher multiplier if you have much more in medical bills, such as $50,000 or more. This would indicate a serious level of personal injury that could take years to recover from and might result in a disability.
Keep in mind that once the auto insurance company arbitration process comes up with a value for your claim, that does not mean you must accept it. You can continue to negotiate with the insurance company. You may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the person who injured you. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to raise your payout.
Does Totaling my Car Mean Insurers Will Pay More for My Settlement?
It is likely that your settlement will be higher if your accident resulted in a totalled car. Since totalled cars and soft tissue injuries or whiplash often go hand in hand, a higher settlement amount is common.
Sometimes, a totaled car can be strong evidence of economic injury. This is especially true if the car was used for commuting or for work. Damage to a car can increase the amount of a settlement all on its own with the right lawyer.
How Are Damages Paid After a Car Accident?
When someone hits your car, your first thought likely is “What just happened?” Your second thought then becomes “Am I okay?” Regardless, your third thought might be “Who’s going to pay for this?”
Unfortunately, you can expect to sustain some sort of damages in any car accident. At the very least, your car is likely damaged. At worst, you may have received injuries that could result in any or all of the following:
- Ambulance bills
- Hospital bills
- Prescription drug bills
- Physical therapy bills
- Rehabilitation bills
- Nursing home or assisted living bills
- In-home care bills
All these and more represent your damages arising out of your car crash. If you’ve ever wondered how car accident settlements pay out, the surprising answer is: It depends. While you may assume that the person who caused the accident pays, his or her insurance company will likely be the one signing the check.
Insurance Company Tactics
Insurance companies like to collect premiums and don’t like to pay claims. Consequently, a representative from the other driver’s insurance company will offer you a “quick and easy” settlement. Your best interests dictate that you decline this settlement offer. This represents the least amount of money the insurance company thinks it can pay you. When you accept a settlement, you sign a release absolving the insurance company from further liability. It also eliminates the possibility of you bringing a lawsuit against its policyholder.
Your better course of action is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. You always have the legal right to sue the driver whose negligence caused the accident. You never have any obligation to accept an insurance company’s settlement offer. Your attorney will have experience in negotiating with insurance companies. The attorney can get you a better settlement than you could get for yourself. Also, the attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf against the other driver and pursue your damage claims in court.
Policy Limits and Personal Liability
Keep in mind that no insurance company will pay any amount above the limits of the policyholder’s policy. Should you win a court judgment more than this amount, the policyholder becomes liable for the balance. Collecting that judgment may well be easier said than done.
Few people have the assets available to pay a large money judgment, especially all at once. Some people may think that if they ignore you long enough, you’ll go away. Depending on which state you live in, you may be able to incentivize the person to pay your judgment by notifying the Department of Motor Vehicles. This causes the person’s driver’s license to become suspended until he or she pays you in full.
The Types of Damages in a Car Accident Lawsuit
No one plans for a car crash, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The severity of the accident may range from no damage to a serious wreck. It is the latter that usually leads to a mountain of bills, pain and long-term recovery. A car accident claim falls under personal injury tort. Compensation under this type of legal matter is a financial award called damages. These are compensatory in nature because they make up for what a plaintiff lost because of the crash.
Take a closer look at some of the most common types of compensation in a car accident case.
Getting injured as a result of someone else’s carelessness can spell financial disaster. Depending on the extent of the injuries, medical bills may pile up. If long-term medical care and treatment are necessary, who pays? In the case of a lawsuit, there is a fair chance that the court will award damages for medical bills. Ongoing medical care may also be part of a compensatory damages award.
Being out of work for any length of time can send even diligent households into a tailspin. Savings may run out after a prolonged work absence and bills resulting from the incident. Getting reimbursed for missed income is common in car accident claims. Physical limitations caused by the injury may also force a change of jobs or a premature exit of the workforce . Consequently, a court may consider awarding damages for the loss of future earnings.
Pain and Suffering
The plaintiff, or victim in the accident, most likely experienced a significant level of pain due to the injuries. Pain and suffering are subjective and not easily proven. Some injuries are serious enough that it is a reasonable assumption that there was a significant amount of mental anguish and physical pain. Doctors can testify on the level of pain and suffering associated with similar injuries to help make the case.
Loss of Consortium
One unique type of compensation in a car accident case is the loss of consortium claim. This claim requests compensation for the losses associated with a personal relationship such as:
- Future endeavors
For example, if a spinal cord injury rendered the plaintiff paralyzed, this will have significant effects on a relationship. The spouse or partner may file a loss of consortium for the impact this medical issue has on them. This type of compensation request can only be in addition to other damages.
An attorney can best supply further guidance on the types of compensation in a car accident case. There are services that provide attorneys with leads to help them reach out to victims.
Can I Get Compensation for My Child Being Injured in a Car Accident?
Most parents dread the thought of their children injured in a car accident. You can get car accident claim compensation for your child’s injuries after a crash, as with any other passenger.
The first thing to understand in such accidents is that a person under 18 cannot legally file a claim. A person known legally as a “next friend” can file a claim on the child’s behalf. The parent is usually the “next friend” who files the legal claim. There are no requirements for a legal proceeding to occur to state the person named a next friend.
When it comes to filing a personal injury lawsuit, most states have a statute of limitations of two or three years from the date of injury. But many states’ statute of limitations does not begin until the child turns 18. Thus, a person injured in a car accident as a minor generally has until age 20 or 21 to file a lawsuit.
When a child is injured in a car accident, they can be entitled to the following damages:
- Medical bills
- Ongoing medical care
- Therapy and rehabilitation services
- Loss of ability to earn a living in the future
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
The parents may get compensation for the financial losses they incurred, such as the child’s ongoing medical costs. Depending on the case, car accident victims and their family may get punitive damages. These damages are only for very serious accidents. Punitive damages aim to punish defendants.
A car accident claim involving an injured child usually needs approval by the court. In Virginia, for example, a circuit court judge typically will approve the child injury settlement.
During a hearing, the judge will determine if the accident settlement for the child is fair. To decide this matter, the court could appoint a guardian ad litem to aid in the process. To help make the decision, the judge may ask questions to stakeholders in the case, such as the parents of the child:
- Extent of injuries to the child
- Current health status
- Education status
- Disabilities that were caused by the accident
- Medical needs and rehabilitation needed in the future
Once the court approves the settlement, the next friend will sign off on it. The child is bound by the settlement decision.
After approval of the settlement, the court has latitude on disbursement of the funds. Depending on the case, minors may receive all the settlement funds when they turn 18. In other cases, settlements are set up to pay a certain amount of damages per year for a certain period. After approval of this sort of payout, the court places the funds in a trust. Funds distribute per the settlement structure, beginning after the child turns 18.
What Are Compensatory Damages From a Car Accident?
If you become involved in a car wreck, you may well suffer injuries, some of which could be catastrophic. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you are seeking compensatory damages. If successful in your suit, the judge or jury will award you these damages. This is an attempt to reimburse you for your expenses and make you as whole as possible. Keep in mind that compensatory damages from a car accident come in two types, general and special.
General Compensatory Damages
General compensatory damages are non-economic in nature and can cover such things as the following:
- The pain and suffering you experienced or will experience in the future as a result of the accident
- The mental and emotional anguish and distress you suffered or will suffer
- Any disfigurement you suffered
- Your loss of consortium with your spouse, children, parents, and/or other family members
- The loss of your enjoyment of life
- The loss of any opportunities you had to forego
Special Compensatory Damages
Conversely, special compensatory damages represent economic damages that you have already sustained or will sustain in the future:
- Your ambulance and medical bills related to the car crash, both now and in the future
- Any hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation facility expenses you have already incurred or will incur in the future
- Physical or occupational therapy expenses you have already incurred or will incur in the future
- Household expenses you have incurred as a result of your injuries or will incur in the future for such things as medical equipment, in-home care, etc.
- Earnings you have already lost and will lose in the future from being injured and unable to work
- Any costs associated with plans you had to alter or trips you had to cancel as a result of your car crash injuries
- Your property damage, such as the damage to your vehicle
- Your legal fees associated with bringing and pursuing your personal injury lawsuit, including attorneys’ fees, court costs, transportation costs, etc.