What you should know about average settlements for head injuries and concussions
If you have been in a car accident or some other type of accident, you may have suffered a head injury or concussion. What is a typical head injury car accident settlement, and what are some of the issues involved in these accident settlements?
This article provides an overview of concussion and head injury car settlements so that you know what to expect as your legal case moves forward.
Overview of Head Injuries and Concussions
A concussion is a type of head injury that may also be referred to as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is caused by a blow to the skull or violent shaking in an accident. The brain slams into the inside of the skull and can cause serious injuries and consequences. Concussion is one of the most common types of injuries in car accidents. Some of the health problems that can stem from concussions and head injuries include:
- Loss of consciousness: If the accident causes you to go unconscious, this is a serious head injury. In car accidents, it can be caused by the head hitting the windshield or steering wheel.
- Feeling of nausea: If you have an upset stomach or throw up after the accident, this is a sign that you may have a concussion. Other related symptoms include being dizzy or sensitive to light.
- Confusion or amnesia: You might not be aware of it right away, but you might not remember events or are confused about the day or the week or even the year.
- Seeing stars: Some concussion victims may see stars or have ringing in their ears.
- Changes in mood: If it seems that you are more easily angered than usual, or someone tells you this, it could be that you suffered a concussion. It also is common to be more irritable, listless and/or nervous.
- Change in sleeping: If you sleep more than usual or cannot sleep, this could be a sign of a head injury.
- Headaches: If you are experiencing headaches more than usual and they do not go away easily, this also could be a concussion sign.
On top of the injury and symptoms, you may have to deal with an insurance company claim and handle settlement negotiations. It can be very helpful in this type of accident to retain an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure you get the best possible settlement.
There are three types of concussion that can be caused by car accidents:
- Grade 1: You do not lose consciousness, but you may have short term amnesia of 30 minutes or less.
- Grade 2: You have a loss of consciousness, and amnesia may last from 30 minutes to a full day.
- Grade 3: You are unconscious for more than five minutes, or suffer amnesia for more than a day.
Post-Concussion Syndrome and Car Accident Settlements
Post-concussion syndrome is a recognized medical condition that occurs when you are experiencing concussion symptoms for weeks, months or even a year after the accident. It is estimated that 10% of accident victims with a concussion will get this disorder.
The symptoms are very similar to the initial concussion, but will more often include dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, sensitivity to light or noise, and changes in behavior or emotions. The symptoms of this condition may be worse for some than others. Some who suffer post-concussion syndrome may have headaches that do not go away with time.
One of the challenges of obtaining compensation for post-concussion syndrome is that symptoms are vague and not easily seen. It also is possible for different doctors to have varying opinions about whether you have the condition or not.
When at attempt is being made to settle a claim for post-concussion syndrome, it is likely the insurance company will object. Insurance companies always prefer accident injuries that are clearly visible, such as broken ribs or a broken arm. There is not a great deal of controversy about whether a broken bone is broken or not and what that injury is worth. But post-concussion syndrome is another matter.
If the case goes to trial, getting a fair settlement for this syndrome also can be challenging. The jury wants to be certain it understands the injury and the problems it causes you. Juries may also be difficult to predict on post-concussion syndrome compensation amounts when doctors disagree on the diagnosis. Juries always prefer when all doctors agree on a diagnosis.
Damages Available in a Concussion Car Accident Settlement
Arriving at a fair settlement for a head injury or concussion will involve plenty of negotiation by your personal injury attorney with an insurance adjuster.
Damages usually are referred to as ‘special damages’ such as your medical bills and lost earnings. The other type of damages is called ‘general damages,’ and refers to pain and suffering you have experienced from the accident.
One of the central challenges in a personal injury case is how to value your general damages. The reduction of your life quality can be hard to easily put into a dollar amount. General damages can vary a great deal from case to case. Some states may put limits on the amount you can receive in special damages. Or, there may be a cap that limits your special damages.
Negotiating the amount of special damages is normally the most challenging part of a car accident head injury settlement. In addition to pain and suffering, you also may be compensated under general damages for loss of consortium or companionship and emotional and psychological distress.
Depending upon the jurisdiction and the severity of the accident, you may be entitled to punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish the person who caused your accident injuries, if their behavior was especially outrageous, malicious or negligent. Punitive damages are difficult to obtain most cases, especially in a settlement.
Remember that you can only make a claim for head injury damages when your medical professional states a clear opinion that the injury was due to the accident. It is important to be certain your doctor has a clear opinion that your concussion or head injury and related symptoms are due to the accident.
It will be helpful for your personal injury case with a concussion if you see a medical professional who is experienced in treating concussions. This might involve seeing a neurologist, neurophysiologist or neurosurgeon. If you went to the emergency room after your accident, the ER doctor may be able to assist in getting you to the appropriate head and brain injury specialist.
What Affects The Settlement Amount?
The damages amount will obviously affect your settlement. There are other factors that can affect your car accident concussion settlement:
- Who was liable for the accident? If you were at all responsible for the accident, this may affect how much compensation you may receive at settlement.
- Mitigation: The plaintiff must make attempts to minimize the damages, and if you did not do that, this could reduce the settlement.
- Circumstances of the plaintiff: There are factors about you that could affect the settlement, including your work, age, medical past, and other factors.
- Circumstances of the defendant: Factors about the defendant might include whether they were intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when the accident happened.
Average Settlement for Concussion Car Accident
All personal injury cases differ, but a recent survey conducted by Jury Verdict Research found that the average verdict amount for a headache injury from an accident was $33,423. The median verdict for headache cases was $11,000.
These verdict averages indicate that juries may be less likely to award significant damages for head injury cases. It is reasonable to assume that the same would be possible in settlements for head injuries and concussions with insurance companies.
It is possible, research also shows, that a verdict or settlement in a head injury case can be $1 million or more. But cases that settle for that much have the following factors in their favor, in many cases:
- A clear head injury that is confirmed by medical diagnosis soon after the accident. It is important to go to the ER immediately and to have a diagnosis made by a medical professional.
- Substantial property damage such as a totaled vehicle.
- Testimony of a physician who thinks that the accident is leading to headaches and other concussion symptoms. There also should be a stated opinion that the condition will not improve soon.
Below are some real-world settlements for head injury and concussion cases that show that the damage amounts in these complex cases vary widely:
- $103,000: This settlement in Nebraska was for a person who was rear ended in a three-car accident. She had head injuries and headaches that went on for months after the accident.
- $3.75 million: This woman in California was hit by a man who ran a red light. She had complex brain injuries including a concussion that led to dizziness, nausea and migraines. Also, she had trouble finding words and had short term memory issues.
- $1 million: A rear end crash in New York left the man with concussion symptoms including vertigo and headaches, which required him to take medication for months.
Getting a fair settlement or verdict in a head injury or concussion case is complex due to the relatively hidden nature of many of the symptoms. Talk to a personal injury attorney experienced in head injury cases to determine the best legal paths going forward.