What You Should Know About Minor Car Accident Settlements
What's In This Article
Were you in a minor car accident with injuries? How much compensation you can receive in a minor car accident settlement depends on several factors.
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- How Much Is My Car Accident Settlement Worth?
What Are The Key Factors That Determine Your Minor Car Accident Settlement?
Two major factors determine the amount of minor car accident settlements:
- How severe your injuries are
- The amount the auto insurance company is willing to pay for your claim
If your injuries are minor, such as cuts and bruises, your odds of a big settlement are low compared to someone with broken bones or internal injuries. But that does not mean you should abandon the idea of filing a claim. You still may be eligible for compensation for your injuries and pain and suffering.
Remember that auto insurance companies dislike paying any car accident settlements, whether they are for $5,000 or $50,000. They will search for ways to deny your claim or lowball you. So having the best possible evidence of the car accident, showing the other driver was at fault, and clear documentation of your injuries are vital.
Major factors that determine a minor car accident settlement are:
Medical bills comprise most of the economic (special) damages in a minor car accident settlement. This includes medical expenses you have paid and bills that have piled up. You might only be able to pay some medical bills after receiving your settlement funds. Also, you may be required to pay out of pocket and hope for full reimbursement later.
You medical bills settlement depends on:
- The type of care received
- Duration of your hospital stay
- How you were taken to the hospital (ambulance, helicopter, etc.)
- Whether you required surgery or long-term care
You may receive a higher settlement if your car accident injuries required more expensive treatments.
Lost earnings are usually a part of your minor car accident settlement. This is the money and time you lost from missing work from your injuries.
To show how much you lost in earnings, you must show pay stubs to prove to the insurance company what you were earning each month. You are not guaranteed 100% of your lost earnings, but your personal injury attorney will attempt to get you as much compensation as possible for lost work time.
Pain and Suffering
To claim pain and suffering in your minor car accident case, you must have a physical injury that causes you pain. Any emotional damages you claim must relate to that physical injury.
Pain and suffering damages are difficult to calculate. An experienced personal injury attorney is often key to getting a fair settlement for pain and suffering. If the insurance company agrees to your pain and suffering claim, this can greatly increase your settlement.
Pain and suffering damages may include:
- Depression or anxiety
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of consortium (inability to have an intimate relationship with partner)
- Inability to enjoy activities you loved
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Soft Tissue Injuries
Minor car accident victims often suffer soft tissue injuries. ‘Soft tissues’ are the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your body. Soft tissue injuries may be scoffed at as ‘minor’ by some insurance companies, but they can be painful and hard to heal.
The most common soft tissue injuries are:
This is an injury to ligaments, which are tissues that connect your bones. Powerful car crash forces can twist or wrench ligaments and cause excruciating pain. Sprains happen when these forces cause ligaments to stretch beyond a typical range of motion. Whiplash – where the head jerks suddenly forward and backward in a car crash – is a common type of neck sprain.
This is an injury to muscles or tendons. Strains happen by force, stretching, or overuse. For example, whiplash is a neck strain where the tendons stretch beyond the normal range of motion.
This condition is an inflammation of one or more tendons. Tendons connect muscles to bones. This problem may happen when a part of the body is overused in repetitive motions. For example, athletes often suffer from tennis elbow and swimmer’s shoulder. However, tendonitis can happen in a car accident where terrific forces on certain tendons are direct and sudden.
This is inflammation of the bursa, which are sacs of fluid around muscles, bones, and tendons. Areas where bursitis flares up are in the elbow, shoulder, knee, hip, foot, and ankle. Overuse or trauma can cause this injury. A car crash can burst the bursa sac around a joint. For example, a common bursitis injury in a car accident happens when the knee slams into the dashboard.
These are bruises. They are caused by blunt force trauma most of the time. Contusions happen in car accidents when parts of the body strike the steering wheel, dashboard, door, and windows.
Insurance companies often downplay soft tissue injuries because they are harder to see. They may dismiss the injury entirely or not believe the car accident victim is in severe pain. Also, soft tissue injuries are harder to see on X-rays and MRIs. Plus, as we age, ligaments and tendons show wear and tear. These factors make diagnosing a soft tissue injury harder. You can expect an auto insurance company to challenge your demand for soft tissue injury compensation.
But a skilled personal injury attorney in your corner pays dividends. Soft tissue injuries are common in auto accidents, such as whiplash. These injuries can have painful, long-term effects. They can prevent you from working and enjoying life. Dismissing them because they are harder to prove is unfair. Your personal injury attorney will work with your healthcare providers to prove the severity of your soft tissue injuries. That way, you can get the money to which you are entitled for your medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
$80,000 Soft Tissue Injury Settlement Example
Not every soft tissue injury results in low compensation. One personal injury attorney settled a whiplash claim for $80,000.
Here’s what happened. One driver rear-ended another at a stop light. The insurance company argued the impact ‘was so minor’ it could not have caused a serious soft tissue injury. But the attorney convinced the stubborn insurance company that the crash caused the whiplash injury.
Bottom line: It pays to have an excellent personal injury lawyer fighting for you in a soft tissue injury claim!
How To Calculate Pain and Suffering in a Minor Car Accident Settlement
You can be awarded pain and suffering compensation in a minor car accident settlement. But you will need to have strong proof of your pain and suffering to receive fair compensation. If you hire an attorney, he or she will help you prove your pain and suffering and roughly how much you may receive.
A common way to calculate pain and suffering damage is to multiply your economic damages – medical bills and lost earnings – by a multiplier from 1-5, based on how serious your injuries are. For minor injuries, the number used might be 1 or 2. So, if you have $5,000 in medical costs and your multiplier is 2, your settlement would be $10,000.
Note that a 4 or 5 multiplier is only used for more severe, long-term, or even permanent injuries, such an injury to the brain, spine, internal organs, etc.
Another way to calculate pain and suffering damages is to use a per diem method. For instance, if your physician thinks it will take you 30 days to recover, your attorney may demand $150 per day. This would provide you $4,500 in compensation for your car accident.
You can use our auto accident settlement calculator to help calculate your pain and suffering damages.
Other Factors That Affect A Minor Car Accident Settlement
Severity of injuries and lost earnings are not the only factors that affect your minor car accident settlement. Your compensation also can be based on:
- You got medical attention immediately after the accident or waited several weeks
- Your accident injuries were entirely caused by the car accident, or were pre-existing injuries that the accident made worse
- You got more medical treatments than needed, or saw a medical practitioner that the insurance company does not value, such as a chiropractor
It is vital to see a medical professional immediately after even a minor car accident. You also should see the proper healthcare professionals for treatment. If you are not sure where to go or who to see, talk to a personal injury attorney for free advice.
Minor Car Accident Settlement Amounts
Every car accident case varies, so it is difficult to provide an average settlement amount for a minor car accident.
However, statistics from Martindale Nolo Research provide some interesting numbers. The average personal injury claim is worth $52,900. Settlements and awards range from $3,000 to $75,000. If you have minor car accident injuries, you may expect a lower settlement amount, but nothing is set in stone until the case is concluded at the settlement table or trial.
Minor Car Accident Settlements in No-Fault States
Most states have a fault-based liability system after any car accident. The person who caused the accident is found negligent and is financially responsible for damages stemming from the crash.
However, there are currently 12 states that have a ‘no-fault’ standard. You cannot make a personal injury claim in these states that involve pain and suffering compensation unless your medical costs cross a certain amount. This amount varies by state. Other states mandate that you meet their threshold of a ‘serious’ injury.
No-fault states at this time are:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
For the other states, as long as you can prove that the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries, you can recover compensation, including pain and suffering money.
Minor Car Accident Settlement Letter Essentials
If you have decided to settle your minor car accident injury case, negotiations commence with a demand letter. If you have hired an attorney, he or she will handle this for you. But if you are handling your minor accident injury case on your own, there are some essentials to remember.
To write an effective demand letter, you should have the following accident documentation to refer to and include in your letter:
- Medical records and bills
- Receipts for your out-of-pocket costs
- An employer letter stating your lost wages and monthly salary
- Police accident report
- Eyewitness statements
- Video and pictures of the accident and injuries
Your demand letter needs to be high quality, free of grammatical mistakes, and based on the above documentation. It should include:
- Statement of facts: Describe the situation just before, during, and after the accident
- Liability: You must prove that the other driver caused the accident with the above evidence. If liability is unclear, it is strongly recommended that you hire a personal injury attorney.
- Injuries: List your injuries in detail, as well as the physical and mental pain you have suffered.
- Damages: A tally of costs that include your economic and non economic (pain and suffering) damages.
Is It Worth It To Pursue a Minor Car Accident Settlement?
Before you pursue a minor car accident claim, it is important to think about how serious your injuries are, factoring in the time and effort it takes to settle a claim. Working with an auto insurance company is time-consuming and stressful, especially if the other driver’s insurer is involved.
If you cannot resolve your accident claim with the insurance company, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit with the help of an attorney. Litigation takes time and money, and you may have to give a deposition, which is more stress.
Before you file a claim or a lawsuit, consider whether your minor car accident injuries are worth the trouble. If you bruised your elbow or sprained your wrist, it may not be worth the effort.
However, if you have thousands in medical bills and your life has been turned upside down, you definitely should file a claim.
Talk To An Attorney For Free About Your Minor Car Accident Settlement
If you have been in a minor car accident and wonder whether you should file a claim, the first step is to review your case for free with a qualified personal injury attorney. There is no cost for this service, and you can find a qualified attorney on our website for your complimentary case review.
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