How Do Car Accident Settlements Work?

How Do Car Accident Settlements Work? After a car accident, you usually have the option to settle if the insurance companies involved offer a fair and reasonable settlement. Settling a car accident claim takes several steps, so you should discuss your case with a car accident lawyer as soon after the accident as possible. That way, you have time to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out should the insurance company refuse a fair and reasonable settlement.

Recoverable Damages in a Settlement

You can recover compensatory damages in a settlement, including economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages, sometimes called special damages, have a monetary value. Non-economic damages, sometimes called general damages, do not have a specific monetary value. Recovering damages helps you pay for medical expenses and helps to pay bills, especially if you cannot work because of your accident injuries. Economic damages include:
  • Past and future medical expenses, including surgeries, doctors’ appointments, therapy appointments, ambulatory aids, upgrades to hand controls for your vehicle, and upgrades to your home, including a wheelchair ramp, grab bars, and widening the doors.
  • Lost wages.
  • Loss of earning capacity.
  • Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
  • Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses.
  • Other end-of-life expenses, such as probate court filing fees.
Non-Economic damages include:
  • Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
  • Loss of quality of life.
  • Loss of companionship.
  • Loss of consortium.
  • Loss of use of a body part or bodily function.
  • Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do, such as lawn maintenance, house cleaning, grocery shopping, and home repair and maintenance.
  • Amputation of a limb or digit.
  • Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.

Recovering Damages in the Settlement Process

After your initial case evaluation, your attorney will review your medical records and any evidence you provide regarding the accident. If the attorney needs additional information about the wreck, he or she will investigate the accident. Some of the information the attorney needs before contacting the insurance company includes:
  • Photos of the accident.
  • The police report.
  • Your medical records.
  • Witness contact information.
  • Contact information for the person who caused the accident.
  • Contact information for insurance companies for drivers involved in the accident, including your insurance company.
In some cases where it might be difficult to determine what happened, your attorney might need to retain an accident recreation team. Finally, your attorney might need expert witnesses to create a report on your injuries, especially if your doctors believe your injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities.

Types of Injuries That Could Cause Long-Term or Permanent Disabilities

Catastrophic injuries usually lead to permanent disabilities. These include: These injuries often affect you for life, requiring ongoing physical, cognitive, occupational, and/or psychological therapies.

Claim Investigation and Initiation Settlement Negotiations

The insurance company will also likely investigate your claim. Thus, if your doctor recommends any type of therapy, you should always go to your appointments. Otherwise, the insurance company could argue that your injuries are not as bad as you say. Once your attorney has all of the information needed, he or she can then forward a demand letter to the insurance company. The demand letter summarizes facts, including:
  • How, where, and when the accident happened.
  • The extent of your injuries.
  • The damages you believe you should recover.
The insurance company has a certain number of days, as requested in the demand letter, to accept your initial settlement offer or submit a counteroffer. You can go back and forth as many or as few times as you want before taking additional legal action.

My Options if the Insurance Company Refuses a Fair and Reasonable Settlement

In some cases, the insurance company will not agree to a fair and reasonable settlement offer. If the insurance company lowballs you, you can submit a counteroffer to its counteroffer, or you could break off settlement negotiations and file a lawsuit against the insurance company. In some cases, the insurance company will come to its senses and re-open settlement negotiations with a fair and reasonable settlement before the trial. It could reopen negotiations once the process server serves the company with the lawsuit, or it could wait until right before the trial.

Accepting a Settlement Offer

Once you and the insurance company agree on a number, your attorney or the insurance company’s attorney will draft a settlement agreement. The attorneys will then review the settlement agreement to ensure the drafting attorney included everything you agreed on. Once you sign the settlement agreement, your attorney forwards it to the insurance company, where the lawyers process the agreement and cut the check. The insurance company’s attorney forwards the check to your attorney.

Processing the Check

Walter H Emroch
Car Accident Attorney, Walter H Emroch
Once your attorney receives the check, he or she deposits it into his escrow account. Depending on the amount, it could take up to 14 days to clear. Your attorney cannot pay anything out of the account until the check clears. Once it does, your attorney pays:
  • Any outstanding medical expenses you incurred.
  • Reimburses your vehicle and health insurance companies for claims you made while you were waiting for the settlement.
  • Transfers his portion of fees and expenses to his operating account. The amount the attorney takes is in your contingency agreement and documented by the attorney’s billings.
Finally, the attorney will cut you a check for what is left. You will most likely have to go to the office to sign documentation that you received your settlement payment. In cases where you cannot get to the office, the attorney could come to you, or might email you the documents, which you sign, then send back. The attorney will then mail the check to you.

William B. Kilduff


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