How much you get for a car accident settlement depends on several factors, including whether you retain an attorney, the severity of your injuries, whether the defendant’s actions or inactions were negligent or grossly negligent, and to a certain extent, the number of defendants involved in the case.
Table of Contents
Settlements should cover medical expenses and all other damages a car accident victim suffers, including pain and suffering and other losses. An attorney cannot determine how much compensation an accident victim will receive in a settlement or a jury trial because of the factors that make up the award. However, once the attorney investigates the case, they will suggest an amount that they think is fair and reasonable—and adequately covers your losses.
Why a Car Accident Attorney Usually Gets Higher Settlement Offers
Insurance companies are in business to make a profit. Every settlement or trial award they have to pay means less money for the insurance company. The insurance company knows that the average person does not know all the laws regarding recovering compensation after a car accident.
Thus, the insurance company will almost always offer you the least amount possible if it doesn’t outright deny your claim. When an attorney contacts the insurance company, it knows that it cannot get one past the attorney. Thus, the insurance company will offer a higher amount—usually not the most a car accident victim could recover, but more than it would offer the victim.
The insurance company also knows that when a car accident victim retains an attorney, the chances of going to trial are much higher if the insurance company does not offer a fair and reasonable settlement.
Negligence and Gross Negligence
In most cases, people cause accidents because of negligence. However, gross negligence is more than “regular” negligence. Whereas a court might consider speeding as negligence, it might look at speeding on a sidewalk as gross negligence. Some courts might consider driving under the influence or driving while distracted as gross negligence, depending on the circumstances of the accident.
For example, if a person leaves a bar and has a blood alcohol level over the legal limit and the person drives on a walkway while evading the police, the court might consider that gross negligence.
The Severity of Accident Injuries
If a car accident victim suffers injuries that doctors expect to heal within a few weeks or months, such as a broken leg, cuts, scrapes, and bruises, the victim can usually recover economic damages.
However, if the accident victim suffers catastrophic injuries, such as spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries, that doctors expect to result in long-term or permanent disabilities, the victim could also recover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Accident injuries could include:
- Cuts, scrapes, scratches, and bruises.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Simple and compound fractures.
Car accident victims can recover two types of damages. Compensatory damages include economic damages and non-economic damages. The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make the victim whole again.
The court only orders punitive damages if the car accident victim can prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent. Instead of making the victim whole again, punitive damages punish the defendant.
An accident victim must prove gross negligence, and the court must order compensatory damages for the victim to recover punitive damages.
What Kind of Economic Damages Can I Expect?
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages include:
What about Medical Expenses?
A car accident victim could recover current and future medical expenses related to the accident, including:
- Doctors’ appointments and surgeries.
- Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications given by a doctor.
- Cognitive therapy.
- Psychological therapy.
- Occupational therapy.
- Physical therapy.
- Hand controls for your vehicle.
- Updates to your home to make it more accessible, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, grab bars, handrails, and widened doorways.
What about Income?
An accident victim could recover lost wages from the time of the accident through the time of the settlement. If accident injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities, you might also recover your loss of future earning capacity.
If a court orders the defendant to pay compensation for loss of future earning capacity, they could recover their current salary from the time of the wreck until they would normally retire.
My Personal Property?
If the accident destroys or damages personal property, the defendant is responsible for reimbursing the plaintiff. Personal property might include the plaintiff’s vehicle and anything of value on the plaintiff’s person or in the vehicle. The plaintiff could use the compensation to replace or repair personal property.
What if we incur Death-Related Expenses?
If a car accident caused the death of a loved one, the loved one or the decedent’s estate could recover damages economic and non-economic damages, including funeral and burial expenses, sorrow, mental anguish, and loss of income of the decedent.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life changes, such as taking prescriptions or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or leg.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
Contacting a car accident lawyer near you will ensure you recover the most money you deserve from the person who injured you.