More than 6.7 million car accidents take place on U.S. roadways each year, and nearly two million of those accidents result in injuries. Private insurance carriers pay roughly half of the cost of car accidents with injuries through the liability policies of their insureds.
How much is a claim after a car accident worth? The answer to that question is that it depends on many factors, as discussed below.
If you were injured in a car accident that someone else’s careless or reckless actions caused, you can seek compensation for the economic and psychological expenses of your injury. Experienced car accident attorneys can provide guidance and services to help you exercise your right to be compensated after suffering injuries due to another’s negligence.
5 Factors That Can Change the Value of Your Case
Clients often ask what the average car accident case is worth. The simplest answer to that question is: There is no average car accident case. The value of each case is determined based on factors that can increase or reduce the amount of compensation you are eligible to receive.
The Amount of Insurance the At-Fault Party Has
Every state in the nation either requires registered drivers to purchase an insurance policy to financially protect themselves if they cause an accident that results in injury and property damage to someone else, or are otherwise financially responsible for the harm caused to others in accidents.
However, despite this requirement, it is estimated that one out of every eight drivers on U.S. roadways is operating their motor vehicle without any insurance or without enough insurance to effectively compensate others for serious injuries resulting from the accident. In Florida, which routinely takes a spot high on the list of states with the most uninsured drivers, about one out of every five drivers is uninsured.
The at-fault party’s insurance is one of the biggest factors in your case because insurance pays most car accident settlements and awards. While you may sue an uninsured driver and even obtain a court judgment on your behalf, collecting your award would likely prove to be very difficult. Most uninsured drivers do not have the financial means to pay for the expenses and impacts of someone else’s accident injuries out-of-pocket.
One of the many services your experienced car accident attorney will provide for you is determining all sources of liability and all insurance resources that you can access to provide your compensation.
The Clarity of Liability
The liable party in a car accident claim is the individual or entity whose negligent actions caused the accident.
In car accident cases, plaintiffs prove liability by showing:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to the actions that a reasonable person would have taken in similar circumstances. A driver owes a duty of care to other roadway users to operate his or her motor vehicle safely and legally.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions that the at-fault party took that violated the duty of care. Examples of common driving behaviors that constitute a breach in the duty of care include speeding, driving while impaired, and failure to yield the right-of-way.
- The breach in the duty of care resulted in an accident in which you suffered injuries. These injuries caused you to incur expenses and impacts your quality of life.
Many people envision a car accident as a situation in which there is one at-fault party and one victim. While some car accidents fit this description, many accidents feature liability on the part of multiple parties. Identifying all parties responsible for your injuries and pursuing the compensation you deserve can become greatly complicated. This is one of the chief benefits of hiring an experienced car accident attorney.
The Severity of Your Injuries
The severity of your injuries heavily influences most of the compensation you can obtain. This is because more severe injuries generally result in increased consequences, including more time missed from work and a greater likelihood that the injury will result in permanent deficits that can create loss by limiting his or her ability to earn an income in the future.
Severe injuries also tend to result in greater medical expenses, and some severe injuries that motor vehicle accidents commonly cause will continue to produce expenses throughout the sufferer’s life.
- After a first-year cost of more than $1 million, individuals living with spinal cord injuries can expect to pay around $185,000 a year for the injury, including medical and living costs but excluding wage loss, every year for the rest of their lives.
- The lifetime costs of traumatic brain injuries range between $85,000 and $3 million. This combines with the high likelihood of the injury resulting in the individual’s inability to return to work or to earn as much as before the accident.
The severity of your injury also changes the non-economic damages you can claim, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of the enjoyment of life. The quality-of-life impacts of an injury are generally going to increase with particularly painful or permanent injuries.
Your Age and Overall Health at the Time of the Accident
At first blush, you would think that an accident victim’s age and overall health at the time of the accident would have nothing to do with the case’s value. After all, no life is worth more than another.
However, individuals at the peak of their careers and in excellent health at the time of the accident may recover more than accident claims for children or retired people. The reason for this is more about the income the person earns. A person at the peak of his or her career may make more than a young adult who works part-time while attending school or a retired person who no longer earns an income.
Because so much of a damage claim revolves around wage loss and loss of future earning capacity, it begins to make sense as far as how age/career affects a case’s value.
Your overall health can affect your case’s value because insurance companies routinely reduce compensation if they find pre-existing injuries. They may argue that because their insured did not cause the injury, they are not financially responsible. The insurance adjuster will often ask you to sign a medical release, authorizing them to see your medical records.
Do not allow this without talking to an attorney first. Providing access to your medical records can allow the insurance company to find other things to blame for your injury.
Your Patience With the Process
Car accident negotiations generally begin when your attorney submits a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This package details the facts of your case and demands the value of the case to compensate you.
The insurance company, upon receiving the demand package, has three options:
- They can accept the claim and pay it. It is pretty uncommon for an insurance company to accept the claim immediately.
- They can refuse the claim and provide you with a reason why.
- They can make a settlement offer. The initial settlement offer is generally far too low to be accepted. However, it does provide a place for negotiations to begin.
Settlement negotiations can take a long time. The at-fault party’s insurance company will be looking to settle for the lowest amount possible, while your attorney will be working to obtain the maximum level of compensation in your case. At some point, you will decide along with your attorney whether to file your car accident lawsuit in court. At this point, settlement negotiations will continue, but your attorney will also gather and organize evidence and witness testimony to use to prove your case in court.
The best car accident settlement offers often do not come until just before trial begins or even after the trial has begun but before the court renders a judgment. Insurance companies dislike paying for costly litigation more than fairly compensating the injured.
Your patience with the settlement process can mean the difference between the insurance company’s initial lowball settlement offer, and the one offered on the eve of the trial, which is probably closer to what you asked for in your claim.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You Recover Maximum Compensation
A car accident lawyer can provide insightful answers to your legal questions and fight for the compensation you need to address the extraordinary expenses and impacts associated with your injury through:
- A free case evaluation, which is time for you to meet with an attorney and obtain answers to your legal questions and learn more about the car accident process.
- A determination of all sources of liability and all insurance resources you might access in the case.
- A value to your case based on the expenses and impacts of your injury that you have already incurred as well as those you will likely incur.
- Negotiation with the at-fault party’s insurance provider in an attempt to garner a fair settlement offer on your behalf.
Timely filing of all court-required paperwork and representation of your case at all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
- Organization of the evidence and witness testimony to prove your case.
- Litigation, including the delivery of opening and closing arguments, the presentation of evidence, and the examination of witnesses.
- Assistance collecting your settlement or award.
Don’t try to do all of the above by yourself. Instead, contact an experienced car accident lawyer who can help you pursue the full value of your case.