First thing first, an attorney cannot tell you exactly how much money to expect from your car accident settlement. Settlement values vary wildly and they depend on many factors. Some cases are worth thousands of dollars, some are worth millions.
Costs pile up quickly after a car accident. It is normal for car accident survivors to have questions about their case’s value. One of the best ways to help ensure you receive fair compensation is to work with a car accident attorney.
How Much to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement: Will I Receive Full Damages?
Several factors could affect how much someone recovers after a car accident. Your opportunity to collect full damages depends on several things. Your lawyer can help you determine whether you are likely to recover full damages in your settlement or not. We discuss some of the potential factors below.
How many parties were liable?
Plenty of car accidents have just one potentially liable party. There are also plenty of accidents with multiple potentially liable parties. A crash survivor who pursues compensation is more likely to receive full damages when multiple liable parties are in the accident.
What financial resources does the liable party have?
If someone has legal liability for an accident, they generally pay damages to victims: either through liability insurance or out of their own pockets. The amount of insurance that a liable party carries can have an impact on settlement amounts.
The assets the at-fault party has may also play into the damages you could receive.
- Car accident survivors are more likely to have luck recovering full damages from established entities like insurance companies or corporations than individual people.
How many victims were there?
Car accidents can cause damage and injuries to multiple parties. If a liable party has limited financial resources, multiple victims may have a harder time recovering full damages.
How much of a rush are you in to recover damages?
Someone in a hurry to finish a settlement may recover less in damages than a patient person who hires a lawyer to negotiate for their rights. The legal process takes time. Most lawyers can help their clients achieve higher compensation when they have longer to work on a case.
Common Injuries After Car Accidents
The injuries someone sustains during a car accident have a big impact on a potential settlement’s value. More severe injuries usually require more medical care for a longer time. This translates to higher medical costs.
Car accidents can cause many different kinds of injuries. Some people manage to escape them with “only” cuts and bruises. For other people, a car crash can be the cause of life-changing injuries.
A few common injuries in car accidents include:
- Road rash: Road rash is especially prevalent in people who were not in vehicles at the time of a car accident. Road rash occurs when someone’s skin is dragged against the rough ground (like asphalt or concrete). Some severe instances of road rash require months to heal and even surgery to correct.
- Broken bones: Broken bones are very common in car crashes. Some breaks remain relatively small. Hairline fractures are a great example of this. Other compound fractures may involve numerous breaks or even break the skin.
- Spinal cord injuries: Spinal cord injuries are serious. We rely on our spinal cords for every aspect of daily living—all of our movement relies on them. Spinal cord injuries generally cause some degree of paralysis and they can be devastating for survivors.
- Traumatic brain injuries (or TBIs): Traumatic brain injuries often cause lifelong complications for survivors. Even a relatively minor brain injury can have very serious consequences. The many types of traumatic brain injuries—everything from a concussion to a penetrating brain injury qualifies as a TBI—can cause many devastating disabilities.
- Internal injuries: Internal injuries are especially dangerous because they can be difficult to detect; this is why you must seek medical attention after a car accident.
If you have questions about how your injuries might affect your case, you can ask your lawyer for more information.
How to Get Paid in a Car Accident Settlement
You can protect your rights and increase or maintain your case’s value.
At the scene: Call authorities, take photos, and seek medical attention
File an accident report with the police after your crash. You can do this online after the accident, but it is easier to work with the police to complete the form at the scene.
Calling the authorities after your car accident will also allow them to help document evidence.
- An accurate accident report can benefit your case.
- The more evidence you can collect or document to support your case, the better.
You can collect evidence at the scene of the crash too. If you can, take pictures of the accident scene.
You can also photograph nearby evidence (like structural damage or skid marks in the street).
- Do not panic if you cannot get pictures or videos of the aftermath of your accident. Lawyers often have experience working with clients who could not collect evidence at all.
Make it your priority to seek medical attention as soon as you can after your accident. For some people, emergency medical treatment (and even transport) is the solution. Even if an ambulance did not take you to the hospital, the accident still could have injured you.
Make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible.
- The sooner you seek medical attention, the sooner you can understand your injuries and paint a clearer picture of the compensation you might want to pursue.
- A faster time-to-heal thanks to timely medical treatment means less time until your case settles (most cases do not get underway until healing is farther along or nearly complete).
Keep a record of all your expenses
It is tough to get compensated for damages that you cannot remember or demonstrate. Save bills, receipts, and other documentation of expenses after your accident. This includes everything from medical to auto shop bills. The more you can prove, the more you have the chance to recover.
Minimize discussion of the accident on social media
Some insurance companies and attorneys take the time to look through accident survivors’ social media accounts post-crash. They are looking for evidence that the damages you claimed are false. If you seem outwardly happy on Facebook, for example, a liable party’s representation may argue that you do not need compensation for mental anguish. This is obviously not true.
Social media does not allow a clear enough view of someone’s life to make judgments like that. Still, lay low on social media after your accident. Do not talk about the accident, minimize your posts, and find other ways to connect with your loved ones in the meantime.
Recovering Damages After a Car Accident
One factor that can influence how much to expect from a car accident settlement is the compensation you wish to pursue. Car accident survivors can seek compensation for many different damages. Your potential settlement’s value depends on which of these damages have affected you—something an experienced car accident lawyer can evaluate for you.
Recoverable damages after a car accident may include:
Most people who survive car accidents have medical bills to contend with. Whether you just need to pay for a few prescriptions or physical therapy sessions, or you are funding surgeries and long-term care, you deserve compensation for your medical costs. A lawyer can help you hold negligent and reckless parties accountable for their actions—and that can include recovering the cost of your medical bills.
Even minor car accidents can cause expensive property damage. Most of us know how it feels to go in for a repair and be met with a sky-high price. If you face this situation after a car crash, compensation may help you. Property damage can have a significant impact on someone’s financial recovery after an accident. Collecting damages may help ease some of the monetary burdens of physical damage following a crash.
Often, car accident survivors need to miss time from work after a crash. Some people “only” miss a day (or a few) from work, but that can still have significant financial consequences. Somebody who spends weeks or months off of the job to recover will face even worse monetary loss.
Diminished earning capacity
Some car accidents permanently change a person’s ability to work and earn money. If your earning capacity has gone down because of a car crash, you should ask an attorney about pursuing compensation for diminished earning capacity.
Pain and suffering
You do not deserve to experience physical pain because of someone else’s negligence or recklessness. If you were in a car accident that has caused you pain and suffering, damages may help account for your experience. No amount of money can make up for your experiences, but the justice system may work to protect and compensate you after the fact.
Many car crash survivors find that they live with considerable mental anguish after their accidents. Some people even develop anxiety, depression, or PTSD because of their experiences. You may pursue damages for pain and suffering in your case.
Car accidents frequently cause disability. If you have experienced disability because of a car crash, it can impact how much you may expect from a car accident settlement. Disabilities associated with higher costs or lower quality of life may demand more in compensation than those that are not.
The Steps: Car Accident Settlements and Lawsuits
Your case’s value may change throughout the investigation and negotiation stages. As your lawyer investigates what happened and negotiates to protect your rights, your case will likely rise and fall in value. We have put together this short guide on the settlements and lawsuit process.
Finding a lawyer
You do not technically have to work with a lawyer to reach a settlement or bring a case. If you are worried about how much to expect from a car accident settlement, though, you can benefit from working with an attorney. Accident survivors who work with legal professionals often see better outcomes than those that opt to represent themselves.
Finding a lawyer is not difficult, so speak to multiple attorneys to find out which one is best for your unique needs.
Most lawyers offer free initial consultations, so this should be easy.
- Look for an attorney with trial experience, just in case.
- Find a lawyer with a proven track record handling cases similar to yours.
- Your attorney should work with experts from other fields (like the medical or auto industry) to build cases.
Investigation and negotiation: working with your car accident lawyer
Once you select and retain a lawyer, he or she can begin work on your case. The process will start with an investigation into your accident. Your attorney will use evidence and testimonies to build your case, and you will probably be answering a lot of questions about what happened.
The negotiation phase comes next. You can work with your attorney to negotiate for the damages you want to pursue. For many cases, this is where the legal process ends. Many of them settle outside of court during the negotiation stage.
Filing your lawsuit
Some cases do not settle outside of court. When this occurs, your attorney could file a car accident lawsuit. Both you and your lawyer and the party liable for your accident get the opportunity to present evidence, bring in witnesses, and consult with industry experts.
Sometimes, cases settle here. Others require mediation. If mediation does not help a case, you may need to move forward to trial. This is why you want to seek out an attorney with trial experience.