After a motor accident injury, you may be wondering how much you should ask for your settlement. Car accidents lead to injuries that usually attract huge medical bills, emotional distress, and insurance payments. Car accident settlement will reimburse you the amount that you have spent in seeking treatment. Besides, it can also help cover damages in lost wages, psychological or physical trauma, and property damage (cost of replacing your vehicle).
Victims are eager to determine the value of the claims that they intend to make. This helps them gauge what to expect in their car accident settlement. The most common way to determine the settlement value in your case is by considering the average settlements in other personal injury cases. However, the range differs from one case to another.
What is the average bodily injury settlement?
The average settlement value on personal injuries vary greatly. Usually, the average settlement depends on many factors specific to a given case, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and many more. In some cases, an injury case may settle for a little amount, but most cases on personal injury settle for a reasonable amount.
The average amount in car accident settlement ranges from $3,000 to $75,000. However, you should be more careful when relying on an injury settlement calculator to know what you expect. These numbers are difficult to predict without professional help, and they mainly depend on your case.
Most settlements fall between the low and high-end average payouts. Some attract a much higher payout, but such cases are unique and come with special or punitive damages. However, an experienced attorney can help you understand the position of your case in personal injury settlements.
HOW INSURANCE COMPANIES CATEGORIZE YOUR DAMAGES
Usually, car accident damages can be categorized into two groups: economic and non-economic damages. There is also another group of damages known as punitive damages, but it is very rare in a car accident case.
Economic damages: This refers to all damages that you sustain and are easily quantifiable in monetary terms. Economic damages include future and past lost earnings, all medical expenses, property repair costs, or property damage for your car. These also include the economic value of domestic services, loss of business opportunity, or employment due to car accidents.
Economic damages are often also known as general damages in your claim and usually worked out using economic damage quantification. Additionally, economic damages are often calculated by adjusters, attorneys, insurance companies, and other agencies.
These calculations are derived from damages sustained during a harmful situation. However, these services are assigned to accountants since they have the professional background required to perform these calculations and assessments.
Forensic accountants can use econometric and statistical tools to offer fair calculations regarding the damage and loss due to a claim or an accident.
Non-economic damages: These are also referred to as special damages. They are subjective damages that are not easy to quantify in monetary terms. These include:
- pain and suffering
- reduced quality of life
- loss of consortium
- loss of ability to function.
Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are non-monetary costs that are considered less concrete. This makes it harder to attach a value when calculating your settlement for a claim.
A severe injury is likely to include greater losses than economic damages. However, these losses will need a closer evaluation by the jury to determine a fair value to award in the payout.
Punitive Damages: These damages are quite rare in car accident cases. Punitive damages are also referred to as exemplary damages. They do not offer any compensation to the victim for sustained damages.
Instead, they are a form of monetary punishment inflicted on the party that was at fault. The law on punitive damages varies from one state to another, but overall, one must act in a willfully dangerous or grossly negligent way to warrant these damages.
Usually, punitive damages are used as a form of punishment, and they exceed the usual compensation amounts. These damages are only awarded by a jury in addition to actual economic damages. As a punishment, the punitive damages help deter the same behavior of the at-fault party in the future. It helps make them learn a lesson and prevent a similar accident from happening again in the future because of carelessness and negligence.
9 Factors Affecting the Settlement Value of your Claim
The settlement value depends on a number of factors. Moreover, each injury comes with its unique facts and circumstances. Here is a list of critical elements that will help you determine the average settlement amount for your motor accident:
- Fault or no-fault state laws
One of the most important elements in determining your claim value is the issue of fault. Whether you are at fault or not will dictate how your case will be handled and your ability to be compensated. Therefore, it is important to understand the laws in your own state.
- The severity of the injury
This element helps you determine the compensation levels. An injury that causes a permanent disability or requires ongoing treatment, such as a traumatic brain injury, will be approached differently than a minor soft tissue injury.
- Medical expenses
The other important factor in determining your claim value is all the medical expenses. These include medications, doctor visits, paramedic service, surgery, medical and physical paraphernalia, and hospitalization.
- The extent of property damage
This refers to the cost of repairing your property (usually a car) or replacing it after getting damaged in the accident. If the insurance companies disagree with the estimate you make in your claim; they will order an independent property damage valuation.
- Available policy limits
Some people consider insurance a bottomless pit throwing their hard-earned money. However, this is not the case. The value of your claim may entirely depend on policy limits.
- Duration of treatment
The duration of medical treatment also plays a huge role in determining your settlement in a car accident. Usually, the period can consist of a couple of a few visits to your doctor or stretch on for decades. When calculating the amount to award as compensation, time is a significant factor.
- The claim history
If you have a long history (right or wrong) of making claims, this may lower your credibility before the insurance company’s eyes. Any perception of dishonesty or fabrication may negatively affect the amount awarded in compensation and the claim value.
- The type of treatment required
Some insurance companies have a team of doctors or nurses to evaluate your medical expenses to make sure that your expenses are necessary. In this case, they try to find parts of treatment that they can deny because they are unnecessary. This practice can be tricky for people who prefer alternative medicine over western medical practices.
- The length of the legal case
If you or your attorney feel that you have a strong case to take before a jury and win easily, you can consider this option to increase the length of your case. A longer legal case offers you an added advantage in your claim and also keeps you in a better negotiating position.
Applying these elements in your circumstances may not lead to perfect results, but it will help you determine the economical parameters of your claim.
How do insurance companies calculate pain and suffering?
After a motor accident, victims may also go through pain and suffering, which is emotional distress resulting from the sustained damages. Pain and suffering can be categorized into the following groups:
- Psychological and emotional disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression
- Long-lasting and temporary physical pain
- Physical limitations (disabilities)
When it comes to calculating pain and suffering payout, the standard way used in calculating compensation for pain and suffering. In this approach, you multiply all the medical expenses and lost wages by multiple lies between two and four.
For instance, if your total medical expenses were $6000 and your total lost income for the two weeks you have been out of work is about $4000, then your total expenses are about $11000. Using two as the multiplier, the estimate would be about $20000 and $40,000 if we use four as the multiplier.
Usually, the multiplier will increase depending on the cost of your injuries, severity, and the time of your recovery. It will also depend on whether the damage suffered was permanent or temporary.
The other way to calculate pain and suffering is through the Per Diem Method. As the method’s name suggests, the method takes per day rate (per diem) and adds it to the total expenses in your case. For instance, if your medical bills amount to about $18,000, and the income loss is about $9,000, your expenses will amount to $27,000.
Using this value, you can assign each day that you experienced pain and suffering due to the injuries a per day rate.
How are insurance settlements calculated?
When it comes to calculating the insurance settlement, the insurance industry doesn’t possess any particular formula that would generate a fair value. Therefore, if your accident only results in property damage (your car), you will be compensated based on the insurance policy limits.
In contrast, victims can only receive pain and suffering compensation only if they have sustained injuries in a car accident. It is important to seek immediate medical attention to determine whether you have been hurt even if you do not feel like you have sustained any injury.
Unfortunately, some motor vehicle crash injuries like whiplash are not evident until a few days after the accident. If the injury appears when you have waited for medical care for too long or negotiated your settlement, you might not receive any compensation for your injury.
If you want to determine a rough estimate of the amount to expect as settlement, get the sum of your medical expenses, lost wages, and car repairs. Then multiply the sum by three. For instance, if the medical expenses are about $7,000 and your lost income is $5,000, your average settlement might be approximately $36,000. Your average car accident settlement is likely to be within a range of $24,000 to $48,000.
Usually, the settlement is higher for permanent and severe injuries than minor injuries. However, when filing your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer, you will be limited by the policy limits. For instance, if your damages amount to $40,000 but their policy maximum is $30,000, you will only receive $30,000.
You can only reclaim the additional amount if you sue the individual driver separately. Moreover, you can also approach your insurance company and file a claim with them, provided that you possess underinsured motorist coverage.
How does the insurance adjuster determine a settlement offer?
To determine the right settlement offer, the adjuster usually considers two factors in your case. These include:
- The chances that the claimant have of winning a trial if they file a personal injury case in court
- The amount that the jury might award the plaintiff for the damages if the case proceeds to trial
The adjuster then divides the damages into two categories: economic damages (including medical expenses, lost earnings) and non-economic damages (damages that can’t be quantified in terms of money) such as pain and suffering. For economic damages, the adjuster works out the math.
However, in some cases, adjusters may discount medical bills if they seem to be “soft”, especially when the bills come from visits to health providers rather than hospitals and physicians. For instance, if your medical bill is $8,000, but 7,500 of the total bill was on physical therapy and chiropractic, the adjuster might decide to reduce the bill in half for valuation.
Determining the amount to offer as a settlement for pain and suffering is a daunting task for both insurance adjuster and plaintiff’s lawyers. However, adjusters rely on specialized software and formulas to determine a value to assign your pain and suffering claim.
How do car accident settlements work?
If you suffer an injury in a motor accident where another person is at fault, you may receive compensation for the resulting damages. However, you or your attorney need to have all the medical records and bills when filing a compensation claim. In this case, you need to prepare a chart (spreadsheet) showing the amount owed and the total billed charges. Luckily, if you have a personal injury lawyer, he or she can help you create the spreadsheet.
Besides, you should also check whether your auto or health insurance is entitled to be awarded compensation from the settlement. If you find that they are entitled to receive a payback, consider the amount in your car accident settlement.
Determine how much the injuries sustained in the car accident are worth. The value varies from one state or country to another. This is the hardest stage in your case, but lawyers have years of experience in determining values and settling past cases.
Moreover, you also need to document your lost wages if the injury makes you miss work. Then ask your employer to complete a 13-week salary and wage verification statement. The verification statement helps you prove the lost wages while filing your claim.
How much do insurance companies pay for pain and suffering?
Like other settlements, pain and suffering payout amounts depend on several factors. This includes medical treatment received, the severity of the injury, recovery time, and potential long-term effects. It also depends on the type of the case and the amount available in the insurance coverage.
With that in mind, the amount of settlement for pain and suffering in most cases is below $15,000 since most claims on car accidents involve minor injuries. Therefore, the average payout may be higher or lower than $15,000 spending on the severity of your injury. If your injury requires you to be hospitalized or surgery, they may receive a higher amount as your settlement for pain and suffering.
How much should I ask for a personal injury settlement?
There is no definite answer to this question since the amount you should ask for will vary from one case to another. One of the significant factors that determine your settlement is the severity of your injury. For instance, a person who sustains a serious injury may receive a $250,000 payout while someone else may settle for only $5,000.
The other important factor in determining what you should ask for in your settlement is the available amount in the coverage. A case that involves a serious injury like a broken leg may settle for $325,000 if the insurance coverage available is plenty. On the other hand, another case on leg fracture may settle for only $10,000 due to a limited bodily injury liability coverage.
Hiring an experienced attorney enables you to understand all the available insurance coverage. They can reveal a coverage that you didn’t have an idea exists.
How do I get the most money from a car accident?
Usually, the payout amount in car accident cases greatly depends on the severity of the injury. But obviously, you don’t want to sustain a nasty injury to get higher compensation. The first step in getting the most from your claim is to gather and preserve any necessary evidence. If you fail to gather evidence to prove your case, you should not expect to receive much money in your settlement.
Make sure that you seek medical attention immediately and inform your doctor if you are in great pain. In this case, you need to make sure that your doctor documents all the details of the injury in the medical records. If your doctor fails to prepare detailed medical records, you should also forget about a big payout.
Moreover, you also need to do enough research or involve your lawyer to understand how much your car accident injury case is worth. Determining what to expect in your case is one of the toughest parts, especially if you do not have a reliable lawyer. If you have no idea about the fair settlement value, then it is hard to understand whether the insurance company has awarded you the maximum payout in your case.
Examples of car accident settlements
Reviewing examples is one of the best ways to determine the average settlement amount in a car accident. Here we look at some examples:
Ted Joseph, Ohio
Ted, a passenger in an accident in Ohio, sustained an injury in a car accident. He suffered a lumbar sprain and a cervical sprain with headaches and muscle spasms. After a few months of negotiation, he settled his claim for $10,000. He is still experiencing headaches that require ongoing treatment. However, since he agreed to settle the case, he can’t claim any damages.
Cecily Jordan, Florida
Cecily was injured in a rear-end accident in a line of cars stopped by traffic lights. The at-fault driver was on the phone, which caused him to slam into Cecily’s car. She suffered whiplash symptoms, and her car was damaged in the back. They later settled her case at $20,000.
Lloyd Smith, California
Smith was driving home at night when a water truck hit his vehicle. He suffered a lower back injury that needed surgery to treat. The injury restricted him from going to work for six weeks. The settlement on his case was $180,000.
Determining the average amount in a car accident settlement is quite challenging because each case is unique and different. Your claim’s value depends on several factors, including extent of your injuries, fault, claim history, property damage, the strength of your case, and policy limits. However, hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer can greatly help ensure you get the most out of your claim.
- After an auto accident: Understanding the Claims Process: https://www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/auto/brochures/pages/brochure_claims.aspx
- Car Accidents: https://www.legalaid.qld.gov.au/Find-legal-information/Cars-and-driving/Car-accidents
- Filing an Auto Claim with the Other Party’s Insurance Company: https://insurance.utah.gov/consumer/auto-home/auto-insurance/third-party-auto-claim