If you suffered injuries in a car accident someone else caused, you could obtain compensation for your injuries and other damages from the at-fault driver. Typically, getting compensation requires that a lawyer files an injury claim for you with the other driver’s insurance and negotiates a settlement. But how much should you ask for in a car accident settlement to ensure you get all you need to cover your injuries and losses?
Determining how much to ask for in a settlement requires a thorough review of your damages along with an assessment of how your injuries will affect your life going forward. During your initial lawyer consultation, your attorney will review your case and evaluate its strength to determine whether you qualify for compensation. If so, they can then carefully identify the compensation you can pursue and accurately calculate their amounts.
However, various factors can affect the types and amounts of compensation you could receive, so have an attorney review your claim and advise you accordingly.
What Is a Car Accident Settlement?
Before you think about how much to ask for in a car accident settlement, you should understand what a settlement is, the process of obtaining one, and the legal responsibilities associated with it.
As its name implies, a settlement is the amount of money an insurer can pay to settle a case and resolve all legal issues between the injured party and those responsible.
The process begins when your lawyer submits your injury claim to the insurer. Your attorney will provide a detailed list of your injuries and medical costs along with other damages, and they will usually reach a dollar figure the insurance company can pay to settle your claim and avoid going to court.
If the insurer refuses to accept a fair settlement, your attorney can negotiate a higher amount, or they can take the insurer to court and sue for the money you need.
When you accept a settlement, you must sign an agreement promising not to pursue additional compensation in the future. In turn, the insurer promises to pay you the money your attorney demanded within a reasonable timeframe.
Since you cannot seek further compensation after accepting a settlement, you need to ask for enough to cover both your current and past medical expenses as well as any medical expenses you may incur. This is why you need a car accident attorney to assess your claim accurately, and why you shouldn’t rush to accept a settlement until a physician has fully evaluated your injuries and how they may affect your life going forward.
What Should a Settlement Cover?
The car accident settlement should cover all expenses and losses associated with your injuries.
Therefore, you and your attorney need to consider the following when determining how much to seek in a car accident settlement:
- Medical expenses: Include all medical costs related to the accident, such as ambulance fees, hospital bills, doctor visits, prescription medications, physical therapy, and any future medical treatment you may require due to the accident.
- Property damage: Calculate the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle and any other damaged property, such as personal belongings in the car at the time of the accident.
- Lost income: If you missed work due to injuries sustained in the accident, you can request compensation for the income you would have earned during that period. Keep documentation, such as pay stubs or a letter from your employer, to support your claim.
- Pain and suffering: This includes physical and emotional distress caused by the accident, such as ongoing pain, anxiety, depression, or loss of enjoyment of life. Working with an attorney experienced in personal injury cases to calculate the appropriate amount for pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress and psychological impact: You may recover compensation for any emotional trauma, anxiety, or other psychological effects the accident caused. Again, consult your attorney to determine the appropriate amount to request.
- Other expenses: Consider any additional out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident, such as transportation costs for medical appointments or home modifications required due to your injuries.
Your lawyer can gather documentation to support your claims, such as medical records, bills, receipts, and proof of lost income. Because each case is unique, the value of a settlement will depend on the specific circumstances and applicable laws. Working closely with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney will ensure you submit a settlement request that reflects the full extent of your damages.
What Factors Can Influence a Car Accident Settlement?
Although you and your lawyer determined the full extent of your injuries and calculated the amount of compensation you need, various factors can influence how much of that compensation you can get. These factors can vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case, but some common key factors that can influence a car accident settlement include:
You must prove fault for the accident in a settlement negotiation. If the other party is clearly at fault, it may strengthen your position and increase the likelihood of a favorable settlement.
The Severity of Your Injuries
The extent and severity of your injuries play a significant role in determining the value of a settlement. Serious injuries that result in long-term disability, permanent impairment, or significant impacts on the victim's quality of life generally lead to higher settlement amounts.
Medical Expenses and Treatment
The cost of medical treatment, including past and future expenses, is a key factor. It can also include mobility devices or accommodations you need to make to your home or car because of your injuries. The more extensive and costly the medical treatment, the higher the settlement value.
The extent of damage to your vehicle and other property can affect the settlement amount. The cost of repairs or replacement, as well as any associated expenses, such as car rental fees, can factor into the settlement.
How Long You Are Out of Work
If the accident caused you to miss work or resulted in a decreased ability to earn income, you may receive compensation for lost income and benefits but also lost future earning capacity if your injuries result in a long-term or permanent disability.
Some states follow comparative negligence rules in determining compensation for accident victims. For instance, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota all follow a modified comparative negligence model, which means you cannot recover damages if you contributed more than 50 percent to your accident, and any compensation you receive will decrease by your percentage of fault.
The insurance policies of all parties, including policy limits and types of coverage, can affect the settlement. If the at-fault party purchased limited insurance coverage, it may affect the amount you can recover.
Although most states require drivers to maintain liability insurance on their registered vehicles, the minimum liability limits are often too low to cover severe or even moderate injuries. Wisconsin, for example, requires drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in property damage coverage and $25,000 for injury or death to one person/$50,000 for more than one.
Both Minnesota and North Dakota are no-fault insurance states. They require drivers to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance to cover injuries and damages they cause to others in an accident. Minnesota’s minimum requirement is $40,000 per person, per accident, and North Dakota’s is $30,000 per person, per accident.
All three states also require drivers to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with at least $25,000 for injuries or death to one person and $50,000 for injuries or death to more than one.
If the costs of your injuries and property damage exceed these limits, you must work with an attorney to determine your options for seeking the full amount of compensation you need to cover all your damages.
Jurisdiction and Legal Environment
The laws and legal precedents in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred can influence the settlement. Each jurisdiction has different rules regarding negligence, liability, damages, and caps on certain types of damages.
Documentation and Evidence
The strength and quality of the evidence you present can significantly affect the settlement. You want your attorney to gather all necessary evidence to support your claim, which includes police reports, witness statements, photographs, and medical records, among others. However, your attorney may also enlist medical and industry experts to investigate the accident, evaluate your injuries, and provide invaluable testimony regarding fault for the crash and how your injuries will continue to affect your life.
Negotiation Skills and Legal Representation
Your attorney’s negotiation strategy and skills can also influence the settlement outcome. An attorney with experience negotiating favorable car accident settlement claims can advocate for you and work to get you more money. Conversely, an inexperienced attorney or one who doesn’t know how to negotiate properly may advise you to take a lower settlement offer just to resolve your claim and move on.
This list of factors is not exhaustive, and the specific circumstances of your case may introduce additional elements that can influence the settlement. Consult an experienced car accident attorney to understand how these factors apply to your situation and how you can maximize your chances of obtaining a fair settlement.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
You deserve to hold the other driver accountable and get the full and fair compensation you deserve. Throughout the process, you will likely have many questions and need assistance determining and pursuing the maximum compensation possible.
Contact a car accident attorney with considerable experience negotiating substantial settlements for their injured clients, one that has recovered millions of dollars in settlements for car accident victims and their families.
While such a personal injury lawyer cannot guarantee how much you will receive, they can help you determine how much to ask for in a car accident settlement and fight hard to help you get everything you need. Contact a car accident lawyer today for your free consultation.