Your health is your most obvious concern after being injured in a car accident. Getting medical treatment and putting yourself on the road to maximum medical recovery should be your priority. However, you cannot overlook the legal process.
You must also consider obtaining the financial compensation necessary to pay for your damages. It will make the difference between having enough money to pay your bills as they come due and being in financial distress because of your accident injuries.
Getting to the Point Where You Can Talk Settlement
Before you can think about the amount of your settlement, you must worry about proving that someone else was responsible for your injuries. Without proving fault, you cannot even get a settlement check. Accordingly, one of your first calls, when you are able, should be to an experienced attorney who can begin assembling the evidence necessary to prove fault.
Liability is the first hurdle to overcome, and it is only part of the battle. Sometimes, an insurance company will quickly admit liability and spend all their efforts trying to frustrate you when you try to recover enough money.
Questions That Accident Victims Often Ask
Naturally, when you start to think about money for your accident injuries, several questions come into your mind, including:
- How can I get paid for my car accident injuries?
- How long will it take to get a check for my damages?
- How much money will I get for my injuries?
We understand that potential clients are looking for specific answers to these questions. You are going through a tough time physically and financially and want to know that money will be there for you when you need it. We wish that we had precise and direct answers for you, but we cannot give generic answers without knowing the exact facts of your case. The best thing we can say is to start the legal process, entrust it to an experienced attorney and work with them throughout.
Car Accident Settlements Depend on Your Circumstances
Your car accident settlement or award depends entirely on you and your injuries. We never give a blanket answer along the lines of “a broken leg is worth $75,000.” First, this will, in effect, guarantee your result, and that is something that a lawyer is never allowed to do. Second, it is an overly simplistic view of an evaluation that is far more complex.
The truth is that a broken leg is worth a different amount to different people. For example, if you are an active and healthy person who enjoys playing sports daily, the fractured leg can mean a higher payment. The same applies if you perform a physical job and cannot work at all until your injury heals completely. On the flip side, a broken leg can mean fewer damages if you have a desk job and can work through your injury. As you can see, no two plaintiffs face the same facts and circumstances.
You may get money that reflects your specific damages and how hard you negotiated to get what you deserve. Even if people suffer similar injuries, they may take an entirely different approach towards dealing with the insurance company. Some may (mistakenly) not even hire a lawyer to handle their claim.
Value Your Damages Before You File a Claim
When the defendant pays you for the accident injuries they caused, they have a legal obligation to put you in precisely the same position as you were the moment before the accident. While this is seemingly impossible because you cannot undo physical injuries, money serves to pay for all your damages. Your legal right is to compare your life now to your life right before the accident and demand payment for the differences.
Before beginning the legal process, you should know what your claim is worth. Your knowledge reduces the risk that you will settle your claim for materially less than it is worth. Your attorney will review your records and help you develop a number you will seek when you file a claim or lawsuit.
Without legal help, you may not even understand the elements of your damages for which you need payment. You may get an excellent round settlement offer (which is only round because it has lots of zeros) and accept it because it is instant money in your account.
Damages that You Can Receive in a Car Accident Settlement
Your lawyer will explain to you before you file a claim that you are entitled to damages for:
- Lost wages – The defendant must pay for all the money you might have earned on your job had you not been injured. These damages cover both the time you missed from work because of your injuries and any reduction in your earning capacity. For example, if you were in line for a promotion but your injuries kept you from getting it, you can receive compensation for the extra money you did not earn.
- Medical expenses – This category of damages includes all of the medical costs necessary to treat your injuries. It includes doctor’s charges and hospital expenses and covers prescriptions and medical equipment.
- Non-economic damages – The defendant must also pay you for the ordeal they put you through. Anytime you suffer a physical injury, there are pain and suffering that goes along with it. Pain is not just limited to physical pain. If you have anxiety or depression from your accident, that counts as your suffering. In addition, you may lose out on the things that you enjoyed before the accident but can no longer do on account of your injuries. Your car accident can have caused you trauma and emotional distress that the at-fault party must also compensate you for as part of your settlement.
Even damages that you may think are straightforward and objective are not always so when dealing with an insurance company. Subjective damages like pain and suffering can present another opportunity for an insurance company to try to underpay you.
Punitive damages are not a part of a car accident settlement. First, these are very rare in a car accident claim and available only to cover the most extreme cases of negligence and recklessness. Second, only juries order punitive damages, and insurance companies do not pay them.
You Can Get Compensation for Future Suffering
Another factor in your settlement expectations is that you may collect your future damages. Car accident settlements are not just backward-looking. When you demand money, look into the future to see what your life will look like given your accident injuries.
Getting a handle on your future sounds challenging, especially when you must focus on the present. However, you must do this to receive proper compensation. An experienced lawyer knows how to value your future costs for you and may work with experts to forecast them.
Document Your Car Accident Injuries to Develop a Stronger Case
Before you can come up with an actual number, you must have documentation of your injuries and damages. Everything starts with your medical diagnosis. Your diagnosis is usually the first thing an insurance company will look at after you have proven liability. If they do not believe that you are as injured as you say, they will try to pay you less in damages.
Then, you should provide this documentation to prove the extent of your injuries:
- Evidence of your pay from work
- Medical bills
- Receipts for other medical expenses
- Evidence of what your life was like before the accident and what it is like now
- Descriptions of your physical pain and anxiety after the accident
Worry About Your Case Instead of the Average
Many people ask about the average settlement number. A lawyer can tell you an average amount, but this represents a group of plaintiffs who can differ significantly from you. Some may not have had lawyers, and others may have settled their cases too quickly because they needed money. We tell our clients to focus on their situation and work for full compensation for their injuries. We can give you a number, but it will have little to nothing to do with your situation.
Your car accident settlement amount also depends on how hard you negotiate and fight for what you deserve. If it looks like every lawyer blog and practice page talks about fighting, that’s not stretching the truth. Fighting is precisely what you have to do when an insurance company stands between you and the compensation you legally deserve.
Your Settlement Depends on the Extent of Your Negotiations
The chances are that you will receive an initial settlement offer that is very low compared to your actual damages. Your lawyer will review it and tell you exactly what they think of it. What they think will not be that it is a fair offer. This offer is where you will need to start to work.
Do not be afraid to tell the insurance company no when they make a low offer. There is no need to be grateful to them just because they offered you some money. When they settle your claim for less than you deserve, they take money from you and put it in their own pockets.
This back-and-forth may go on for many months. The second and third offers may also fail to cover your expenses. How much you get in damages depends on how long you can hold out and how well you can push back. You stand a much better chance of getting what you deserve when you hire an experienced lawyer who knows exactly how to deal with the insurance company.
You may need to go to court to get what you deserve in some cases. Your lawyer can advise you early in the process to file a lawsuit, or you may decide to try to go through the negotiation process with the insurance company. This fact is the reason knowing an average settlement number may be misleading; you may not end up settling your case. You may get your damages in a court case, and it becomes an entirely different calculation.
How to Maximize Your Car Accident Settlement Check?
While settlement amounts may vary, there is always one constant in a car accident case. You are always far better off with an experienced lawyer on your side than you are trying to adopt a DIY approach to your lawsuit. The insurance company looks at you like an easy mark because they have been picking off self-represented claimants for as long as they have been around.
An attorney can keep the insurance company from pushing you around by standing up for your legal right to full and fair compensation for your injuries. Your lawyer will present your claim and help detail your damages to the insurance company so that they will understand. They will also tell you when an offer is too low and what you should do in response.
The other way to put yourself in a stronger legal position is to act quickly after the accident. Without acting hastily, you can begin to arrange your case and strategy to act deliberately instead of rushing or being disorganized. Even if you are dealing with injuries, either you or a family member should contact a car accident attorney right after the accident to begin working on your claim.