If you’re browsing online to learn how much to expect from a car accident settlement, it probably isn’t worth the effort. Car accident settlements aren’t awarded based on an average or scale. Every situation is different, including the location of the accident, the extent of your injuries, and how much insurance coverage the at-fault party has.
Car accidents account for the largest portions of personal injury claims in California. The state’s large population and busy highways lead to accidents, injuries, and deaths every day. A large majority of those accidents involve some form of distracted driving. Tens of thousands of drivers file insurance claims annually to get compensation for their damages. When the insurance coverage isn’t enough to cover their losses, their only option is to take legal action.
When you talk with a personal injury attorney about the value of your claim, they won’t follow any hard and fast rule to determine the amount. Instead, they will break it down into the various components, including the different types of damages you incurred. You may be entitled to both economic and noneconomic damages depending on your specific case.
Economic Damages in Your Car Accident Case
Economic damages are those involving your expenses resulting from the accident. They include the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, medical expenses for treating your injuries, and the loss of income due to missed work. To obtain economic damages, you must produce evidence showing the full amount before you can receive compensation in full.
Claiming for Loss of Earnings
If you were unable to work due to your injuries and medical treatment, you can claim lost wages in your personal injury case. If your injuries are severe enough to prevent you from working in the future, you might qualify for lost earning potential compensation. Your car accident attorney might recommend calling a financial expert to testify about your potential lost future earnings to get an accurate estimate of the economic impact your injuries have had on your economic life.
Noneconomic Damages in Your Car Accident
Calculating and proving economic losses is fairly straightforward. It’s only a matter of collecting all your bills and receipts for the costs associated with the accident. Noneconomic damages are often more challenging. Types of noneconomic damages include mental anguish, pain, and emotional suffering. While all the courts in California permit car accident victims to collect compensation for these types of damages, different courts use different systems to calculate them.
The most common method is to multiply your economic damages by a specific amount depending on the severity of your injuries. For example, if your treatment included surgery, an extensive hospital stay, and years of therapy, the court might multiply your economic damages by two or three to determine how much compensation you receive for pain and suffering.
But how does the court choose a multiplier? There is no hard and fast method for this either. In general, a lower amount of medical bills means a lower multiplier. Since the multiplier assigns a monetary value to your pain and suffering, a smaller amount of medical treatment would indicate less pain and suffering.
At the same time, a large amount of medical bills usually means extensive treatment over a period of weeks or months, not hours. If your medical bills are in the five-figure range, then a higher multiplier of three, four, or five might be appropriate.
The “per diem” system is another method some courts use to calculate pain and suffering. This method awards you a set amount per day until you reach “maximum possible recovery” or “maximum medical improvement.” This means that you have reached the point in your recovery where further treatment will not be effective. It doesn’t mean that you are fully healed or able to return to work.
Other Variables In Determining the Amount of Your Car Accident Claim
The court will consider other variables than the extent of your injuries and your economic and noneconomic damages to determine the value of your personal injury claim. For example, a car accident might have aggravated an existing condition rather than causing a new one. There might be a significant difference in how much to expect from a car accident settlement when you had an existing condition for which you already received treatment.
One of the most important things you can do for your health and for your case is to seek medical attention immediately after the accident. Sometimes it takes a while for injuries to show up. If you didn’t see a doctor until months after the accident, it could affect your settlement.
If the insurance company believes your medical treatment was excessive, they might not attach the full value of your treatment to your medical expenses. They might consider alternative treatments or extensive physical therapy as excessive and not cover them.
Variables to Take Into Account
Some other variables that affect your settlement amount include your age, existing medical conditions, and the circumstances of the car accident. If the amount the insurance company arrives at for your claim is lower than expected, you don’t have to accept it. Letting an experienced personal injury attorney negotiate on your behalf will help you get the maximum compensation for your injury.
What to Do After a Car Accident
The time for preparing your lawsuit begins long before asking a car accident lawyer how much to expect from a car accident settlement. Everything you say and do from the time the accident occurs can impact your settlement. Your first priority after an accident is safety and health. But it’s also the time to start collecting evidence of how the accident occurred and who was at fault.
1. Check for Injuries and Potential Hazards
First, see if anyone in any of the vehicles involved has injuries. Then check the surroundings to see if there are any immediate hazards that might put anyone at an additional risk of injury. Is there smoke coming from a car, or are you in the middle of heavy traffic?
2. Move to Safety and Call 911
Don’t assume that someone else has already made the call. Even if it’s necessary to move your car off the shoulder of the road, call 911. Turn off your vehicle and turn on the hazard lights. Wait in a safe area for help.
3. Call the Police
No matter how minor the accident seems at the time, call the police. They will create an accident report that will include all the accident information. You will need this for insurance purposes and, possibly, for evidence in your personal injury case.
4. Gather Contact and Insurance Information
Get the name and contact information of any other driver involved in the accident. Ask for their insurance company information and whether the driver is the policy owner. Note if they are driving someone else’s car, or they are the owner.
5. Stay Calm
Losing your cool can result in your saying things that will hurt your case later on. You don’t have to hash out the details now. Fault and the number of damages rewarded are details that will come later.
6. Take Photos
Use your cell phone to take pictures of the vehicles involved, including their license plates. Take pictures of their registration and insurance papers, any apparent injuries, skid marks, or road hazards. A lot of this evidence will disappear once the cars are towed away.
7. Write Down the Details
Include the weather conditions, what happened, and when the accident occurred. As intense as the details seem now, you might forget a critical detail later. Make sure you either have it written down or recorded on your phone.
8. Report the Accident to the DMV
California state law requires you to report any car accident to the DMV if there was property damage of $1,000 or more, or if anyone was injured or killed. You can make the report online within 10 days of the day of the accident.
9. Contact Your Insurance Company
Insurance companies often have time limits during which you must report an accident. They will contact you for detailed information and may require a written or recorded statement or an examination under oath. If you don’t hear from your insurance company or they are unresponsive, contact the CA Department of Insurance.
10. Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Your primary concern might be how much to expect from a car accident settlement, but an experienced personal injury attorney can help you every step of the way. From negotiating with insurance companies to representing you in court, your attorney has the knowledge and skills to get the best outcome for you.
Pure Comparative Negligence and At-Fault Systems
The states differ in their laws on how to determine fault. California observes both pure comparative negligence and at-fault systems to determine how much a claim is worth. In no-fault states, you file a claim with the insurance company that covers the car you were driving or in which you were a passenger.
In at-fault states, you file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver. That means that if another driver caused the accident that resulted in your injury, their insurance company is liable for your damages.
Pure comparative negligence law might affect how much to expect from a car accident settlement. This law means that the court will consider whether both drivers contributed to the accident. For example, if they determine you are 40% at fault for the accident, then you can only collect the remaining 60% of the compensation provided. If the court calculated your total damages at $50,000, you can only collect the 60%, or $30,000, that the other driver is liable for. Even if you are 90% at fault, you can still seek compensation for the remaining 10%.
Every state also has minimum amounts of coverage that drivers must carry. In California, the minimum requirements are:
- $15,000 for injury or death to one person
- $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
- $5,000 for property damage
Reaching a Settlement
The majority of personal injury lawsuits that result from car accident injuries are settled before they go to court. This gives both sides more control over the outcome, and it costs much less than litigation.
A settlement is an agreement between the parties to drop a pending lawsuit in exchange for an agreed-upon amount of damages. California law requires both parties to participate in at least one settlement conference to try and reach a settlement.
The majority of settlements don’t exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance maximums. The minimum amounts listed above are appropriate for those accidents where only minimal damage and injuries occurred. However, if you are seriously injured, these amounts might fall significantly short of the actual amount of damages you incur. The next recourse to receive the remainder of the damages owed to you is to file a personal injury claim.
Why You Should Contact The Car Accident Lawyers At Chudleigh Law Firm
You have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim and up to three years to file a claim on property damage. The sooner you have a personal injury attorney on your side, the better. You need someone who understands the laws in California and who knows the value of your injury.
There are thousands of car accidents in California each year involving cars, motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians, animals, and more. In spite of the large numbers, each accident is unique from the rest. Your injuries might put you out of commission for a few weeks while you recover, or they might result in long-lasting damage that never goes away. Dealing with your regular finances is bad enough when you’re dealing with an injury. Adding a pile of medical bills to the stack puts an even greater burden on you during an already stressful time.
Don’t take a chance on getting less compensation than you deserve. Contact Chudleigh Law today to request a free consultation. We will help you understand how much to expect from a car accident settlement based on all the factors of your case. If someone else caused your injury, you may have the right to compensation.