According to the latest statistics on highway safety, car accidents cause thousands of deaths each year and leave millions more injured. After a serious crash, you will most likely end up with several thousands of dollars worth in damages. It might lead you to ask, “How much is my case worth?”
Every car accident is different. Figuring out an average settlement can give you an idea of how much your settlement could be worth, but you shouldn’t hold it to that amount. Instead, let’s look at how car accidents are valued and why giving an average amount isn’t easy.
How Much Will My Car Accident Settlement Be?
The truth is, there is no reliable average settlement for a car accident. This is because some accidents are worth a few thousand dollars for property damage, while others could be worth millions for injuries, pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and more.
There’s no reliable average amount that an attorney can give you without first reviewing your case and its context. However, generally speaking, the average car accident settlement ranges anywhere between as low as $25,000 to as high as several hundred thousand. Remember, this is all just an average range, and your accident could be worth higher or even lower.
Types of Damages in a Car Accident
Most people in the U.S. don’t have enough saved up to cover even a small unexpected expense in their lives. That’s why it’s important to get compensated for any damages caused by a negligent driver. There are two major types of damages you can pursue a settlement for after a car accident. They are called special damages and general damages.
These damages also get referred to as “economic damages.” They are accident-related losses and expenses that are visible and fairly easy to put a price tag on. They include things like:
- Property damage
- Medical bills and expenses
- Lost wages and potential wages you might have earned in the future
- Vehicle replacement or repairs
Special damages are relatively easy to calculate. You should always retain all records of financial loss directly related to your accident so that they get factored into your settlement total.
General damages are the opposite of special damages. They’re not visible or tangible, and they often don’t have a fixed price attached to them in the form of a receipt or invoice. These damages typically consist of:
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional damages
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Punitive damages
These damages aren’t easy to put an exact dollar value on, which is why calculating an average car accident settlement is challenging. However, an experienced car accident lawyer can help you accurately assess your damages so they get adequately reflected in your settlement.
How Do General Damages Get Calculated?
Most insurance adjusters determine the value of general damages by plugging your claim into a computer that tells them what to offer. This is an ineffective method because the formulas they use don’t consider how severe your damages are. Unfortunately, this is precisely what insurance companies want, as they’ll use this amount to try and lowball personal injury victims.
Attorneys also use a formula, but it’s completely different from what the insurance companies will use to value general damages. Instead, an attorney will consider your unique circumstances and account for what you have been through.
What Is the Process of Seeking Compensation?
The first step to recovering compensation is to speak with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to start building your case. Your lawyer will review your case in detail, gather information and evidence about your special damages, and work with you to value your general damages. Then, they will submit a demand letter to the insurance company with the total amount.
Next, the insurance company will point out what it sees as the flaws in the demand letter and outline the reasons for its offer. They will then respond with a counteroffer, usually less than what you deserve. From there, the process of negotiation begins. Your lawyer will go back and forth with the insurance adjuster to reach an acceptable settlement for all involved.
If your lawyer cannot reach a car accident settlement that you are satisfied with, you can proceed with filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party. Typically, once a lawsuit is filed, a lawyer can usually resolve your case before going to a trial. But if not, you will have to go to court to fight for your financial compensation.
Never Accept the First Settlement Offer
Insurance companies are never on your side. Their interest is only to get away with paying you the least amount of money possible for your accident. While their quick resolutions and offers may seem tempting, never accept them. Always fight for the proper amount of compensation for your damages.
Try to avoid talking to any insurance adjuster. Anything you say can and will get used against you during negotiation or trial. In addition, your words and actions can get used to lower your settlement significantly.
The Statute of Limitations Matters
When it comes to how much your car accident settlement is worth, be aware of the statute of limitations. If the statute of limitations expires, your settlement will be worth nothing since you can’t file a claim anymore. Most states only give one to three years to file a claim, so don’t waste any time getting started.
Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer Today
You need someone in your corner who knows how to stand up to the bullying insurance companies and fight for compensation on your behalf. Ideally, you want legal representation that can help you obtain higher than an average car accident settlement.
But be careful of exploitative lawyers out there only looking to make a quick book. Instead, look for a lawyer with positive client testimonials and great results with their case history.