Car accidents leave victims stressed and overwhelmed. From injuries and property damage to loss of income, the consequences of a crash are far-reaching. Understanding how much to ask for in a car accident settlement will ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses.
Determining the appropriate amount to seek can be complex and requires careful consideration of various factors. Putting a number to the value of your claim is nuanced and requires the input of an experienced car accident lawyer.
Though obvious factors like medical expenses and vehicle repairs influence the process, every upended aspect of your life can add to the total you can and should seek in damages. If you’re a jogger and your accident has made it impossible to get on the trail, that loss comes at a price for the negligent party.
You won’t find a one-size-fits-all formula to calculate how much you should ask for in your car accident settlement. The circumstances of your crash and the consequences you face are unique to you, so the value of your claim must also be unique. Consulting an Atlanta car accident attorney as soon as possible can be beneficial in navigating the negotiation process and ensuring that you reach a fair settlement.
What Expenses Will Contribute to Your Claim’s Value?
It is common for insurance companies to offer the bare minimum when it comes to settling car accident claims. They will ignore or negate the fact that, beyond the expenses associated with your hospital visit and vehicle repair, you have lost time, peace of mind, and much more.
The types of compensation you can seek are numerous, and only combined will you land on a number that can start to make you whole after a crash. Each piece of the puzzle will take time to investigate and estimate, so do your due diligence and collect receipts, reports, notes, and prescriptions to share with your lawyer so they can get the full picture of how your accident has affected your daily life.
The most common types of compensation you can seek include:
Getting treatment for injuries is expensive, and you will likely incur exorbitant medical bills and other related out-of-pocket expenses. Your car accident settlement should include reimbursement for various medical expenses, including:
- Emergency medical treatment, ambulance services, emergency room visits, surgical procedures, and intensive care, among other urgent medical interventions.
- Hospitalization and inpatient care for things such as room charges, nursing care, medical tests, medications, and rehabilitation services.
- Diagnostic tests and imaging such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and other imaging techniques.
- Medications and medical supplies, including painkillers, antibiotics, muscle relaxants, crutches, braces, mobility aids, and more.
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy to restore mobility, reduce pain, and improve overall body functionality after an accident.
Medical expenses are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to determining the value of your claim. Remember to compile all relevant medical bills and documentation to accurately assess the financial impact of your injuries.
Lawyers typically do not wait until you have fully recovered to value your car accident claim. Evaluating the value of a claim often starts early in the process, even before you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI refers to the point at which your condition stabilized.
Waiting until you have made a full recovery before valuing a claim may result in significant delays in pursuing compensation. Additionally, some victims suffer severe or permanent injuries that require ongoing medical treatment or have a long-term impact on their ability to work and earn a living.
Your lawyer will assess your medical records, consult medical experts, and consider the opinions of healthcare providers to estimate the future costs of your medical care and any long-term effects of your injuries.
While you must clearly understand your medical prognosis and the long-term effects of your injuries, you may not need to wait for a full recovery. Your attorney can work with the information available at the time. If needed, they can reassess and adjust the claim’s value as new medical information becomes available or as negotiations progress.
Vehicle Repairs and Property Damage
A primary concern following a car accident is the damage your vehicle sustained. Whether it’s minor cosmetic repairs or significant structural damage, you have the right to seek compensation for the necessary repairs. If the accident damaged your vehicle beyond repair in the accident, you should seek compensation for the fair market value of the vehicle.
You can recover compensation for more than repairs or replacement. Towing and storage costs, as well as rental vehicle expenses, should all go into the total you demand.
Your total losses will also include other property damages. This may include electronic devices, personal belongings, luggage, or any other items the accident damaged. Victims can seek compensation for repairing or replacing these items, ensuring they are not left bearing the financial burden of someone else’s negligence.
Car accidents not only cause physical injuries and property damage but can also result in significant financial losses, particularly in terms of lost income. One of the primary forms of compensation for lost income is seeking reimbursement for the money you could not earn due to the accident.
This category of loss doesn’t stop at just the time you took off work for recovery. Following a serious injury, it’s possible your ability to work was severely limited. In calculating your claim’s worth, you must also consider reduced earning capacity and future lost income.
These are difficult to quantify, but an experienced car accident lawyer knows how to estimate the current and future losses associated with your injuries.
Pain and Suffering
Other losses that are also difficult to quantify are those associated with the pain and suffering your car accident injury has caused and will continue to cause in your life. These are important (but often overlooked) parts of your compensation package. One of the primary components of pain and suffering compensation is the physical pain and discomfort you experienced as a direct result of the car accident. This includes any ongoing pain, limitations in mobility, and the need for ongoing medical treatments or therapy to manage the physical consequences of the accident.
Pain and suffering is not a concept limited to physical pain, however. Your mental health and stability after an accident may be damaged and fragile.
The following pain and suffering damages are concepts that primarily aim to compensate you for the emotional turmoil your accident may have left you facing:
- Emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health challenges. Compensation for emotional distress aims to acknowledge the psychological impact of the accident and the subsequent difficulties the victim faces in coping with their emotions and mental well-being.
- Loss of enjoyment of life which is applicable if an accident resulted in a diminished ability to participate in activities that brought joy and fulfillment before the incident. This concept can include hobbies, recreational activities, social interactions, and other aspects of life that have been negatively impacted by the accident and subsequent injuries.
- Loss of consortium in cases where severe injuries affected the victim’s ability to maintain fulfilling personal relationships.
Legal Fees and Expenses
Most car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee model, meaning you do not owe them anything for their work until they have secured a favorable outcome on your behalf.
When pursuing a car accident settlement, it’s essential to consider legal fees and expenses. Typically, attorneys calculate their fees as a percentage of the settlement amount, and they will walk you through exactly how much that amount may be before starting work on your case.
Keep in mind that most law firms offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. During this initial contact, ask about the firm’s fee structure and process for valuing a claim. Take advantage of the free case evaluations by coming prepared with relevant questions about the legal system processes that have you confused or nervous.
In rare situations involving particularly reckless, intentional, or grossly negligent conduct, victims may claim punitive damages. These damages punish the responsible party. Some states cap punitive damages, and their availability varies by state. Your lawyer can determine whether punitive damages apply to your claim.
Don’t Trust the Insurance Company’s Valuation of Your Claim
When seeking compensation for car accident injuries and damages, many individuals mistakenly place blind trust in insurance companies to fairly evaluate and value their claims.
You must approach the claims process with caution and skepticism. As previously stated, there are no one-size-fits-all formulas for claim valuation. Your case, situation, injuries, and experience are unique to you.
Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t treat claims this way. They use shoddy formulas to calculate the bare minimum that they are willing to give up from their bottom line—because, at the end of the day, insurance companies are only interested in turning a profit, not protecting your well-being.
Worse, some insurance companies use unfair claims practices to minimize their financial obligations. This approach can include delaying claim investigations, denying valid claims, making lowball settlement offers, or attempting to shift liability onto the victim. Trusting an insurance company without independent evaluation and legal representation can leave you vulnerable to these unfair tactics and compromise your ability to secure a fair and just settlement.
Your Lawyer Can Do the Math on Your Behalf
Engaging the services of a qualified personal injury attorney can provide significant advantages when dealing with insurance companies and negotiating a fair compensation deal.
Attorneys experienced in handling car accident claims have the legal knowledge, negotiation skills, and resources to thoroughly assess your losses and advocate for your rights. They can help ensure that your claim is accurately valued and guide you through the process, protecting you from unfair practices and maximizing your chances of obtaining fair compensation.
With an experienced lawyer on your side, you won’t have to do the math. All you have to do is provide your lawyer with the relevant documentation and information before focusing on what’s most important, recovery.
Don’t Wait. Time Is of the Essence
In the end, the amount of compensation you should seek in your car accident settlement will depend on the individual facts and circumstances of your case. It is important to seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure your case is presented in the best light possible and you receive the full amount you are entitled to.
But the clock is ticking. Every state has a statute of limitations that caps the time to file a claim. Even when these limitations give you years, act with urgency. Evidence can disappear, witness statements cloud with inaccurate memories, and your ability to recover compensation could vanish.
Consult a skilled personal injury attorney, as they can provide valuable guidance, assess the details of your case, and negotiate a fair settlement for you. Remember, each car accident case is unique, and seeking professional legal advice will give you the best chance to recover the compensation you deserve.