There is no way to know how much to expect from a car accident settlement without first understanding your accident-related expenses and losses. Each crash is different. The circumstances that cause the accident, the injuries suffered, the necessary treatment, and the related expenses all play key roles in determining how much a car accident case might be worth.
At the same time, there is no way to predict how an insurance company might handle a specific claim. It could push back and try to reduce the claim’s value, deny it, or take other steps to avoid paying a fair settlement. Sometimes, victims need to sue and ask a judge or jury to determine the value of the collision case.
When fighting for a fair value for your car accident settlement, you can work with a car accident lawyer familiar with these cases in your area. Most personal injury law firms provide free case consultations. You will speak with a team member to assess your case, learn about your options, and get answers to your questions.
Understanding Recoverable Damages in a Car Crash
The recoverable damages in a car accident case are the expenses and losses the victim experienced because of the crash. They would not face these physical, emotional, and financial hardships if the at-fault driver did not act negligently and cause the collision.
When discussing a car accident case, many people only think about their medical bills and related expenses. However, this is short-sighted. There are many more costs to consider. Suffering serious injuries in a crash is expensive, and you must document all these expenses to recover them in your insurance claim or lawsuit.
Attorneys recommend keeping a file folder of all bills, estimates, records, receipts, and other related paperwork during this time. These items help identify your expenses and calculate a fair settlement range for your case. This paperwork will help you understand the economic damages to date. However, you still need to consider your future costs and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages Are Your Direct Financial Losses
Economic damages are the financial expenses and losses you experienced from the crash.
They could include:
- Medical bills and other related healthcare costs
- Income lost while you could not work
- Diminished earning capacity because of lasting impairments
- Car repair or replacement costs
- Other personal property damage
- Parking at the hospital or doctor’s office
- Travel expenses to see a therapist
- Other related out-of-pocket expenses
Those with long-term or catastrophic injuries will likely have future treatment needs and/or ongoing care costs, too. It is essential to understand your prognosis and upcoming care needs to ensure you fight for fair compensation. If you work with an attorney, they will likely have a network of medical experts who can help them establish your prognosis, care needs, and future costs.
Non-Economic Damages Are Your Non-Financial Losses
Non-economic damages often comprise a large portion of many car accident case payouts, but they are notoriously difficult to value. That’s because they stem from the intangible losses of accident victims, including their physical and emotional pain and suffering. In fact, some people refer to these damages as pain and suffering.
While those with serious injuries pursue non-economic damages in crashes in every state, there is no widely accepted way to calculate them. Instead, attorneys use their experience and knowledge of similar cases to estimate how much to demand from the liable insurer.
This is a significant benefit of working with an attorney. They have likely handled many cases similar to yours and know how much juries award. They also know how to negotiate with the insurance companies to settle the case for an amount both parties feel comfortable with.
How Settlement Negotiations Work in a Car Accident Case
Car insurance carriers rarely agree to pay a crash victim the amount they initially demand. Instead, settlement negotiations go back and forth for several weeks or longer until the parties reach an agreement. However, this process begins long before the victim’s attorney demands a fair payout from the at-fault driver’s insurer.
The foundation of settlement negotiations is a strong case to support the claim. In this way, a settlement begins with gathering evidence to show negligence, liability, and the value of the victim’s damages.
When a crash victim works with an attorney, the legal team will launch an investigation and gather evidence such as:
- The incident report filed by the responding law enforcement agency
- Statements from witnesses, either from the police report or additional interviews
- An accident scene survey
- Videos of the crash (if available) from dash cams, traffic cameras, or surveillance cameras
- Photographs from the crash scene
- Accident reconstruction data
- Physical evidence available from the collision
- Relevant medical records
- Expert information on prognosis and future care needs
- Estimates from economists and other experts as necessary
- Documentation to show harm, including bills, receipts, and other paperwork
The attorney will use this evidence to tell the story of what happened and who is legally responsible. This will support the insurance claim value, showing the insurance carrier that its policyholder is liable for the damages that occurred.
A Lawyer Uses Your Case’s Evidence to Determine Your Car Accident Settlement
Evidence does more than support how your collision happened; it can also verify the cost of your damages. This is important because, until your lawyer investigates your losses, there is no way to know how much to expect from a car accident settlement. That is, there is no accurate estimate of what a fair settlement might look like.
This is why the attorney cannot demand fair compensation from the insurance company until the investigation is complete. It’s also why you shouldn’t agree to a settlement until you have this evidence and understand what your case is worth.
Calculating your case’s value involves:
- Documenting your current medical treatment costs
- Knowing how much work (and income) you missed
- Having estimates for your car repair or replacement expenses
- Gathering receipts for your out-of-pocket expenses
- Understanding your prognosis and future care needs
- Having an estimated cost for these needs
- Knowing if you can return to work
- Having your attorney put a fair value range on your non-economic losses
Understand the Insurance Company’s Tactics to Reduce Your Payout
Insurance companies are not in business to pay fair settlements to those hurt by their policyholders. Some insurance adjusters want to pay as little as possible to settle each claim, protecting their company’s bottom line. While most insurance adjusters are not outright nefarious, they are not on your side after an accident.
With the aim of settling cases as quickly as possible for as little money as possible, there are some tactics insurance companies frequently use to reduce the money they pay crash victims. Understanding these tactics could benefit your case’s outcome. If you work with an attorney, they will handle all communication with the insurer, pursuing the full cost of your injury-related expenses.
Insurance carriers might lower your car accident settlement offer by:
- Making an early, lowball offer before you know the extent of your injuries or the value of your case
- Telling you an offer is final, and they will not negotiate further
- Denying your claim
- Accusing you of having less serious injuries
- Alleging your injuries did not occur from the crash
Why an Attorney Should Manage Your Case
To ensure you fight for the payout you need and deserve, you should consider the value of partnering with a personal injury attorney. When you hire a lawyer with the experience, knowledge, and resources to manage your case, they will pursue compensation based on your recoverable damages. As noted, compensation should include a wide range of expenses and losses you experienced because of the crash and your injuries.
Personal Injury Lawyers Charge Nothing Upfront for Their Services
Car accident attorneys generally work based on contingency, which means you do not pay any upfront fees. There are no retainers or hourly charges. Instead, they receive a portion of the compensation recovered in your case. They only get paid when you do, and the more you receive, the more they get. When working with a lawyer on contingency, they fight for the maximum payout available in your case.
Lawyers Protect Your Rights to a Fair Settlement
Your attorney will take the necessary steps to protect your rights before filing a claim, during the claims process, and in court if the case goes to trial. They know how these cases work and will ensure you meet all applicable deadlines, file the correct paperwork, and otherwise have everything you need to have a successful case.
An Attorney Knows How to Identify and Document Your Recoverable Damages
Your attorney will identify and document your recoverable damages, building a file to show the insurance company the expenses and losses you suffered. Alternatively, they will use these documents to show the jury how the crash affected your life.
Experienced car accident lawyers know the evidence necessary to document crash injuries, expenses, and losses. They also know how to use expert opinions to estimate future needs and care costs and how to put a monetary value on intangible damages such as pain and suffering. These tasks are often difficult or impossible for a crash victim to do accurately on their own.
Your Legal Team Handles the Insurance Company for You
Car accident attorneys know how to handle insurance companies. They do it daily and successfully negotiate fair payouts for their clients. They understand how the process works, the tactics adjusters could use, and what to expect every step of the way. When you hire a skilled attorney, count on them to handle this for you.
Attorneys generally manage all communication with insurance carriers when representing a collision victim. Not only does this allow the victim to focus on getting better, but it also ensures the insurer cannot try to use the victim’s own words against them or otherwise try to reduce their settlement.
Your Lawyer Consider Other Options if the Insurer Doesn’t Cooperate
Sometimes, attorneys must consider taking additional action to recover compensation after a crash. Lawsuits are often necessary to show the insurance carrier the victim is serious about the case and demands a fair settlement. Filing a lawsuit does not mean the case will go to trial. Most cases still settle through negotiations.
However, your attorney will represent you throughout this process. This includes representing you to the judge and jury if a civil trial is necessary.
A Lawyer Can Explain Your Next Steps
You may have concerns about moving forward with your car accident claim. Yet, your lawyer can explain what considerations could bolster your case’s outcome. They may suggest documenting your losses, attending therapy, and limiting communications with the insurer. They may offer other recommendations after reviewing your situation.
You Could Discuss Your Next Steps With a Personal Injury Law Firm Near You
A good way to protect your right to seek fair compensation is to work with a car accident attorney who handles these cases in your area. They know how to estimate the potential settlement value of your case, demand a fair payout, and negotiate with the insurer. If necessary, they will sue the at-fault driver and ask the court to determine how much your case is worth.
As soon as your injuries allow, you should review your options with a personal injury attorney in Atlanta. Most law firms provide free consultations for crash victims. You can talk to the legal team about your next steps, how they handle similar cases, and how they document your expenses and losses.