Steven A. Bagen | August 19, 2023 | Car Accidents
After a car accident injures you, your mind is probably reeling from how your life will change. Since you are likely to incur significant expenses, one of the most pressing questions is, “How much should I ask for in a car accident settlement?”
Determining the right amount is not a simple task. The figure depends on various factors, including the severity of injuries, the strength of your argument, and the effect the accident has had on your life.
Understanding how to translate factors into figures requires legal experience. That’s why one of the first things many car accident victims do is call an attorney. A car accident lawyer can evaluate all the underlying factors and arrive at a fair compensation amount.
The Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer in a Car Accident Settlement
Following a car accident that results in personal injuries, you may feel overwhelmed by the legal complexities. This is where the skills of a personal injury lawyer come in. Their role is to advocate for you and navigate the labyrinth of legalities surrounding such a case. Experienced attorneys can explain the potential value of your claim and guide you through the settlement process.
In terms of approximating the potential value of your car accident settlement, a lawyer brings enormous knowledge and experience to the table.
They can evaluate:
- The size of medical bills
- Loss of earnings
- The extent of pain and suffering (also called non-economic damages)
- The at-fault party’s insurance policy limits (and yours, in no-fault states)
Beyond determining the potential value of a settlement, a personal injury lawyer handles the complexities that a car accident case can present. They know how to collect evidence, such as police reports and medical records, develop strong arguments, and effectively negotiate with the other party’s insurance company or lawyers.
These tasks can be daunting and time-consuming, making the guidance and support of an attorney invaluable in pursuing a fair settlement. Remember, it’s your lawyer’s job to guide you through this journey so you can focus on treatment and recovery.
Main Factors That Affect a Car Accident Settlement
When calculating the value of your claim, attorneys evaluate various factors that can influence the amount you may receive. This process is incredibly complex and requires extensive local personal injury law knowledge.
This law isn’t just hard to navigate. It also tends to change. Considering all these nuances is integral to determining a fair compensation amount and achieving a payout as soon as possible.
Size of Medical Bills
The extent of your medical expenses affects the size of your car accident settlement.
This includes costs associated with:
- Emergency room visits
- Hospital stays
- Ongoing treatments
The larger your medical bills, the more likely you are to receive a higher settlement amount to cover these expenses.
That’s why your lawyer will advise you to collect all treatment-related documents, including receipts, prescriptions, and doctor’s reports anything that can reflect the cost of your treatment services as evidence when asking for a higher settlement.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refer to the physical and emotional distress you experience as a result of a car accident. This can include physical pain, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-economic damages. The severity and duration of your pain and suffering will be significant factors in determining your settlement amount.
When you retain a lawyer for your car accident case, they work hard to present a holistic view of your injuries and the related implications to the court or insurance company. To present pain and suffering, they would have to collect relevant evidence, hire expert witnesses, and create a strong argument that shows how the accident adversely affected your quality of life.
In many situations, the pain and suffering comprise a large portion of the settlement, since some of these damages remain with a victim for a long time.
The Extent of Your Injuries
The severity and extent of your injuries play a significant role in determining the settlement amount. Serious injuries that result in long-term or permanent disabilities, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or loss of limb, typically warrant higher compensation due to the long-term effect on your quality of life and earning potential.
The more injuries you sustain, the more money you need for treatment and recovery. The lifetime cost of treating a traumatic brain injury, for example, can reach $3 million. If your attorney can prove the at-fault party’s negligence, you can receive compensation for all stages of treatment and recovery.
The Skills of Your Attorney
Having a skilled and experienced attorney representing you plays a significant role in the size of your car accident settlement. A competent attorney will have a deep understanding of personal injury laws, negotiation tactics, and the ability to build a strong case on your behalf. They can effectively maximize the settlement amount by presenting a compelling argument and advocating for your rights.
Since personal injury cases aren’t straightforward, getting a fair settlement without legal assistance is nearly impossible. Without a skilled attorney, you could lose your chances of recovering damages.
The At-Fault Party’s Insurance Policy Limits
The insurance policy limits of the at-fault party in the accident can also be a factor in the size of your settlement. If the responsible party has low policy limits, this may decrease the amount of compensation you can receive. If they have substantial coverage, however, this increases the potential for a more considerable settlement amount.
This is only important for states with at-fault insurance laws. Florida, for example, is a no-fault state, so you can only seek compensation from your own insurance company. If they can’t provide sufficient compensation, in some cases, you can sue the at-fault party.
In nearby Georgia, meanwhile, you would have to file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company first. The basic auto liability insurance coverage there is only $25,000 per person. You would have to file a lawsuit if your damages exceed this amount.
If the car accident results in a permanent disability or impairment that affects your ability to work, perform daily activities, or enjoy life as you did before the accident, this can significantly influence the settlement amount.
Compensation for long-term or permanent disabilities typically includes medical expenses, loss of future earnings, vocational rehabilitation, and necessary accommodations.
The presence of permanent disability also allows you to file lawsuits against at-fault parties in most no-fault states.
How Your Injury Disrupted Your Life
The extent to which your injury disrupts your daily life and activities is significant when determining the settlement amount. This includes factors such as the need for ongoing medical treatments, therapy, assistive devices, home modifications, and any limitations or restrictions on your ability to work or engage in activities you enjoyed before the accident.
The more your life changes after the accident, the more money you can try to recover. The goal of the financial compensation is to bring your life back to normal as much as possible.
The Quality of Evidence
The strength and quality of the evidence you provide to support your claim can influence the settlement amount. This includes medical records, accident reports, witness statements, photographs, expert witness testimonies, and other evidence substantiating your case. Strong, well-documented evidence can strengthen your argument and increase the likelihood of a higher settlement.
A car accident attorney will advise you on the type of evidence you can present to the insurance company or court. They can also go to a car accident scene and gather evidence relevant to your case.
That’s why you may want to hire an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Some of the evidence may otherwise lose quality or disappear.
The Strength of Your Argument
The ability to present a compelling argument that clearly demonstrates the other party’s liability and the extent of your damages can significantly alter the settlement amount. This involves effectively communicating the facts, providing supporting evidence, and articulating the impact of the accident on your life.
An experienced attorney builds a strong case by implementing legal knowledge and local court and insurance company experience. Without these factors, it’s impossible to present an argument that sways the insurance company’s or judge’s decision in your direction.
Understanding the above factors and working with a knowledgeable attorney allows you to pursue a fair and just settlement that adequately compensates you for your damages.
The Importance of Timeliness: Statute of Limitations for Filing a Claim
When determining the value of your car accident settlement, you need to consider the time limits within the statute of limitations. These statutes vary from state to state. In Florida, for example, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years. In Missouri, meanwhile, it’s five years. These limits are usually between one and six years.
Your lawyer plays a crucial role in ensuring you understand and meet these critical deadlines to protect your right to pursue a claim.
Failing to file a claim within the stipulated timeline could lead to case dismissal. You may lose your right to compensation. Your lawyer will manage the procedural aspects of your claim, ensuring they file all necessary legal documents within the statute of limitations.
While it may seem as though four years is a long time, in a legal sense, it isn’t. The longer you wait to file a claim, the harder it becomes to create a strong argument and obtain fair compensation. Evidence loses quality while witnesses forget details. The amount of your settlement eventually decreases.
If, for some reason, you missed the limits within the local statute of limitations, don’t give up. Some exceptions to this law exist in each state. Speak to a lawyer to determine if these exceptions can help you file a claim.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Once you have received the necessary medical assistance following a car accident, you need to take certain steps to protect your rights and ensure you have the best chance of receiving a fair settlement.
The first step is to contact an attorney. An experienced car accident lawyer can provide valuable guidance throughout the settlement process, protect your rights, and advocate for your best interests. They will review your case, assess the potential for a fair settlement, and guide you through the legal complexities.
Gather any evidence relating to the accident as soon as possible. This may include photographs of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and visible injuries. Obtain a copy of the police report, if available, and obtain contact information from witnesses. Your attorney can guide you on the specific evidence necessary to support your claim.
While your attorney is handling a legal action, attend all scheduled medical appointments and therapy sessions and follow your treatment plan diligently. This demonstrates that you are taking your recovery seriously and helps establish a clear link between the accident and your injuries, strengthening your case for fair compensation.
Determining a Fair Settlement Amount
A car accident can lead to a broad range of life-altering consequences. You may have difficulty getting back to work or even performing daily activities. Emotional trauma can manifest in numerous ways, including anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress. While these consequences are unique to each individual, your lawyer will ensure they are factors during your claim’s evaluation.
The true value of having a lawyer by your side is in their ability to present a complete picture of how the accident has adversely affected your life. They’ll articulate the current effects and future consequences to ensure that your settlement accounts for all damages.
You should discuss the specifics of potential consequences and the way they affect your case directly with your personal injury attorney in Gainesville, FL.