What Can I Expect From a Car Accident Settlement?
October 5, 2022
If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, you may suffer injuries and damages that can cause significant financial and personal loss. You may want to know what type of compensation is available to you should you pursue legal action.
Hiring a car accident lawyer can get you on the right track to getting the compensation you need to get back on your feet after a crash. An attorney can provide you with more detailed insight into the damages that may be available in your case. However, the information below may help you better understand how damages in a car accident claim work and what factors might influence the losses that are recoverable after an accident.
Every Car Accident Case is Different
It is important to remember that every accident involves different circumstances and every victim suffers unique injuries. What may be true for one individual may not be the case for another. Car accident damages are particular to each and every car accident and victim and cannot be directly compared or easily predicted.
At the beginning of a case, no one can give you a firm number in terms of money that you will undoubtedly receive as a settlement offer. However, based on common situations in the past, the evidence in your case, the insurance coverage available, and their personal knowledge and experience, a lawyer can provide you with an estimate of your damages and the compensation you can fight for from the insurance company and/or any other liable parties in the case.
The Severity of the Accident Injuries to You
The severity of your injuries may not be clear to you yet in the first days after a motor vehicle accident. You may have some idea of what injuries you have suffered, but you cannot know at that point how the healing process will go and whether you will be able to fully recover to your pre-crash condition. The more severe and traumatic the injury to an individual, the more likely the timeframe for recovery is longer, more challenging, and more uncertain.
If you sustain severe injuries or disfigurement or a loved one dies in a crash, you have the right to pursue compensation against the at-fault driver. Severe injuries, however, are not the only injuries that matter regarding car accident insurance claims. Regardless of fault or the severity of your injuries, you are entitled to no-fault benefits. This is true even if you do not have your own insurance if you were a passenger, pedestrian, or bicyclist. These benefits can help you pay for unexpected damages and deal with the interruptions to your routine and ability to work and function during your recovery.
The Impact of Your Injuries on Your Life
An injury from a car crash can throw your life into chaos. Where once you could handle your daily responsibilities, you may now have to rely on others to help and support you. You may be able to resolve some injuries with a trip to the emergency room and follow-up care. However, more serious harm is likely to require hospitalization, long-term inpatient stays, surgeries, or multiple procedures and treatments to give you the best chance at healing and recovering.
The medical care and recovery from an injury can be all-consuming. Rather than worrying about your daily life, work and family, your focus turns to how, when, and if your injuries will heal.
It is not uncommon for car accident victims to face long-term consequences. From chronic pain or range of motion limitations to paralysis, these permanent effects can cause pain and inconvenience for life and impact your ability to work and take care of yourself. These impacts can have a profound effect on your finances as well as your personal well-being, including your mental and emotional health.
How an Insurer Calculates Your Losses
Insurance companies use a variety of methods to come up with a settlement offer for a collision victim. They will consider the value of the losses they believe you have and will incur. In most cases, insurance companies follow a set formula based on the type of injury involved and the severity of that injury from their perspective. Each insurer may have its own formula.
While medical expenses and income losses are often relatively straightforward, other damages, such as your emotional distress and impacts on your quality of life, are not so simple to assign a monetary value. This is where the formulas often come in to give an insurer a value for these car accident damages. Insurance companies will only offer a victim compensation for the losses claimed by the victim and supported by evidence. In some cases, even when provided with support for the claim, an insurer may deny certain damages or try to limit their liability to reduce the amount of compensation they may offer you.
Whether There Are Other Victims in the Accident
Another factor that can significantly influence the amount of money available to you after a car accident is how many other victims there are. The limits of the relevant insurance policies are an important aspect of settlement negotiations. Insurance policies will have limits of what can be recovered by each person and for each occurrence (crash); the per occurrence limit must be shared by everyone injured in the crash who is entitled to recover under that policy. This can cause complications when trying to reach an agreement with an insurer for just one of the people who has been injured.
Your Total Damages
Ultimately, the totality of your damages will serve as the guide and starting point for any settlement negotiations. The extent of the losses you incur because of a negligent car accident will influence how much an insurance company or other liable party may offer you during negotiations. Car accident damages can include economic and non-economic losses.
Economic losses are those damages that cause you to lose money or that cause you to incur expenses. Non-economic losses include damages that are more personal in nature to you; while they are not monetary, the law allows a victim wronged by the actions of another to seek money to compensate them for the intangible impacts of the crash.
Damages that may be a part of your car insurance claim include:
- Medical bills: When you are in a car accident, you will begin to incur medical bills the moment you get into an ambulance or step foot in a hospital. Your injuries may require extensive treatment and you may need future medical care if your injuries are permanent. Medical bills can quickly become overwhelming. Under Michigan no-fault law, your no-fault insurer is required to pay for some or all of your medical bills, depending on the level of coverage in the relevant policy. If you do not have unlimited medical coverage, you may be able to recover anything your no-fault insurer does not pay for from the at-fault driver if your injuries are serious enough.
- Income: Your injuries may impact your ability to work and earn wages in the short short-term as you recover. If your injuries are permanent, you may not be able to return to your job and earn the same amount you did before the accident. As part of a car accident claim, you can seek compensation for your income losses and the impact on your ability to earn an income. As part of your losses, you can claim damages for income loss now and those that are likely to occur in the future because of your condition. Your first three years of wage loss are covered by your no-fault insurer, and any other wage loss or loss of earning capacity may be recoverable from the at-fault driver.
- Property: If you are driving your vehicle at the time of a car crash, you can seek money to reimburse or pay for repairs or the value of your car. Additionally, you may be able to seek money to pay for a rental or transportation in the short term after the collision.
- Pain and Suffering: Painful physical injuries are just part of the pain and suffering damages for which you can seek monetary compensation in a car accident claim. You may also suffer emotional, mental and psychological effects that leave a lasting impact on your ability to live and enjoy your life in the aftermath. You can seek monetary compensation for this pain and suffering, but only if you or a loved one suffers severe injuries, disfigurement, or death in a car crash.
- Quality of Life: Car accident injuries can have a significant impact on how you are able to live your life and enjoy the activities, hobbies and day-to-day life events that were part of your life before the car crash. When you sustain serious injuries, your quality of life can be drastically reduced. Again, you can seek monetary compensation for this intangible impact on your life, but only if you suffer a severe injury or disfigurement.
Should You Accept an Insurance Company’s First Settlement Offer?
When you receive your first car insurance claim settlement offer, you may be eager to accept the money and move on with your life – it may seem like a lot of money now. However, you should not accept the first settlement offer. Insurers will typically not offer you a settlement worth taking at the outset of negotiations, and it may not be enough to take care of your future needs. Instead, if you get a settlement offer, it is best to contact an experienced car accident lawyer first to review your case and determine if the offer is fair.
How Can a Lawyer Increase the Compensation an Insurer Offers You?
A car accident attorney can affect not only whether an insurance company accepts liability on a claim but also how much money they will offer you during settlement negotiations. Insurers know when they face an individual who hired a car accident lawyer to represent them that they must do things by the book and present a reasonable settlement offer.
Sadly, the injured people who attempt to negotiate a settlement on their own can end up dealing with manipulative tactics, delays, or unjustified denials from the insurance company. A lawyer will not let the insurer get away with improper tactics. Instead, they will work with you every step of the way, from the moments after your crash through the resolution by a settlement or filing a lawsuit against the parties liable for your injuries and losses.