In a car accident settlement, you can ask for an amount that covers all crash-related damages, including medical costs, non-economic damages, lost wages, and much more. The size of the compensation depends on many factors, including evidence quality and legal experience.
You may seek sizable damages if you sustained injuries in a car accident. You must ask for a reasonable amount backed by evidence. You must prepare to negotiate with the insurance company or at-fault party’s attorneys to ensure a fair settlement.
Let’s take a closer look at how much you should ask for in a car accident settlement and why you should hire a car accident lawyer to do that for you.
Different Types of Settlements
The amount of your settlement can depend on whom you expect to get it from:
- Insurance company: If you file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, you must prepare for negotiations with the insurance adjuster.
- Attorneys: If you file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, you may need to negotiate with them directly or speak to their attorneys.
While the amount you start with can be the same in both cases, negotiations can proceed differently.
When it comes to insurance adjusters, their key goal is to minimize the settlement—that goes for both your PIP insurer and an at-fault party’s insurance provider. Even if you ask for a reasonable amount, they can come up with arguments and even evidence to decrease it.
Many car accident victims end up accepting lower settlements simply because they cannot take the pressure of ongoing negotiations and need money as soon as possible. That is why it may be a good idea to hire an attorney.
Car accident attorneys have experience withstanding the pressure and coming up with counterarguments. If the insurance company still refuses to settle reasonably, your attorney may recommend taking the case to court.
If the at-fault party is uninsured or underinsured (minimum auto insurance requirements are often low), you can file a lawsuit to recover a fair settlement amount. In this case, the defendant may decide to hire a lawyer. If this lawyer sees you have a strong case, they could try settling before proceeding to trial.
Negotiations with attorneys can go back and forth for a long time. Conducting them without legal experience can be complicated. If you hire a car accident lawyer to make your case, you will likely receive a fair settlement soon.
If negotiations do not help, the case can proceed to trial. You will likely win if your case is strong and backed by evidence.
Both types of settlements require you to present solid arguments and evidence. Otherwise, you may need help convincing insurance adjusters and attorneys to cover your damages. In both situations, you can benefit from professional legal assistance.
How Much Should You Ask for In a Car Accident Settlement?
In a car accident settlement, you should ask for an amount that covers past, current, and future injury-related expenses. Evaluating the settlement amount before you file a claim or lawsuit is imperative. You should know exactly how much you want to ask for. A car accident settlement should cover different damages.
When asking for a car accident settlement, you need to include all past and present medical expenses, such as:
- Ambulance costs
- Emergency medical treatment
- Treatment costs
- Surgery expenses
- At-home care
- Physical therapy
- Medical tests
You should also evaluate the possibility of needing medical assistance in the future. For example, if you have a traumatic brain injury, you may need a long-term hospital stay, at-home aid, and possibly surgery.
The settlement should cover all expected injury-related expenses. While you do not have bills and receipts to back the need for future medical expenses, you can hire an expert witness.
An expert witness is a professional (in this situation, a medical expert) who can evaluate your condition and testify to its extent. This witness can explain how much more care and treatment you will require in the future.
When you add all the existing evidence to the amount you can project with the above testimony in mind, you can come up with a reasonable figure.
If your injuries are serious, they may keep you from returning to work. Depending on the severity of your accident-related injuries, you may miss a certain amount of work or need to leave your job for good.
If you have to leave work for a short period of time, you can request compensation for lost wages. To do that, you would need to provide evidence, such as W-2 forms and pay stubs. You will need to provide doctors’ reports describing the condition keeping you from work.
For example, if you are a bicycle courier, a broken leg can keep you from work for several weeks or even months. During this time, your wages should be covered by the settlement.
If the accident led to a disability that does not allow you to work in the same position or keeps you from getting a job entirely, the compensation could be much higher. You would need expert witnesses to testify about your condition.
Once you have all the necessary evidence, you can request an amount that covers your loss of earning capacity for as long as necessary. In some cases, it could be for a lifetime.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering or non-economic damages are damages you cannot back with tangible evidence. However, you can ask for compensation. A settlement that includes pain and suffering can be several times higher than a settlement without them.
Pain and suffering include such non-tangible damages as:
- Emotional distress
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
An example of non-economic expenses is chronic pain due to accident-related injuries. This pain can prevent you from participating in activities you enjoyed before. For example, chronic pain in the leg could keep you from lengthy bicycle trips with your family.
To prove this damage, you would need to provide:
- Personal journals and diaries with descriptions of your life before and after the accident
- Expert witness testimony
- Testimony from family and friends
- Photos of your life before and after the accident
- Photos of your injuries
- Doctors’ reports
The goal of this compensation is to ease your suffering and help bring your life as much back to normal as possible. You need to discuss the reasonable amount with your attorney. It may be hard to determine the fair range if you do not have professional legal assistance.
How to Gather Evidence to Maximize Your Car Accident Settlement?
Evidence is the key to recovering a fair amount. Since both insurance adjusters and the at-fault party will do everything they can to avoid a high settlement, you need to make a strong case.
As soon as you get into an accident, the evidence appears. If you sustain severe injuries during the crash, you do not have the opportunity to collect evidence. Your main goal is to take care of your health.
Getting Legal Assistance
Once you receive immediate medical assistance, you can start thinking about legal action. It begins with speaking to an attorney. Many car accident attorneys do not charge for initial consultations. Accordingly, you can receive valuable legal advice without paying anything.
An attorney can evaluate your case at the initial consultation and give you a ballpark settlement figure. The final amount will depend on many different factors, including the strength of your evidence.
If you work with a car accident lawyer, they can gather the right evidence. If not, you must conduct extensive research to avoid missing anything important.
Conducting an Investigation
While the responsibility for the car accident may seem straightforward, conducting an in-depth investigation is still essential. You may have missed important information during the crash, especially if your injuries were severe.
To conduct an investigation, you need to return to the crash site to gather such evidence as:
- Photo of tire tracks
- Road conditions (if there are any potholes or missing road signs)
- Camera footage from nearby properties
You may also be able to speak to some witnesses who live in nearby homes. They could add some clarity to the accident. While eyewitness details should be in the police report, officers might miss something.
Hiring Expert Witnesses
Expert witness testimony can become the deciding factor when determining the amount of your settlement.
These professionals can:
- Evaluate the extent of your injuries
- Explain how long you will need treatment for
- Confirm your non-economic damages
This testimony is not just crucial for determining the size of your settlement. It can help you gain an advantage if the case eventually goes to trial.
Hiring expert witnesses is a complex process that requires a professional approach. Not all witnesses are ready to provide testimony or travel to another city or state to do it. If you work with a car accident attorney, they can help you find and hire the right witness. You can arrange a remote deposition if the witness is not in the area.
How to Increase the Size of Your Settlement?
There are a few ways you can increase the settlement amount:
- Return to the accident scene as soon as possible: Valuable evidence fades quickly. The faster you can get it, the bigger role it can play in your case. If you cannot return to the scene quickly or know what to look for, consider asking for legal assistance.
- Discover all at-fault parties: Several parties may be responsible for the crash. If one party’s insurance policy limits cannot cover your damages, you can turn to another and increase the settlement amount.
- Get the necessary medical treatment: Do not avoid any prescribed medication or therapy. Besides generating receipts and bills, this treatment can fortify the expert witnesses’ testimony.
- Speak to an attorney: While you do not have to hire an attorney to recover damages, a lack of legal experience could minimize your settlement.
- Fight for your money: Even if you can prove the at-fault party’s responsibility and negligence, you still need to fight against the insurance company or the defendant’s attorneys. By not giving up and going all the way, you are maximizing your chances of getting a fair amount.
Settling for an unsatisfactory amount is a bad decision. Even if the amount the insurance adjuster offers is high enough, you should still fight for a figure you initially determined.
Injuries may sometimes heal differently than planned. You must allow yourself to tend to all accident-related problems and take advantage of the best treatment available. If you do not feel ready to fight for your money alone, consider hiring a car accident attorney.
Ask for a Fair Settlement Amount and Insist on It
When evaluating the amount you should ask for, consider all injury and accident-related expenses, including medical bills, lost wages, and emotional stress. If you can prove the other party’s negligence, you can recover all past, current, and future expenses.
If you do not know how much you should ask for in a car accident settlement, consider working with a car accident attorney to pursue a fair settlement.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.