April 18, 2024

How Much Should You Ask for in a Car Accident Settlement?

On the table lay small red toy car, coins, wooden blocks, and hammers, tools symbolizing the proceedings of the court.

You may not know how much to ask for in a post-crash settlement until you speak with a car accident attorney. Determining a fair settlement value is not as simple as adding medical bills and vehicle repair costs. You must also consider pain and suffering and other damages that may not have a clear financial cost.

You should also consider how long your injury symptoms may last, and you may not know this until speaking with qualified medical experts. A car accident lawyer will explain how much you should ask for in your car accident settlement. They will then seek that amount of money for you.

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Every Car Accident Settlement Has a Different Value

Concept of a car accident settlement involving a toy car, credit form and some money.

Statistics about average settlement values won’t be of much use to you. Each car accident victim has different damages, so each car accident settlement stands on its own. For this reason, you may not know how much money you deserve until a lawyer knows:

  • The details of the accident
  • The share of fault for the accident
  • Details of insurance policies covering those involved in the accident
  • The nature of your injuries
  • The exact cost of your economic and non-economic damages

Even if you knew someone who suffered a similar type of car accident and the same type of injuries you did, you can not assume that your case value is similar to theirs. There are too many variables from one accident to the next to make such guesses.

Factors That May Affect the Value of a Fair Settlement

While your lawyer will need specific details (like images of injuries and invoices for vehicle repairs) to determine your case value, they will know which variables can influence the cost of a car accident. These variables include:

Your Injury Type

Some injuries are more severe than others. Though every injury warrants a fair financial recovery, some (like spinal cord and brain injuries) may be particularly likely to cause long-term health problems.

Your lawyer will determine the following:

  • The specific injuries you have suffered because of someone else’s negligence
  • The symptoms you are currently experiencing
  • Other symptoms associated with your injury type (as you may suffer such symptoms in the future)
  • Recovery timelines for injuries similar to yours

Lawyers understand that their training and experience lie in the law, not medicine. Therefore, your attorney will likely work with your doctors and their medical experts to understand and document your injuries.

The Severity of Your Injury Symptoms

Lawyers know that the severity of injuries directly affects the cost of an accident victim’s economic damages (including but not limited to medical care). Your attorney will consider:

  • The grade of your injury (as injuries with the same name can have varying grades of severity)
  • The extent to which your injury symptoms interfere with your day-to-day life
  • Whether any of your symptoms will be long-term or even lifelong
  • All other relevant facts related to your injury

The more severe your injuries are, the more compensation you deserve.

The Cost of Medical Treatment (and Rehab)

Your attorney must determine the specific cost of your accident-related medical care. This includes:

  • Services you have already received
  • Services you will receive between now and the time your lawyer negotiates a settlement
  • Any future medical care (including rehabilitation) you will require

Determining the cost of medical services can be difficult when the accident victim has ongoing symptoms and medical needs. Your attorney will contact your doctors to monitor your recovery. If you are going to experience long-term symptoms, your lawyer can project future healthcare costs and seek fair compensation.

The Extent of Property Damage

Property damage is a certainty when vehicles collide. One variable affecting the cost of car accident cases is whether or not your vehicle can be repaired and how extensive those repairs are.

The Complexity of Your Pain and Suffering

Car accidents often cause significant pain and suffering, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some accident victims rebound quickly from the distress of being in an auto collision. Others suffer debilitating, potentially disabling forms of pain and suffering that never entirely go away. The complexity and severity of your pain and suffering will be a factor in your settlement value.

Damages That Your Settlement Value Must Reflect

The car's front hood, headlights, rear trunk, and bumper are irreparably damaged, resulting in a total loss.

You know some variables that may affect your case value, but you should also know the specific damages that may be part of your case. These damages may include the following:

Healthcare Bills

Your lawyer will account for any healthcare expenses resulting from the car accident, which may include the cost of:

  • Ambulance transport from the accident scene
  • Emergency medical services
  • Surgery
  • Medical imaging (which may include X-rays)
  • Doctors’ evaluations (you may need multiple doctors’ visits)
  • Medical equipment
  • Rehabilitation 

Car accident lawyers work closely with clients’ doctors to trace their medical needs and calculate a fair settlement demand.

Pain and Suffering

Auto accidents can be intensely distressing, and victims often experience:

  • Anxiety, which may include fear of riding in motor vehicles
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Lasting physical pain
  • Emotional anguish 
  • Psychological distress
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lost quality of life

Your lawyer will work alongside mental health experts to diagnose your pain and suffering and determine how these symptoms will affect you going forward.

Professional Harm

Car accidents often take a professional toll on the victim. If you miss work or have to alter your professional role, you may lose income, earning power, and opportunities for bonuses, promotions, and overtime pay.

Car accident victims usually have to either:

  1. Repair their vehicle
  2. Replace a totaled vehicle

Your attorney will consult automotive repair professionals and your insurer to determine which option you should take and how much it will cost.

Other Property Expenses

If any other property is damaged during your car accident, your lawyer will determine the cost of repair or replacement. It may include electronics, clothing, and items inside your vehicle when the accident happened.

The Cost of a Fatal Car Accident

42,915 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2021, and this is representative of the number of lives lost in a given year. Statistics do not do justice to the intense grief and other damages that survivors feel when loved ones pass away unexpectedly.

If you lost a loved one in a fatal accident, you should hire a car accident attorney. These heartbreaking cases often involve several damages that include:

  • Survivors’ pain and suffering, including but not limited to grief
  • The cost of any grief counseling, medications, and other mental health services survivors require
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of the decedent’s financial support
  • Loss of consortium
  • Other economic and non-economic damages resulting from the fatal accident

Every car accident case presents unique challenges you may want to leave to an attorney. Your lawyer will fight to secure the compensation you deserve so you can prioritize your health.

Why a Lawyer Is Uniquely Qualified to Calculate Your Settlement Value

Exploring the legal framework surrounding car accident settlements, including the process and timeline, with key phrases outlined on the document.

While clients often want to hold at-fault parties responsible for causing injuries and inconvenience, many are most focused on receiving a fair settlement. Consider that a lawyer may be in a prime position to secure your settlement because:

  • They have obtained many settlements: Experience is among the greatest benefits when you trust your case to a car accident lawyer. Their years of experience obtaining financial recoveries may help them secure the settlement you deserve. 
  • They know how to calculate the most unclear damages: The cost of some damages may be pretty obvious, with the cost of vehicle repairs being one example. Other damages are far more challenging to calculate, and pain and suffering is a prime example. Attorneys have the legal knowledge and training to calculate even the least clear damages.
  • They have resources that you may not have access to: Attorneys have paralegals, support staff, investigators, and other personnel that contribute to their cases. Attorneys also frequently hire experts to contribute to car accident cases. These resources come at a direct cost to you and may be a great benefit to your case (including during settlement negotiations).
  • They have the time and energy to prepare for (and see-through) challenging settlement negotiations: Persistence can be critical during difficult settlement talks. Your attorney will lead your case, knowing that it can become challenging. They have the time and willpower to overcome even the most challenging settlement process.

Attorneys are also effective negotiators for another reason: If liable parties are unwilling to offer a fair settlement, lawyers can file lawsuits and take cases to trial. It may provide leverage during settlement talks and a viable alternative if you don’t receive a fair settlement offer.

How a Car Accident Attorney Will Fight for Your Settlement

When you hire a lawyer, you get full-service legal experience. Attorneys’ willingness to handle every step of your case affords you the freedom to rest, recover, and prioritize your mental health.

Your attorney will provide frequent updates as they:

Secure All Evidence That Benefits Your Case

Winning car accident cases stand on solid evidence, which can include:

Attorneys encounter different evidence in each case they handle. A lawyer’s trained eye is helpful when identifying and securing evidence of liable parties’ fault.

Your case will include a detailed record of your accident-related damages, which may include:

  • All medical records pertaining to accident-related injuries
  • Diagnostic images of your injuries
  • Medical bills
  • Doctors’ diagnoses and treatment plans
  • Expert and employer testimony that you can’t work
  • Past income statements proving lost income
  • Bills related to accident-related property damage (like vehicle repairs)

Your lawyer may also present a mental health expert’s diagnosis of your pain and suffering.

Determine the Value of Your Case

Your legal team will calculate a detailed case value based on your economic and non-economic damages. This value will account for damages you have already suffered and any damages you will suffer in the future.

Negotiate with Insurance Companies

It sounds like you need assistance with a car insurance claim form and perhaps something related to a toy car.

Negotiating settlements is a crucial responsibility for car accident lawyers. Your lawyer will be your representative with insurance companies and will:

  • Prepare evidence of fault and documentation of your damages
  • Prepare notes about insurance policies that are relevant to your claim
  • Detail their calculation of your covered losses
  • Present a comprehensive case to insurance representatives, demanding a fair settlement that covers your losses

Insurance companies may meet your lawyer’s demands, offer a lowball settlement, or refuse to cover your losses. The insurers’ response will determine what your lawyer does next.

File a Lawsuit, if Necessary

When insurance companies do not provide fair compensation (or at-fault parties don’t have insurance), you may need to sue them for the compensation you deserve.

If filing a lawsuit becomes a potential step in your case, your attorney will have a transparent conversation. Your lawyer will explain the pros and cons of legal action and provide honest advice so you can make an informed decision.

Go to Trial, if Necessary

If your attorney files a lawsuit and liable parties continue to refuse a fair settlement, going to court may be necessary. Your lawyer will discuss this possibility with you and lead every trial step if your case comes to it.

Can I Afford a Lawyer’s Fee?

Yes, you can afford to hire a car accident lawyer. Personal injury attorneys often use contingency fees, a structure that places all the financial burden on the law firm.

You won’t have to pay your lawyer any upfront fees or costs. Your attorney will only receive a fee if they secure compensation for you. This way, you can hire a lawyer at no direct cost and know they have the financial motivation to win your case (and win as big as possible).

When to Hire Your Car Accident Attorney

Hire your personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. There are generally deadlines and other time-sensitive considerations that you must honor. Conduct your search and find your lawyer today.

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