1. Good car accident settlements cover all damages
A good settlement offer is one that fairly compensates you for your damages. Here’s an example of what a good car accident settlement looks like:
The victim, who we'll call John, was rear-ended while driving on the highway. The impact of the collision caused him to suffer a concussion, a broken rib, and a sprained ankle. He incurred medical expenses of $15,000. He was unable to work for two months and lost $10,000 in wages. The collision also caused $5,000 worth of damage to his car which he had to pay out of pocket.
In this scenario, a good settlement offer from the at-fault driver's insurance company might be around $40,000. This amount would cover John's:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Car damages
- Pain and suffering
But this is just a hypothetical example – the actual value of a claim may vary depending on the circumstances. Only an attorney can tell you how much your settlement might be worth.
2. Your attorney will need to put a value on your claim
Your attorney will include several factors when determining how much your claim is worth. For example, they’ll factor in:
- Medical expenses: This often covers hospitalization, surgery, medication, therapy, and other medical costs.
- Property damage: This covers reimbursement and repair costs for damages to your vehicle or personal belongings.
- Lost wages: If a collision caused you to miss work, you can receive compensation for the income you would have earned during that time.
- Pain and suffering: You may be able to seek damages for physical and emotional pain and suffering.
- Loss of earning capacity: This covers long-term or permanent disabilities that affect your ability to work.
3. Your attorney may pursue punitive damages
In some circumstances, your attorney may pursue punitive damages if they can prove that the defendant's actions were grossly negligent, willful, or malicious.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Engaging in road rage or aggressive driving.
- Deliberately disregarding traffic laws.
Seeking punitive damages is meant to serve as a strong deterrent, sending a clear message that such behavior won’t be tolerated.
4. Insurers prioritize minimizing payments
While insurance companies are supposed to provide financial protection after car accidents, they often try to minimize their payouts or avoid compensating you entirely. Here’s how:
- Delaying claims: Insurance companies may try to delay the claims process or investigation. This is a tactic used to persuade you to give up or settle for a lesser amount.
- Shifting the blame: Insurers may attempt to shift the blame onto you and argue that your actions contributed to or caused the crash.
- Lowballing settlement offers: Insurance adjusters may take advantage of your unfamiliarity with the claims process. Their aim is to convince you to accept a low-ball settlement.
- Challenging medical treatment: Insurance companies may argue that your medical treatment was excessive or unrelated to the crash. They may also downplay your injuries if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
- Surveillance and investigation: Insurers may conduct surveillance or hire private investigators to follow you. They hope to gather evidence that disputes the extent of your injuries.
5. Early car accident settlements may not be in your best interest
While a quick settlement may seem appealing, insurers often offer lower amounts to cases quickly. It's important to carefully consider the potential consequences before making any decisions. Some injuries may take time to fully manifest. Accepting a settlement too early may prevent you from seeking compensation for future damages – remember, once you take a settlement offer, you can’t go back for more.
It's best to first consult with a car accident attorney who can negotiate for a fair settlement on your behalf.
6. Car accident settlement negotiations can be lengthy
Once your attorney gathers the necessary evidence and documentation, negotiations typically begin. This can be a lengthy process. It will take time to reach a fair agreement that adequately compensates you for the damages.
In some cases, who is at fault for the accident can be disputed. Gathering evidence, reconstructing the accident, and analyzing witness statements can prolong the negotiations. In other cases, the insurance company may admit liability, but they will dispute the amount of damages. Sometimes, there is even a dispute regarding which insurance company or companies should pay for the damages. Your attorney can be your advocate throughout this process.
7. Your case may go to trial
While most car accident cases are typically settled outside of court, there are several reasons why a case may go to trial. Here are some examples:
- Unresolved liability disputes: Each party may have conflicting evidence or witnesses. In this case, a trial may be necessary to determine the responsible party.
- Inadequate settlement offers: In most cases, insurance companies will offer a settlement to avoid going to trial. However, your attorney may take the case to trial if they can't reach an agreement with an insurance company.
- Complex legal issues: Some car accident cases involve intricate legal issues or questions that require a judge or jury to interpret. This can include matters such as:
- Multiple responsible parties.
- Contributory negligence.
- Application of specific laws or statutes.
- Uncooperative parties: If one or more parties involved in a crash are uncooperative, refuse to negotiate in good faith, or deny any liability, it may be necessary to resolve the matter in the courtroom.
8. Your insurance rate may increase after a crash
Car accident settlements don’t directly impact insurance rates. However, the crash that led to your settlement may affect your insurance premium. For example, if you're found even partially at fault for a crash, your insurance rate could increase upon your policy renewal.
Your insurance rate may also increase in a "no-fault" state, regardless of who was at fault. It’s best to review the terms and conditions of your policy and your state's negligence laws to find out how a crash impacts insurance rates.