After a car accident, you’re likely dealing with medical expenses, missed work time, vehicle damage, and emotional stress about the whole thing. Thankfully, if you were not at fault for the accident, you are entitled to seek compensation for your damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. After learning this, you might wonder how much you should settle for after the accident happens.
The answer to “how much should I settle for?” is not a straightforward one. It depends on your specific damages, the details of the accident, the actions of the other driver, and more.
The best way to know for sure is by consulting with an experienced car accident lawyer. However, below we will cover the main factors that help you decide how much settlement to accept.
Factors that Determine Your Settlement After a Car Accident
If you are injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault and you live in a fault state like Georgia, you have the legal right to seek compensation for your costs (also known as “damages”). To do this, you will need to file a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Ideally, their insurer should compensate you for damages like:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Vehicle damage
- Pain and suffering
These costs help determine how much you should settle for. You and your lawyer will need to calculate how many losses you have based on your total costs and how the accident has impacted you.
General vs Special Damages
In a car accident claim, there are two main types of damages (outlined in Georgia Code section 51-12-2):
- Special damages, which can be assigned a monetary value and must be proved to be recovered, such as medical bills and lost wages
- General damages, which can’t easily be assigned a monetary value and can be recovered without proof of an amount, such as pain and suffering or emotional trauma
You must have special damages after a car accident in order to file a personal injury claim. You will need to demonstrate these damages by including bills, receipts, and other sources of proof in your claim.
General damages like pain and suffering must result from physical injuries. For example, someone might suffer shame and embarrassment due to physical disfigurement or scarring after a car accident. These damages don’t have a clear dollar amount, so you and your lawyer will work to put a value on them for your claim.
Although general damages are not a part of every car accident claim, they can be worth a lot and may increase your settlement amount.
Partial vs Full Fault
Your degree of fault can also impact your recovery potential. If the other driver was fully at fault for the accident, they will be responsible for all damages. However, if you are found to hold some degree of fault, you might still be able to recover compensation—but it may be less.
In Georgia, you can still seek damages if you are less than 50% at fault. Then, your settlement would be reduced by the percentage of fault you hold. The insurance company may try to use this by pinning more of the blame on you to reduce your settlement. An experienced lawyer can make sure all evidence of the other driver’s fault is presented in your case.
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Calculating How Much You Should Settle For After a Car Accident
There is no one exact formula for calculating how much your settlement should be worth after a car accident. It’s hard to even give an average settlement amount, as each case can be so different.
Here’s a good way to get an idea of how much you can expect from a settlement:
- Calculate all your special damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and vehicle damage, and add them together.
- Multiply the total of these damages by three.
For example, say the total of your special damages was $6,000. Multiplied by three, that’s $18,000, which may offer an approximate view of your potential settlement.
Other Things that Impact Your Settlement
You can typically expect to get a higher settlement for very serious (or permanent) injuries since they will result in larger medical bills (from more treatment time), more lost wages, and pain and suffering damages.
You’re also limited by the other driver’s insurance policy maximums. If your damages are very high, you may exceed that maximum. In some cases, you may be able to file with your own insurance company to help cover some of the costs.
When you get treatment matters, too. You will need to see a doctor as soon as possible after the car accident so the insurance company sees your ailments are serious. Plus, seeing a doctor can help prevent injuries from getting worse. Some car accident injuries like whiplash take time to fully manifest, so be sure to tell your doctor about any discomfort and schedule another appointment if anything gets worse. You will want all your medical expenses to be included in your injury claim.
Insurance Companies Will Offer You Less than You Deserve
Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t like to pay out much for personal injury claims. They will look for ways to undermine your claim, place some of the blame on you, or deny your claim altogether. Most of the time, they’ll offer you a lowball settlement and hope you take it out of desperation.
It’s also hard to put a price on non-tangible damages like pain and suffering. Without legal expertise, you may be led to believe you don’t deserve the full value of your claim—but you do.
Thankfully, a car accident lawyer can help you with both of these issues. Insurance companies are skilled at making you think you must settle for much less than you deserve—but you usually have the potential to pursue a compensation way higher than the first offer.
Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer About Your Settlement for Free
So, how much you should settle for after a car accident really depends on the details of your case. We can’t put a definitive number on it here because each person’s situation is unique. However, you can greatly increase your chances of a higher settlement by working with a car accident lawyer.
We will discuss your case with you—and your recovery possibilities—for FREE during a case evaluation. Our lawyers have over 20 years of experience helping car accident injury victims win what they actually deserve from the crash. It’s also risk-free to work with us: you don’t pay a thing unless we win you money.
To schedule your FREE consultation today with the best lawyer for your case, call us at (404) 400-4000 or contact us online now.