If you’ve been in a car accident, you might wonder how much you can expect to receive as a settlement from the insurance company. We wish it was easy to tell you what the average car accident settlement is, but the truth can be tricky. It depends on several variables.
The annual cost of car accidents in the U.S. is around $242 billion. Car accidents range from minor with no injuries to extremely serious, resulting in life-long disabilities or even death. Calculating a claim means considering different factors based on damages and experience.
How Are Car Accident Settlements Calculated?
If you did not have very serious injuries, your chances of a large settlement are unlikely when compared with someone whose injuries greatly impair their quality of life. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up filing a claim if your accident was minor.
You may still be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The two main facts that matter when calculating a settlement after a car accident are:
- The severity of your injuries and
- The amount the insurance company is willing to pay on your claim
You should also know that insurance companies do not like to pay out much for personal injury claims no matter how large or small they are. They will look for ways to deny your claim or lowball you on the settlement, so having strong evidence of the accident, the other driver’s fault, and your injuries is key.
Some of the most significant factors that determine the average amount of a settlement include:
Medical expenses make up the bulk of special damages in a car accident settlement. This includes medical costs you have already paid and bills you have accrued. Sometimes, you can pay certain bills after receiving your settlement money. Other times, you may have to pay out of pocket upfront for (hopefully full) reimbursement later.
The settlement for your medical bills will depend on factors like:
- The type of care you received
- How long you were in the hospital
- Transportation to the hospital
- Whether or not you needed surgery or long-term care
You have chances of a higher payout if your injuries required more costly options, like on-site treatment.
Lost work wages are also often factored into your car accident settlement. This is the time and money you’ve lost from having to miss work because of your accident injuries.
To demonstrate lost wages in your claim, you will need to show previous pay stubs to prove what you were making per month. Although full recovery isn’t guaranteed, your lawyer will try to get you full compensation for those lost wages during the time you were gone.
Pain and Suffering
Sometimes, you can also claim emotional stress from your accident injuries. To claim pain and suffering damages, you must have a physical injury from the car accident and the emotional damages must result from that physical injury.
Pain and suffering damages are very complicated to calculate and require the expertise of a good car accident lawyer. Your ability to claim them also depends on the details of the insurance company’s policy. But if your pain and suffering damages are accepted, they can boost your settlement by a lot.
Examples of pain and suffering damages can include:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Anxiety or depression
- Inability to participate in activities you loved before
- Lowered quality of life
- Loss of companionship (if a loved one lost their life in the car accident)
Calculating Pain and Suffering for a Settlement
Your lawyer will help you gather evidence to prove pain and suffering damages. They will also calculate how much money you should receive. Sometimes, that involves figuring out how much you should get per day (“per diem”) and for how long based on your recovery.
For example, if your doctors think it will take you six months to completely recover, your car accident lawyer might request $150 per day. Multiplying that by the days in six months would total $27,600 for pain and suffering damages.
Another method is to take your special damages like medical bills and lost wages and multiply them by a number between one and five based on the seriousness of your injuries. If you had $2,000 in medical costs and your lawyer has determined your injury severity was a three, that would come out to $6,000.
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Other Variables That Affect Your Settlement
The severity of your injuries (including pain and suffering) and how much work time you missed are not the only things that matter or determine how much money you can receive in your settlement. It also matters whether or not:
- You sought medical attention right after your accident (or waited a few months)
- Your injuries were completely caused by the car accident (or resulted from a previous injury that flared up from the accident)
- You received more treatment than was necessary or saw certain practitioners (such as a chiropractor) the insurance company doesn’t value
This is why you should always see a doctor as soon as possible after your accident and see the right medical professionals for your injuries. If you aren’t sure which actions are best, you can contact a car accident lawyer for help.
The Average Settlement for Car Accidents Varies
As you might have guessed by now, it’s not easy to give an average settlement amount for car accidents. Besides each case varies greatly, it’s also difficult to produce a number because most personal injury settlements remain private.
However, auto insurance facts and stats from the Insurance Information Institute show the average compensation for bodily injuries in car accidents at $18,417, and property damage in car accidents at $4,525. This number may vary a lot depending on the details of your case and whether or not you seek professional assistance.
Hiring a good lawyer can also crucially impact the outcome of your car accident claim. Car accident lawyers are skilled in building a strong claim and negotiating for a fair settlement.
How Do I Get the Most Money From a Car Accident?
There are some steps that you can take that may increase your car accident compensation and earn more than the average car accident settlement. These include:
- Taking pictures of the scene of your accident, including any damage done to your car and the other party’s vehicle
- Talking to any witnesses at the scene
- Get a medical diagnosis as soon as you can after your crash
- Write down everything you remember happening before, during, and after your accident
- Report the crash to your insurance company
- Keep any documents you receive, including bills and medical documents
- Keep a record of your injuries and your recovery
By having extensive information at the ready, you can help your personal injury attorney prove that you were the victim of a negligent driver. You can make sure that every damage and injury you have received gets compensated.
How Much Do I Have to Pay My Car Accident Attorney?
Your car accident attorney’s payment depends on your case and the extent of your damages. It might be in your best interest to contact a lawyer who works on a contingency-fee basis. That means your lawyer doesn’t get paid until you win compensation from your case. Your attorney will sit down with you to decide what portion of your settlement will go to them.
Your attorney should always ensure you get what you need to recover comfortably. When you and your attorney secure compensation, the insurance company will send your attorney the check. Your lawyer will take out the agreed-upon fee and send you the rest so that you can finally move on from your accident.
Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer for Free
In an ideal world, every car accident victim would be awarded compensation for the exact amount of damages they have suffered. They would also receive that money as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the insurance claim process rarely works that smoothly.
If you are concerned about the outcome of your case, working with an experienced car accident lawyer can help. A lawyer can help you understand if your case merits earning compensation that’s higher than the average car accident settlement.