A settlement is an agreement to pay someone who has suffered injury or harm in a car accident, the idea being that it closes, or settles, the case, providing both parties with closure, rather than the case having to be taken to court.
In order to settle, the injured person needs to either file a personal injury suit against the driver responsible for the injuries and damage, or they need to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
For the driver to be found at fault, they need to have been liable, meaning their actions must have been negligent in some way.
What’s Included in a Settlement?
If you’re injured in a car accident and the other party is at fault, you are entitled to receive compensation for the damages and injuries sustained.
Damages can be separated into two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages include anything that has cost you money, such as hospital treatment, or losing days off work due to recuperation.
Non-economic damages are more abstract, as these cover the emotional side of an accident and the resulting injuries.
These may be less visible but are just as damaging, for example, pain and emotional suffering, disability, disfigurement, etc. It is often these damages that have the biggest impact on a claimant’s life.
So, economic damages can include:
- Medical bills that are due or have been paid. These include the cost of ambulances, emergency departments, doctor’s appointments, surgery, hospitalization, therapy, and medication.
- Damage to your vehicle or other property.
- Future medical bills you are expected to get as a result of the injuries.
- Wages you’ve lost from being off work due to the injury.
- Future wages lost from work, for example, if you have to modify your responsibilities or can no longer work at all.
Non-economic damages often include:
- Pain and suffering caused by the injury
- Loss of consortium (such as physical affection from a spouse or partner)
How Much to Expect
While we’ve discussed the types of damages that can be incurred by a car accident, you might still be wondering how much you can expect from a settlement.
It’s important to note that a specific injury will not equal a specific amount of compensation, as every accident victim will have a different experience.
For example, injuries can differ between victims in the following ways:
- Length of time spent in hospital
- Cognitive, physical, and behavioral impairments
- Time needed for recovery
- Interference with their ability to work
- Types of rehabilitative therapy required
- Permanent disability or scarring
- Emotional impact
Not only does the settlement depend on how your body (and mind) responds to the injury sustained, but there are several other factors that are taken into consideration.
This includes the sum of the bills you’ve received, your salary, expert testimony on whether you can return to work or not, expert testimony on expected future medical expenses, as well as the amount of pain and suffering you’ve endured and could endure in the future.
Other factors may include the effect of the injury on your daily life - now and in the future.
For example, some injuries, such as those affecting the spinal cord or brain, can affect one’s ability to live or move independently and may take away their ability to hold down a job or take part in sports they once enjoyed.
These injuries are often referred to as “catastrophic injuries” as they impact many different aspects of life and victims of such injuries may require medical care for the rest of their lives.
That said, your settlement amount can also be dependent upon the ability of your attorney. Car accident injury settlements are negotiated over time until a just offer is received, so a good attorney will have strong negotiating skills and won’t give in easily.
How Car Accident Settlements are Calculated
There is no easy answer to the question of “how much money do you get from a car accident settlement?”
While the insurance industry doesn’t have a precise formula for calculating settlements, there is a way you can get a rough idea of the amount you may be owed.
If it’s just your car that’s damaged, you’ll typically be reimbursed based on the policy limits.
You’ll only be eligible for pain and suffering compensation if you’ve been injured. This is why it’s essential to be examined by a doctor after an accident, even if you don’t have any visible injuries. Medical reports could play a vital role later on in the process.
Some injuries, such as whiplash, don’t become evident until a few days later, and, if you negotiate your settlement too soon, or wait too long to get medical care, you might not receive compensation for the injury.
To get a rough estimate of a car accident settlement, you can add up your expenses for medical bills, car repairs, and lost wages, and then multiply this amount by three.
Your average car accident settlement is likely to fall somewhere between $14,000 and $28,000, though it will be higher for more severe or permanent injuries, or if the driver responsible for the injuries is found to be driving under the influence.
The vast majority of personal injury claims end in settlement, as this is the favorable outcome for most people.
However, it’s important to remember that you’re limited by the other driver’s policy maximum. So, if you sustained $30,000 in damages but the driver’s insurance limit is $20,000, you may then need to sue the individual in order to reclaim the remaining $10,000.
There is no average amount paid in car accident settlements, as there is a myriad of factors that impact the final amount you are paid. It also depends on the severity of your injury, and the extent of the economic and non-economic damages you've endured.
Every victim is different, and as a result, every settlement amount is too.