Nobody plans for a car accident. While we’re told that we should have an emergency fund to help us survive in the event of the unexpected, a recent report shows that over half of Americans don’t even have enough to get by on one week without pay. When an accident happens, it’s natural to think about money.
How are you going to pay your bills? Can you go to the doctor? And can you really afford to take time off of work?
Though you must make your health your number one priority after an accident, unfortunately, many of us have no choice but to think about money. Thankfully, the law allows accident victims to pursue compensation from the at-fault party after an accident—but many factors will affect the amount of your car accident settlement.
The Severity of Your Injuries Will Have the Most Impact on Your Settlement Amount
While there is the obscure case where someone with whiplash gets a larger settlement than someone with a traumatic brain injury, for the most part, the degree of your injuries will greatly affect your final settlement. Generally, soft tissue or temporary injuries are worth less than more permanent injuries, because the former costs victims less than the latter.
In the same regard, your prognosis plays a big role. If your doctor expects a full recovery, your settlement may not exceed your outstanding medical bills and some pain and suffering. On the other hand, if you are unable to return to work, your loss of income will also come into play. There is no way to say that a given injury is worth a set amount. Each case is different and has to consider a wide range of variables.
Common injuries after a motor vehicle accident include:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Scrapes and lacerations
Mental Anguish Matters
When we think about car accidents, we usually think about physical injuries. People come to check on you to see what hurts or what’s broken. However, we often neglect the emotional issues involved. A car accident can be a traumatic experience. Some people respond differently than others, and the more severe an accident is, the more likely a person is going to have a hard time moving on.
A recent study analyzed the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after motor vehicle accidents. The study found that 50 percent of accident victims suffer from PTSD following a traffic accident. An experienced car accident attorney can help show the long-term effects an accident has on your life and help you pursue appropriate compensation.
In addition to PTSD, your settlement may include compensation for the following:
- Sleep problems
What Happens When You Can’t Return to Work?
After an injury, it’s important to take the time to heal, which may mean taking time off work. If you have to take time off from work to recover from an accident, lost wages can help make up for the money you lose during this time. These benefits usually cover all missed time, starting from the first day you were unable to go to work, until the day you return. If you cannot return to work, you may have a claim for future wages, which would involve a lump sum payment based on your earnings and how long you were anticipated to keep working.
Factors That Can Increase or Decrease Your Settlement
An insurance company considers basic factors when it comes up with a case valuation. For the most part, this evaluation includes consideration of medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
However, beyond the basics, these variables can affect your final settlement, including:
- Pre-existing conditions: Insurance companies will generally try to argue that the accident did not cause your injuries if they can find proof of a pre-existing injury. Your attorney’s job is to show that the accident aggravated the pre-existing injury.
- The policy limits: A case is only worth as much as a policy can payout. New York law only requires drivers to carry $25,000 in liability insurance. If you have $35,000 in medical bills, and the other person only has a $25,000 in coverage, you can’t recover more than $25,000 unless you file a claim against your own PIP or underinsured motorist policy, or the other driver has assets to cover your costs.
- The credibility of the parties involved: You and the other driver are the two people that can give the best description of what happened during the accident. You’re going to tell your story over and over again to various people. The insurance company is going to try to catch you in a lie. If an insurance representative thinks that you are lying, or if they think that a jury will think you are lying, they may offer you less. You will want your car accident lawyer to prepare you and represent you whenever you need to make a statement about your accident.
The Final Settlement
There is no calculator to determine how much you deserve after a car accident. Every case is different. The value of a case can change from one day to the next and may increase or decrease as the case goes on. Once your attorney and the insurance company come to an agreement, the insurance company will issue a settlement check to your attorney. You can use this to pay any outstanding medical bills, pay off any outstanding attorney fees and costs, and close out the case. Once the case is closed, you will have little recourse to make a change, so you need to make sure you are happy with the final amount.
Get the Help You Deserve
Most people have no idea how much an auto accident is actually worth. Even an experienced attorney will need to do a thorough evaluation to get anywhere close to the final number. Remember, your attorney should not settle your case until you are happy with the number. Your attorney’s job is to help you understand what’s reasonable. If you have questions or need help after a recent accident, contact an experienced car accident attorney.