Car Accident Settlements
Car accident settlements involve lots of complex, moving pieces. During a typical settlement negotiation, you’ll need to go back and forth with the person who caused the car accident and their insurance company until you reach a favorable settlement.
Deciding how much money you should pursue in a car accident settlement is sometimes challenging, especially for people who have never been in such a situation before. If you are recovering from a car accident and want to determine an appropriate settlement amount, talk to an experienced car accident lawyer. They can help you fight for a fair settlement.
What Are My Rights After a Car Accident?
If you are in a car accident, you most likely suffer bodily and personal harm due to another driver’s negligent actions, even if the driver did not mean to hurt you. In this situation, you have the right to seek monetary compensation from the driver to recover your losses.
In a car accident case, you must prove that the other person hurt you.
You must establish four main criteria to prove this sufficiently:
- You must show that the other driver owed you a duty of care. Duty is usually easy to prove in a car accident case, as everyone must drive with care and diligence.
- You must show that the other driver breached their duty of care by acting carelessly or negligently while driving.
- You must show that the other driver’s actions caused the accident that injured you.
- Last, you must show that the accident is the reason for your losses.
What Damages Can I Collect From a Car Accident Settlement?
When you file a car accident claim, you will need to put together a list of your losses associated with the accident. You can include both economic and non-economic losses in a car accident claim.
A lawyer can help you decide which damages to pursue in your specific case, but victims commonly seek:
- Medical expenses for emergency room visits, surgeries, procedures, ongoing therapy, prescriptions, and the purchase of medical equipment
- Costs to repair or replace your car and any other property damaged in the crash; this can range from a cell phone to vet bills for a pet riding along with you.
- Loss of income for the days you had to miss work to recover
- Loss of earning capacity if your injuries prevent you from returning to your job or working in the same capacity (for example, full-time versus part-time)
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma or distress
- Scarring, disfigurement, and humiliation
- Loss of enjoyment of life if you can no longer enjoy activities you used to love doing
- Loss of consortium (relationships) with your loved ones
In some cases, you may be able to pursue other types of damages as well. For example, if someone died in an accident, you can pursue a wrongful death claim and seek compensation for the companionship and support you lost when your loved one passed away. Speak with your lawyer if you are unsure what damages apply in your case.
How Is a Car Accident Settlement Reached?
Settling a car accident case is often a long process. Your lawyer must do a lot of work to ensure you get a fair settlement amount. As you can imagine, the first settlement offer made by the insurance company will likely be a lowball offer—they do not want to pay, so they will offer you the lowest amount they can to see if you accept it.
Unfortunately, many inexperienced car accident victims accept the first settlement offer they get instead of fighting for more. In almost every case, people can get more from a settlement if they insist on negotiating instead of taking the offer at face value. You have suffered a lot because of your accident and deserve more than the lowest possible settlement an insurance company wants to offer.
You will take a few essential steps before reaching a car accident settlement. In general, the process looks like this:
Talk With Your Lawyer
First, you need to call a lawyer to speak about your case. A lawyer will help you understand the ins and outs of your claim and set your expectations. They can also help you estimate the amount of compensation you deserve. They usually share a range from the lowest settlement amount you should accept to the highest they think is possible. This is the range they will aim for when negotiating.
Once you and your lawyer have talked about how to file a claim, they will begin collecting evidence to help you build a strong case against the at-fault driver.
They will collect:
- Medical bills and records
- The police accident report
- Eyewitness statements
- Photos or video footage from the accident scene
- Expert testimony
You can help your lawyers gather some of the evidence. They will build a demand to send to the insurance company, asking for compensation and showcasing the proof you have provided.
Once the lawyers send that initial demand, the insurer will send a response either rejecting your claim outright or offering a settlement. Again, this initial settlement offer is likely low, so you might not want to settle for it immediately. Instead, your lawyer will probably want to submit a counter-offer that more nearly fits the amount you deserve.
This negotiation process will continue as your lawyer and the insurer try to iron out a settlement that meets your needs. Compromising can be very difficult, so you should speak with your lawyer regularly to find out the status of negotiations.
Reach a Settlement or Go to Court
In most cases, you should be able to agree on a settlement that will provide you with the compensation you need to pay your bills and get back to life as you know it.
However, your lawyer will take your case to court if you cannot settle. A judge or jury will hear the evidence and decide whether you deserve compensation. Since going to court takes a long time and is often more stressful than simple negotiations, most cases settle before reaching this point. Make sure the lawyer you hire has trial experience, so they will prepare to go to court if necessary.
Receive Your Settlement Check
If you settle, your lawyer will help you get the settlement check from the other party. They will use the funds to pay off any outstanding debts and deduct the fees they earned by assisting you with your claim. Then, they will give you the rest of the money to use as you see fit.
What Can I Do After an Accident?
If you want to ensure that the settlement process goes as smoothly as possible, taking these steps after an accident will help things run more efficiently.
- Seek medical treatment. Do not avoid the hospital for fear of the bills you will incur. You need medical treatment immediately to begin recovery and better understand how much compensation you need to pay for your medical expenses.
- Call a personal injury lawyer. Car accident settlements can be stressful, so call a lawyer as soon as possible. You do not want any added stress making your recovery more difficult for you and your family. Get in touch with a lawyer to start the claims process and avoid unnecessary delays or missed deadlines.
- Keep paperwork. As you receive medical treatment, ensure that you keep medical records and bills in a secure location so your lawyer can use them as evidence. Keep receipts for any repairs to your car or other property, documentation of lost wages, photos you got from the accident scene, the contact information for the other driver, and any witnesses to the crash.
- Start a journal. As you recover, keep a journal detailing all the physical, mental, emotional, and financial losses you have suffered. While you may have bills and receipts for some of these things, you will have difficulty proving any personal, relational, and emotional losses if you do not have a journal.
If you follow these steps after an accident, the settlement process will run a lot more efficiently, which will help your bank account and your mental and physical health.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Car Accident Settlement
If you have been in a car accident, you may feel that the stress is already enough without worrying about legal fees and dealing with lawyers. While this is understandable, it is not realistic.
Talking to a lawyer may feel stressful at first. However, once you have hired them, they will take a lot of the stress from your shoulders by guiding you through the negotiation process to help you avoid unnecessary problems with the insurance company.
In addition, car accident lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they will not take any of your money out of pocket. They will only receive payment when they have helped you settle.
A good lawyer will work to help you get the justice you deserve, no matter how long it takes or if the case has to go to trial. If a car accident injured you and you need to pursue a settlement with as little stress as possible, contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation.