Whether you settle or go to court can also affect what you ultimately receive for a car accident. That's why it's essential to consult with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer who can evaluate your case and fight for your rights. How much a car accident claim is worth depends on several factors such as injuries, lost income, and who was involved in the crash. More severe injuries, especially those that result in permanent disability, can result in high settlements or verdicts.
The Severity of Your Injuries Determines How Much You Can Recover
A major component of a car accident claim includes compensation for your medical expenses.
To put into perspective what that could cover, consider that you may incur expenses for:
- Ambulance and emergency room visits
- Imaging, blood tests, and other diagnostics
- Surgeries and other inpatient procedures
- Hospital and rehabilitation facility stays
- Antibiotics, painkillers, and other prescriptions
- Medical equipment like braces, crutches, or wheelchairs
- Physical therapy and recovery support
The final tally could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. For someone suffering from a traumatic brain injury, they could easily incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare expenses.
Adding up these costs is the first step toward grasping the worth of your car accident case, providing a baseline. However, don’t stop with your initial medical costs.
Your Settlement Should Account for Your Long-Term Healthcare Expenses
In addition to your immediate healthcare expenses, you may also require compensation for long-term costs, including:
- Replacement medical equipment
- Prescriptions for symptoms or pain
- Ongoing physical, occupational, or other therapy
- Continued visits with doctors or specialists
- Chiropractic care and massage therapy
- Acupuncture and other alternative treatments
- Changes to your home or car to accommodate a disability
For example, if you suffered a spinal cord injury, you will likely face medical expenses for the rest of your life. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) estimates lifetime costs in the millions of dollars—and that’s after first-year costs ranging from $397,000 to $1.2 million. The NSCISC also estimates another $82,000 per year in indirect costs.
Projecting your medical costs over time isn’t just reserved for permanent or catastrophic injuries. Some whiplash sufferers still experience pain and lowered quality of life five years after an accident, according to BMC Public Health. This can mean you need continued chiropractic care and pain management.
Because you may not yet know what medical expenses you’ll experience in the future, doctors and financial experts can make projections based on your condition. This can then inform your case’s value.
You Can Seek Compensation for Mental Health Complications
Your car accident case can include compensation for the damage to your mental health.
Motor vehicle accidents can cause or contribute to:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Your car accident claim or lawsuit could account for diagnostic testing, therapy sessions, medications, and other forms of emotional and psychological support. Even just the general stress that comes with a car accident is worth compensating; it’s not something you would contend with if the other party hadn’t acted negligently.
Your Lost Income Streams Contribute to Your Case’s Value
Whether the crash caused you to miss a few days on the job or permanently altered your ability to work, the consequences to your career can affect how much your claim’s worth.
Your claim or lawsuit could account for the loss:
- Hourly earnings
- Freelance income
- Gig work
- Time off
What if Your Injuries Affect Your Return to Work?
Just like you can project the medical costs of long-term injuries, you can project your long-term income losses to determine the value of your claim.
Compensation in this area:
- Covers income losses from changing jobs
- Provides funds for training in a new field
- Acknowledges your overall reduced ability to earn
For example, if your permanent back injury means you can no longer stand for long periods, forcing you to take a similar job that pays less, your claim’s value should cover the change in pay. If that back injury prevents you from working in your chosen career at all, forcing you to change paths to a less lucrative field, compensation can cover both the training and your reduced earning capacity.
How Much Are Your Personal Losses Worth After an Accident?
This category is one of the more subjective forms of compensation often included in a car accident claim or suit.
Damages for personal losses cover:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Diminished quality of life
Identifying the value of these losses means delving into your personal life. Your injuries may make it impossible for you to run marathons or play an instrument. Maybe your relationship suffered because you can no longer enjoy spousal intimacy. Perhaps you cannot pick up or play with your children. These parts of your life have value, and therefore the loss of them from a car accident should have value in your claim or suit.
This is an area commonly shortchanged by adjusters and liable parties either by neglecting these damages entirely or downplaying the losses. If your quality of life changes because of pain, loss of identity, or psychological struggles, you deserve reimbursement for those challenges.
What if the Car Accident Was Fatal?
How much a car accident case is worth can change if the crash claimed the life of your loved one. Wrongful death claims cover the same medical bills and income losses as a personal injury case in addition to accounting for funeral and burial costs.
For personal losses, wrongful death cases seek to acknowledge the significance of the deceased’s life.
Damages can attest to struggles like:
- Your loved one’s pain and suffering
- Your pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of support from a spouse
- Loss of guidance from a parent
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
Notice that a claim’s value after this type of accident involves both your loved one’s personal losses and your personal losses. This accident happened to both of you, so the case should provide financial acknowledgment for those touched by the tragedy.
Insurance Negotiations Play a Big Role in How Much You Can Recover
Another important factor in the amount of your possible compensation is how negotiations go with the other party. In an insurance claim, an adjuster will investigate the case, identify damages, and make you a settlement offer, thereby declaring what they think your car accident claim is worth.
However, many adjusters offer the lowest possible settlement first. In fact, this is why it’s so crucial to identify all your losses—the adjuster may leave some losses out or pitch you the smallest number. You are within your rights to negotiate.
What that offer is and how negotiations go can affect how much you can recover. A car accident lawyer can pitch in, providing evidence of your damages to argue that your claim is more valuable than what the adjuster proposes.
What if the Crash Involved More Than One Party?
Collisions involving more than one vehicle (or accidents with several contributing factors) can affect the claims process after a car accident.
Your crash could have involved:
- Multiple drivers
- Trucking companies
- Taxi companies
- Rideshare drivers and companies
- A government entity
- Construction companies
- Auto parts manufacturers
For example, if you were sideswiped by a distracted driver, you can potentially file a claim against them for failing to pay attention. However, if that driver was distracted because they were checking their Uber app after getting a ride request from a passenger, your case might also involve Uber and its insurance coverage.
Sometimes, having more than one liable party can give you more than one option for compensation. You can file separate claims against each party to maximize your damages.
What if You Pursue a Lawsuit?
A car accident claim typically refers to an insurance claim, but that is not your only option to obtain compensation. A personal injury lawsuit can provide the opportunity to pursue what your car accident case is worth.
Insurance claims sometimes require injured parties to prove they were not responsible for the crash, but personal injury lawsuits always put the burden of proof on the injured party. You must demonstrate through evidence that the other driver behaved in a way that violated their duty of care and caused your injuries.
Like a claim, a lawsuit could allow you to recover:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost income
- Reduced ability to earn
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
If the car accident was fatal, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, some states only allow certain family members to file these claims, so check with local laws.
If you pursue a lawsuit, you may have the opportunity for additional damages that are unavailable with an insurance claim, depending on the state. As a matter of fact, one reason for filing a lawsuit is that the insurance company does not provide a fair car settlement. If you believe your claim is worth more than an adjuster estimates, filing a lawsuit might force them to negotiate or go to court.
What if a Jury Decides on My Case?
Most personal injury lawsuits settle out of court, but some do proceed to trial. In that case, a jury will determine if you deserve damages and then decide the amount of those damages. In other words, the ultimate value of your suit is left up to them.
As a result, a court case can leave you with less control over the outcome of your case. This doesn’t mean it isn’t the best option for you. You and your legal team can determine if and when a lawsuit filing is the next natural step in your case’s progression.
What Are Your State’s Car Accident Claim and Lawsuit Laws?
State laws on insurance coverage can influence how much a claim is worth. For instance, some states require you to go through your own insurance coverage first, which can allow you to receive a certain amount of benefits up to your policy’s limits. If you’re still left with out-of-pocket expenses, you could file a lawsuit against the at-fault party and recoup the remaining damages.
As a result, to fully understand what your claim is worth, you can review your insurance policy and talk to a lawyer. They can explain what laws are in place regarding what you can receive in a claim versus a lawsuit. You might even find your state has limits on the amount of damages you can receive.
Does Your State Have a Serious Injury Threshold for Lawsuits?
A few states only allow those in car accidents to pursue a lawsuit if they suffered a serious injury.
Each state has a different definition of what counts as a serious injury, but some injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Organ damage
- Permanent disability
- Loss of limb
Serious injury thresholds can therefore affect what your claim is worth. The cost of more serious injuries can exceed an insurance policy’s limits, meaning you might need to pursue a lawsuit to recover the full extent of your losses.
The Value of a Car Accident Claim Depends on Your Situation
The bottom line is that how much your car accident claim is worth depends on particulars, not generalities. You can find a wide range of estimates regarding the value of the average car accident claim, but recognizing a fair settlement offer in your case requires reckoning with all your possible damages.
Catalog your medical bills, consider how your injuries will affect your career and personal life, and examine the effect on your peace of mind. Talk to doctors, financial experts, and your personal injury law firm's attorney in Atlanta to make sure you don’t miss anything. Most of all, stand up for what you think you are worth.