When you get into a car accident, your life can turn upside down in an instant. Depending on the accident's severity, you may experience increased stress and financial hardship. Medical bills may begin to mount, and you may need to take time away from work because of your injuries. Fortunately, you may be entitled to monetary compensation by filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance if you live in an at-fault state or your own insurance provider if you live in a no-fault state.
However, seeking compensation after an accident may be a challenge, especially if you want to ensure you get the amount of money you truly deserve and not a penny less. In this regard, you may wonder, “How much should I ask for in a car accident settlement?” There is no straightforward answer to this question.
The amount of money to ask for when negotiating with an insurance company depends on various factors, all of which your Creve Coeur car accident lawyer should take into account. In most cases, you may need legal assistance to calculate the value of your claim and ensure that you arrive at a fair compensation amount when negotiating with the insurer.
Factors That Impact Car Accident Settlements
Dozens of factors may come into play when determining the appropriate settlement amount for your insurance claim after a car accident. Some of the most prominent factors that affect how much money you can recover in your settlement include:
- The available insurance coverage: Most states set a minimum liability insurance motorists must carry. For example, Missouri’s minimum level of auto insurance coverage is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, and many states have similar minimums. If you suffered severe injuries, the at-fault driver’s $25,000 may not be enough to cover all the expenses you have incurred. Thus, the amount of money you can ask for in a car accident settlement is often limited by the insurance coverage that is available to you.
- The severity of your injuries: Generally, the settlement amount increases as the severity of the victim’s injuries increases because people who suffer serious injuries often require lifelong treatment and endure more pain and suffering than those with minor injuries.
- The damages you have suffered: In a car accident settlement, the word “damages” refers to any losses the victim has suffered due to the crash. Damages can be economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those that have an actual cost, such as medical bills and lost income, while non-economic damages are more subjective and include (mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.).
- The strength of evidence in your case: If you get injured because another driver was negligent, you must prove that driver’s fault and the extent of your damages. For this reason, your settlement amount may be higher if you have strong evidence proving your case. If you, on the other hand, do not have sufficient evidence to prove fault or your damages, this can negatively affect your car accident settlement.
- Whether you have an attorney: The insurance company will consider that you are working with an attorney when handling your claim. Generally, insurance companies are more willing to offer a higher settlement amount when they know a claimant has representation by an attorney willing to take the case to court if the insurer does not offer a reasonable amount.
These five are just some of the many factors that can affect how much you can ask for in a car accident settlement. Everyone’s situation is unique, which is why you should have a skilled attorney review your case to estimate how much your claim is worth and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Car Accident Settlements
Feeling upset and confused about what comes next is perfectly normal when you get into a car accident. The FAQ section below hopefully addresses some of the questions you may have about settling your claim.
What are “damages” in a car accident settlement?
The damages you can recover in a car accident settlement fall into two categories:
- Economic (monetary losses), including medical expenses, property damages, lost income, and others.
- Non-economic (non-monetary losses), including loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and others.
Every car accident case is unique, which is why the types of damages you can claim depend on the extent of your injuries and the specific facts of your case.
What is the average car accident settlement?
There is no such thing as the “average” car accident settlement because every case is unique. While the typical payout for injured victims ranges between $10,000 and $30,000, the settlement amount will vary greatly depending on various factors, including the severity of injuries, the impact of the accident on the victim’s life, and many others. Sometimes, the settlement may be as low as just a few hundred dollars. In others, however, the settlement can reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Statistics show that the average economic cost of a disabling injury after a motor vehicle accident is $155,000.
Can I turn down the insurer’s settlement offer?
If you receive a settlement offer that you believe is below the actual value of your claim, you have the right to turn down the offer to request more money. Once you turn down the insurer’s offer, whether or not you can get a better deal depends on your negotiation skills. For this reason, it may be worth your while to hire an experienced attorney who can negotiate with the insurer on your behalf to ensure that you receive an appropriate settlement amount.
What is the statute of limitations?
If you decide to pursue legal action against the at-fault party or their insurance company after your attempts to negotiate an acceptable settlement amount fail, you need to remember that you only have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations varies from state to state. For example, Missouri law gives injured victims five years from the date of the injury to initiate legal action (MO Rev Stat § 516.120).
Tips on How to Maximize Your Car Accident Settlement
The things you do can either improve or hinder your chances of receiving an adequate settlement amount after a car accident. Below are some of the key tips to follow to get the most out of your claim for compensation:
- Do not accept the first offer: In many cases, insurance companies offer a settlement relatively quickly when the victim is most vulnerable and in need of fast money. However, the initial settlement offer is almost always a lowball offer that is insufficient to cover the full scope of your damages. Consider consulting an attorney when accepting or declining the insurer’s offer. Your attorney will advise on how to get a fair and full settlement.
- Do not sign anything: Insurance companies routinely send documents and forms for claimants to sign. However, you should be very careful when signing anything when dealing with the insurance company. An insurer may give you a form that authorizes access to your medical records or provide forms that trick you into signing away your rights. Do not sign anything without an attorney’s approval.
- Seek immediate medical care: Failure to visit an emergency room or hospital within a reasonable time after a car accident can negatively impact your chances of securing adequate compensation. The insurer may argue that your injuries are not as severe as you claim if they do not see records of you seeking immediate medical care.
- Decline a request for a recorded statement: Recorded statements are a trick devised by insurance companies to get claimants to say things that can be used against them to deny their claim or pay less than what their claim is worth. If you receive a request for a recorded statement, politely decline the request and say you do not want to answer questions without your attorney present.
- Stay away from social media: Social media plays a significant role. Many people do not realize that insurance adjusters closely monitor a claimant’s social media accounts to find any evidence that contradicts their claim. For this reason, avoiding posting to your social media accounts while your claim is ongoing may be a good idea.
Remember: you do not have to handle the claims process alone. You can hire an attorney to take over your case so you can focus on healing and getting your life back to normal. Your attorney will keep you informed throughout the claims process and offer their perspective on how to obtain the most favorable settlement possible.
How an Attorney Can Help You Get a Fair Car Accident Settlement
When you speak with an attorney, they will ask you questions about your car accident to learn more about your claim’s specifics. Based on the facts of your case, an attorney can determine the highest amount they think you deserve and the lowest amount you will be willing to accept. Then, your attorney will work to negotiate a settlement amount that falls between those two extremes with the aim of recovering the highest possible amount.
As mentioned earlier, the amount you can recover depends on the strength of your case and the availability of evidence to support your demand. Some of the evidence an attorney will help collect and preserve include:
- Medical bills
- Medical records
- Documentation of lost income
- Photograms from the accident scene
- Camera surveillance footage
- Witness statements
- Testimony from expert witnesses, including accident reconstruction experts
Your attorney will explain what types of evidence you need to get the most money from your car accident settlement. With an attorney on your side, you can make informed decisions on whether to accept or decline the insurer’s settlement offer to ensure that you do not settle for less than you deserve.