Car Accident Settlements
How Much is My Car Accident Claim Worth?
The amount of compensation crash victims can expect to receive for their personal injury or car accident claim can vary wildly from case to case. It’s difficult to list even a range of possible amounts without knowing the specific details of your case.
Still, some people have taken the time to do a little research on the question. It’s also possible to discuss the different factors which might raise or lower the amount you can expect to receive in a car accident settlement.
Average Personal Injury Settlement Amounts
Nolo.com decided to tackle this question by surveying personal injury victims across the nation. They found the average payout was $52,900, which makes sense. Each year, there are six million car accidents in America. Only 34,439 are severe enough to result in death.
There aren’t any recorded statistics on how many of those result in severe, permanent, life-altering injuries versus other injuries like fractures, or whiplash. Still, we can make an educated guess from the two figures above that the vast majority of car accidents don’t result in the kinds of life-altering injuries like spinal cord damage that would make a huge payout likely.
Nolo.com found that 16% of car accident settlements were for amounts greater than $75,000.
The largest injury settlements tend to involve commercial trucks.
In fact, a trucking case here in Texas resulted in the largest payout in U.S. history: $101 million for the victim of a crash with an FTS truck.
The driver of the truck was high on methamphetamines and marijuana at the time of the accident, and FTS ignored its own company policy to put and keep that driver on the road. $75 million of the damages were punitive in nature, instead of being a direct payout for injuries.
It might seem like the victim hit the jackpot, but the plaintiff would probably tell you that he’d have rather avoided the back injuries he sustained, injuries which required surgery and which made it impossible for him to work.
Factors Influencing the Value of Your Personal Injury Settlement
Nolo.com’s survey data also indicates that hiring a lawyer vastly increases your chances of receiving a payment (91% of plaintiffs got a payout if they had a lawyer; only 51% of plaintiffs received any money while representing themselves).
The average claims for a plaintiff demonstrate why hiring an attorney just makes good financial sense. The average settlement for plaintiffs without representation drops to $17,600. The average payout for plaintiffs with representation rises to $77,600.
Armed with these numbers you can see why hiring a personal injury attorney makes sense, even after factoring in your attorney’s fees.
Texas is a comparative negligence state. While your percentage of fault doesn’t determine whether or not you get an award, it does reduce the amount of money you will receive by the same percentage.
So if a jury awarded you $100,000 in a car accident verdict and the court determined you were 30% at fault, you would collect $70,000.
The issue of comparative negligence is one reason why having an attorney helps. Throughout the process the defendant’s insurance company will attempt to argue that your percentage of fault is higher than it is, even as your own lawyer tries to minimize your percentage of fault. This takes a thorough understanding of the laws governing vehicular negligence.
Both economic damages such as medical bills and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are included in this category, but they have a number attached to them. If the sum total of your damages is $10,000 then you are unlikely to get a $100,000 settlement.
This is why it’s important to save your medical bills and your car repair bills. These bills all become vital evidence in your case, and help determine how much money you can reasonably expect to receive.
Speaking practically, the amount of money you receive will be limited by the limits on the at-fault driver’s policy. If your $70,000 in damages surpasses a $60,000 policy limit, the other driver’s insurance company is only obligated to pay $60,000.
Legally you could expect the driver to pay the other $10,000. However, in reality, the driver may not be able to pay and the debt will be essentially uncollectible.
In some cases, multiple parties are involved. For example, a faulty tire on your vehicle could have contributed to the accident. In this case, it may be possible to sue the manufacturer of the tire as well, thus ensuring all your damages get paid.
What about punitive damages?
If the cause of the accident is tied directly to egregious behavior on the defendant’s part you may be able to sue for punitive damages. This could involve malice, gross negligence, or violations of law such as drunk driving. These sorts of damages are used as a deterrent to the defendant and others like the defendant.
Even after you present your lawyer with all the facts of your case it may be impossible to do anything other than give you a ballpark figure. Much depends on the results of the investigation, various motions, and the settlement negotiation process. If the case goes to trial (less than 5% do) it will depend on the skill of both lawyers involved, the rulings of the judge, and the opinions of the jury.
Still, you don’t need exact figures to be confident that an experienced personal injury attorney can help maximize your settlement value. If you haven’t chosen your attorney yet, consider contacting our office to discuss your case today.
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