10 Factors That Impact the Value of Your Car Accident Settlement
After you've been injured in a car accident, getting the money you need to cover the cost of your losses is something that will probably be at the top of your priority list. The problem is you, like many others, don't know how much your claim is worth and have no idea how to calculate the total cost of your accident-related expenses, which in the legal world are called damages.
When it comes to car accident compensation in Washington State, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. There are so many different variables to consider when calculating the cost of an accident, and they all can affect how much money you get when your case is resolved.
Here are 10 factors that impact the value of car accident settlements:
1. How severe are your injuries?
Generally speaking, claims involving severe or permanent injuries receive larger payouts because they require substantially more treatment and can have a bigger impact on the victim's quality of life. Severe injuries might include a broken bone, herniated disc, or torn ligaments while a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, or severe burns might be permanent.
2. How much are your medical bills?
Injuries sustained in severe car accidents can be costly, and a good chunk of the money you receive from a settlement will be to cover the cost of your current and future medical expenses. Medical costs can include ambulance fees, hospital bills, doctor visits, surgery, physical rehab, medical devices, home and vehicle modifications, medication, and any other reasonable expenses that arise as a result of your injury. Your level of disability, visual scarring, disfigurement, age, and whether you need ongoing medical care or equipment for your injury must be considered when calculating the cost of your current and future medical expenses, which again, are generally much greater the more severe the injury.
3. Are you at fault?
If the car accident is all your fault, your case is pretty much worth nothing. In Washington State, you aren't barred from recovering compensation if you're partially at fault for an accident as long as someone else shares a percentage of the blame, but any payout you do receive will be reduced proportionately by your percentage of fault. For example, if you're found to be 40% at fault you will only be able to recover 60% of the full value of your case.
4. Does the other driver have insurance?
If the driver who caused your crash has no insurance coverage, there might not be any money available for you to recover. You can file a lawsuit and win your case at trial, but if the defendant has no way to pay you might wind up getting nothing from your case. All drivers in Washington State are required to carry minimum amounts of auto insurance, but be mindful that some people don't follow the law.
5. How bad was your car accident?
Insurance companies will look at the severity of the property damage from your car accident and use that as a way to assess the value of your claim. They'll want to see if airbags were deployed and analyze the wreckage at the crash scene to see if your injuries align with the severity of the crash. Keep in mind insurance companies have a financial incentive to pay you as little money as possible, so expect them to scrutinize every detail related to your accident.
6. When did you first seek medical treatment?
If you were transported to a hospital by ambulance because you were injured and in pain and then received consistent medical treatment during your recovery, it's going to be tough for the insurance company to question the severity of your injuries (though they still may). Those who seek immediate medical attention or visit a doctor with a complaint of pain on their first medical visit after a crash typically are taken more seriously by the insurance company when compared to those who seek treatment weeks or months after an accident.
7. What's the cost of your lost wages?
If your injury prevents you from working while you recover or you need to miss time at work so you can attend medical appointments to treat your injury, any income you lose as a result should be calculated as part of your damages. The effect your injury has on your career, your earning capacity, and your overall ability to work are other things that should be considered when determining the total cost of your accident.
8. What are your non-economic damages?
Economic damages are objective and tied to an actual dollar amount, such as the cost of surgery or the amount of money you lose by missing time at work due to your injury. Non-economic damages aren't as concrete and are more subjective. They include things like your pain and suffering, emotional anguish, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life. Non-economic damages are often a multiple of your economic damages, but again, there isn't a specific dollar amount you can expect to receive since every case is different and there is no universal formula. In Washington State, victims aren't allowed to recover punitive damages, which are intended to punish a defendant for particularly egregious acts of negligence (e.g., drunk driving, texting while driving, etc.).
9. How much evidence do you have?
In civil cases, decisions are based upon the preponderance of evidence. Under this legal standard, the burden of proof is on you, the plaintiff, to convince the judge or jury that there is a greater than 50% chance that your claim is true. The more evidence you have to support your claim the stronger your case will be — which will make it tough for an insurance company to lowball you in settlement negotiations. Evidence for cases involving car accidents can include your medical records, pictures/video of the crash scene, cellphone records, dashcam or traffic camera footage, eyewitness testimony, the official police accident report, testimony from expert witnesses, and anything else that helps support your claim.
10. Did you get a car accident lawyer to handle your claim?
It's been shown that injury victims who hire lawyers receive substantially more compensation compared to those who don't. That's because if an insurance company knows you aren't being represented by an attorney, they'll try to get you to accept a quick lowball settlement offer that won't even come close to being appropriate for your damages. Likewise, if your claim is complex and will require a lot more work to prove, the insurance company might just deny it outright and hope that you go away. Hiring a car accident lawyer costs you nothing upfront or out of pocket, and if your attorney recovers compensation on your behalf, their fee is a percentage of the recovery.
NLE fights for maximum compensation
At Nelson Langer Engle, PLLC in Seattle, our car accident lawyers have the knowledge, experience, and tenacity to fight for the compensation you deserve. In fact, one of our most noteworthy car accident case results includes a $3.83 million award for a claim involving a brain injury and a multi-car pileup on I-5.
Don't let the insurance company play down the severity of your injuries and minimize the value of your claim. Find out what our attorneys can do for you and contact us today to arrange a free consultation.