For most car accident victims, the most pressing question they have for their attorney concerns how much they can expect to receive from their car accident settlement (an important issue). Most injury victims are facing mounting medical bills at a time when their wages are being reduced by time off for medical appointments, recovery, and overwhelming pain.
An experienced car accident attorney can help you understand how parties determine car accident settlements. Of course, a lawyer cannot answer all your questions or give you an estimate of your particular claim value without information about your specific situation. This is why you need a free consultation with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. In the meantime, learn more about the different factors that affect the value of a car accident settlement.
The Type of Injuries You Have Suffered
Claims adjusters start to calculate a settlement offer by examining the total of your medical bills. Pain and suffering is usually calculated based on the value of your medical bills, so the type of injuries you have suffered will determine the value of both your medical bills and your pain and suffering award. The nature of these calculations is why the type of injuries you have suffered is usually the most important factor in determining the fair value of a car accident claim.
A fair settlement offer must account for the circumstances of your particular injuries. For example, a simple broken bone might be easy for a young, healthy victim from which to recover, but an elderly car crash victim who has osteoporosis could face a much more difficult recovery from the same injury. The recovery could take longer and be more painful. It might even require surgery.
All of these factors increase the elderly victim’s pain and suffering. But claims adjusters do not always account for this. Often, they simply take the total value of the victim’s medical bills, then multiply it by a small number (usually between one and three) to determine the value of that person’s pain and suffering. This calculation does not fairly account for the many different losses a car accident victim endures because of a defendant’s negligence. You need an experienced car accident lawyer on your side to prove exactly what losses you have suffered because of your injuries.
The Defendant’s Actions
The defendant’s actions can also affect the value of your injury claim since any poor choices on the defendant’s part make it more likely that they will lose at trial. A fair settlement offer should reflect what a jury is likely to award you at trial. If the defendant’s actions tip the scales in your favor, it will take a larger settlement offer to offset the risks of trial, and you will be less likely to accept a low settlement offer.
So what are some of these bad choices? Illegal actions, such as driving while impaired or fleeing the scene of an accident, obviously look bad to a jury. But other behaviors can also turn jurors against a defendant, even if they are not illegal. For example, what if there were serious injuries, but instead of calling for help, the defendant was on the phone with a friend the whole time? What if the defendant started a screaming match about the accident instead of trying to help everyone?
The value of your medical bills or lost wages may not reflect these actions, but they do affect the value of a car accident claim. A settlement offer must reflect anything that increases your chances of success at trial. Otherwise, your attorney will likely advise you to file a lawsuit and take the case to trial because the settlement offer is not a fair one.
The Identity of the Defendant
The identity of the defendant can also sway a jury. Some defendants are sympathetic to juries. If, for example, the defendant is an elderly grandmother recently widowed, a jury might look favorably on her and be less likely to condemn her negligent driving. On the other hand, jurors might turn against a defendant who is not sympathetic.
For example, defective vehicles are the cause of some car accidents. If your accident claim involves a product liability claim against an auto manufacturer, jurors will look at this defendant differently than a defendant who is simply a driver like themselves. Jurors understand that accidents sometimes happen when you are driving. If you can show that a large corporation cut corners to save money, jurors are not likely to side with this defendant.
Evidence of misconduct, fraud, or concealment by the auto manufacturer is likely to win jurors to your side. For example, NHTSA reports that Mercedes Benz paid a total of $20 million as a civil penalty in 2019. Their conduct included a failure to timely notify owners of the existence of a defect, failure to timely file certain quarterly reports and recall communications, failure to update recall reports when information became available, and the untimely recall of their defective vehicles.
Jurors would not be pleased with a company that has paid millions of dollars in fines to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Such conditions also increase the chances of your success at trial, and therefore the amount of money it will take for a settlement offer to be fair.
So how do you know which side your defendant falls on? An experienced car accident attorney will look at many different factors when considering this issue. How long has the defendant had a driver’s license? Do they have a history of bad driving? What actions did the defendant take after the accident? Is the defendant an individual or a large corporation? If it is an individual, how will the jury consider their testimony?
These intangible factors are difficult to quantify. They do, however, affect the outcome of car accident cases, so it is important to get a lawyer’s expert opinion on how the jury will view your defendant.
The Location of the Accident
A car accident settlement accounts for tangible economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages. Bloomberg reports that urban wages in the United States are higher than rural wages. That’s why an injury victim who works in the city may have a higher lost wage claim than one who lives in a rural area.
The cost of medical care can also be higher in large cities than in smaller towns. Because of this, a fair settlement offer depends on where the accident occurred. Remember that a fair settlement offer accounts for what a jury is likely to award at trial, meaning your lawyer will consider jury verdicts in cases similar to your in the same area where your accident occurred. These jury verdicts act as guidelines that indicate what your case is fairly worth.
Permanent Injuries, Disabilities, or Disfigurement
Any permanent loss you experience due to the accident is subject to compensation on your claim. The loss can be relatively minor, such as a small scar, or more significant, such as the loss of an arm or leg. The amount of compensation will depend on the significance of your permanent loss.
It can be difficult to place an exact value on these types of permanent losses. What is a scar worth? Is it worth more if it is on the face, as opposed to a more inconspicuous part of the body? What if the scar is on the finger of a hand model or a concert pianist? These are just some of the many intangible factors that change the value of permanent disfigurement.
Permanent injuries, disabilities, and disfigurements can also cause tangible losses. Many permanent injuries prevent the victim from working at all. In other cases, the victim might return to work, but at fewer hours or with fewer responsibilities. These changes can result in lost wages. Injury victims deserve compensation for all the tangible and documented financial losses that are the result of their injuries, including ongoing medical care and rehabilitative treatments, lost wages, medical equipment, and any necessary modifications that make the victim’s home accessible with their new limitations.
The Work You Do and How Much You Can Work After the Accident
Lost wages are a critical component of a car accident claim. Some lost wage claims are relatively straightforward, such as the victim missing a day or two from work to recover from the accident and a few hours for medical appointments in the following days. The employer combines the hours missed with the employee’s hourly wage to arrive at a total amount of lost wages.
However, lost wages can become far more complex. If, for example, the victim missed out on overtime, bonuses, commissions, or other compensation, this can also be part of a lost wage claim. It can be difficult to prove that the loss of these types of income is the direct result of the accident. Insurance companies often challenge these types of lost wage claims, so it is important to work with an experienced injury lawyer who knows how to prove the losses to all sources of your income.
In the case of permanent injuries, it is common to have a permanent decrease in your earning potential due to a new physical limitation that restricts your hours or job duties. If this is the case, you have the right to be compensated for the difference in your earning capacity before the accident and after it.
If your injuries are permanent, this difference is calculated from the date of the accident to your expected age of retirement. If an injury permanently prevents you from returning to any type of employment, your lost wage claim could include all income you would have earned between the date of the accident and your expected time of retirement, which is why serious injury cases often result in significant awards for lost wages.
As you might imagine, insurance companies are more likely to challenge these larger lost wage claims. An insurance company might claim that you can actually work or that your injuries don’t limit your income to the extent you claim they do. An insurance company can request an “independent” medical examination with a doctor of their choosing. They can also request an evaluation by a vocational counselor or another job expert to determine what your earning capacity in the job market is with your new limitations.
If the insurance company does request these evaluations, you need your own car accident lawyer to protect your rights. Your injury lawyer can arrange for the recording of the evaluation. Your attorney will also be prepared to object to the defense experts’ findings or the insurance company’s conclusions about your earning capacity. These important steps protect your legal right to fair compensation for all the lost wages you will endure throughout your life because of your car accident injuries.
Finding the Right Injury Lawyer for Your Car Accident Case
If you have suffered an injury in an auto accident, you have legal rights that must receive protection. Negligent drivers and companies have a legal obligation to compensate those individuals injured due to their negligence. Unfortunately, this compensation does not happen automatically, and often, at-fault parties and their insurers try to avoid liability or minimize payments whenever possible.
You want to have the right car accident attorney representing you and protecting your right to full compensation. Finding the right lawyer can be overwhelming, especially when you are already in pain and feeling financial stress. However, this does not mean you should delay in seeking the legal help that is right for you.
You should always look for a car accident attorney who:
- Has experience handling your type of claim
- Offers free consultations and works on a contingency basis
- Believes you have a valid case
- Has strong online ratings and reviews
With the right help from a car accident lawyer, you can maximize your settlement. Contact Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers today.