After a serious car accident, you may face mounting medical bills, time off work, and expensive vehicle repairs and feel significantly stressed from the disruptions to your life. A car accident lawyer can explain the legal avenues for pursuing compensation, the amount you can realistically expect to recover, and what steps to take to protect your legal rights.

Understanding the Legal Process After a Car Accident

States have different laws surrounding securing compensation for your medical bills, vehicle repairs, and other costs from a serious car accident. If you live in an at-fault jurisdiction, you can generally hold the person responsible for causing the collision liable for any resulting damages.

A valid car accident claim depends on proving the other driver’s negligence led to the crash. Some actions demonstrating negligence include speeding, violating traffic laws, and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

No-fault states have a different system. Each driver relies primarily on their own insurance policy, only filing a personal injury lawsuit if they sustained serious injuries.

In either case, you’re pursuing a car accident claim to secure compensation for the ways the crash changed your life, which are often significant. Understanding the types of damages you can pursue gives you the framework for calculating the overall value of your claim.

Some of the common types of compensation you may recover after a car accident include:

  • Medical expenses: Medical expenses include immediate emergency room costs, ongoing treatment, physical therapy, and future accident-related medical costs.
  • Lost income: If your injuries prevent you from working in the same capacity as before the accident, you may claim compensation for the income you lose during your recovery.
  • Property damage: Property damage covers the costs to repair or replace your vehicle and any other personal belongings that sustained damage in the accident.
  • Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering consist of noneconomic damages for the emotional and psychological impacts of the accident, which are real and significant but also harder to quantify. As such, you may need an experienced car accident lawyer to substantiate these claims.
  • Punitive damages: In extreme cases, you might claim punitive damages, which punish extreme negligence and deter similar behavior.

The Role of Insurance Companies After a Car Accident

After most car accidents, insurance companies will play a significant role in determining the value of your claim and providing compensation. Your insurer and the at-fault party’s provider may participate in the process, depending on the rules in your state, the circumstances of your accident, and the specific terms of each policy.

While insurers provide a safety net by design, they’re highly profit-driven companies looking to minimize costs. Once you file a claim, an insurance provider will typically assign you a claims adjuster who evaluates the details of the accident and your injuries to determine what they consider an acceptable settlement amount. Their initial offer is often much lower than what you deserve. Hire an experienced car accident lawyer to negotiate the compensation you deserve.

Every car accident is unique. The outcome of your case depends on how well you navigate the legal process.

Factors Determining the Value of Your Car Accident Claim

A serious car accident presents a range of physical and financial challenges. You’re likely wondering how much your claim is worth. The answer depends on the crash-related damages you sustained, the types of resources available to compensate you, and more.

Some of the most important factors include:

The Seriousness of Injuries and Resulting Damages

The more severe your injuries, the higher all other costs, which naturally factors into the overall value of your claim.

Considerations include:

  • The long-term consequences: Injuries that cause permanent disabilities typically result in higher settlements for future medical expenses, ongoing care, and adaptive equipment costs.
  • Reduced earnings: Serious injuries can also keep you away from work for an extended period, or even permanently, which can substantially contribute to the value of your claim.
  • Pain and suffering: While harder to quantify, physical pain, emotional trauma, and reduced quality of life after the accident will also contribute to the overall value.

Extent of Property Damage

You may recover any damage to your vehicle or other property as part of a car accident claim.

  • Repair or replacement costs: You can claim the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle (if the insurance adjuster deems it a total loss) up to its estimated market value at the time of the accident.
  • Rental expenses: Rental expenses compensate for any rental car needs you have while your vehicle is being repaired or replaced.
  • Personal property damage: If personal items (such as electronics or luggage) suffered damage in the accident, you can seek compensation for their value.

Fault and Liability

The circumstances of the accident and the issues surrounding fault can determine how much compensation you recover.

  • Comparative negligence: You can hold multiple parties liable for causing the crash. In states following comparative negligence rules, you may receive a reduced compensation proportional to your degree of fault.
  • Clear liability: If you establish the other party’s liability, you may improve your chances of receiving the maximum settlement amount available. The strength of your case often depends on the evidence, including police reports, witness statements, and any available surveillance footage of the crash.

Limits of Insurance Coverage Available

While you can sometimes file a personal injury claim directly against the at-fault party for your accident, insurance settlements resolve most accident cases. That means the policy limits of all parties primarily determine your claim’s value and could prevent you from getting full compensation, regardless of the severity of your injuries or damages.

If the at-fault party has limited liability insurance, your underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage can sometimes contribute, but these policies also have limits. If multiple parties sustain injuries, you may receive part of a distributed insurance payout, which complicates the process and potentially reduces your share.

Your car accident lawyer can set realistic expectations for the value of your claim. A skilled car accident lawyer can protect your best interests throughout the process and seek the maximum compensation available in your specific situation.

The aftermath of a car accident is an incredibly chaotic time, and without lawyers, claimants make many legal mistakes. Avoiding these pitfalls can help you recover fair compensation for your damages instead of walking away with less than you deserve.

Mistakes that could diminish the value of your claim include:

Waiting Too Long to Seek Medical Attention

Following a car accident, seek medical attention. Even if your injuries appear minor, medical personnel must properly check and treat you for hidden injuries that might not manifest right away, such as a concussion. Getting immediate treatment creates medical records that establish the severity of your injuries and link them to the accident.

Delaying this crucial step harms your health and may allow insurance companies to undermine your claim and reduce payouts. They might argue that your injuries weren’t severe enough to warrant immediate medical attention or that the crash didn’t cause them, for example.

Speaking to the Other Party’s Insurance Without Legal Advice

After a car accident, representatives from the other party’s insurance company will likely contact you for your side of the story. These conversations often work to elicit statements to use against you. Sometimes even an innocent comment can harm your case out of context. An experienced car accident lawyer protects the integrity of your claim. They can advise you on what to say and what not to say or handle these communications for you.

Accepting the First Settlement Offer

When you face medical bills and car repair costs, the first settlement offer can feel like the answer to your problems.

Initial offers from insurance companies are often far less than you deserve, so don’t accept one without legal advice.

Some reasons to wait include:

  • Incomplete assessments: Early on, you might not know the full extent of your injuries or damages. The first offer may not factor in long-term expenses, such as ongoing medical treatments or future loss of income.
  • Noneconomic damages underestimations: Pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life are legitimate components of your claim. When rushing to settle, you might lose out on compensation for these intangible consequences of the accident.
  • Lost leverage: When accepting an offer, you sign a release absolving the other party from any further liability and waiving the right to pursue additional compensation.

A skilled car accident lawyer can evaluate each settlement offer, negotiate on your behalf, and fight to secure a settlement that accurately reflects your damages.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Calculates the Value of Your Claim

Calculating and substantiating your damages from the accident are the most critical steps for a successful claim and getting the resources you need to recover. A skilled car accident lawyer prepares a solid case evaluating how the accident harmed your life with a comprehensive approach, which typically involves:

Evaluating Current and Future Economic Damages

The current economic damages you suffered because of the accident are usually straightforward to calculate using medical bills, repair invoices, and documentation for other quantifiable costs.

A competent car accident lawyer creates a complete financial picture by working with specialists to explain the costs of future medical treatments and how your injuries might reduce your future earning capacity.

Evaluating Intangible Damages

Noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress, are subjective, but they’re often a major consequence of being in a serious car accident and deserve compensation.

Car Accident Attorney, Jacque Hawk
Jacque Hawk, Car Accident Lawyer

Lawyers take different approaches to evaluate and substantiate these damages, including the multiplier method of multiplying your economic damages by a certain number, depending on the severity of your injuries. The evidence supporting these intangible damages includes psychological evaluations, personal journals, or testimony from friends and family describing how the accident disrupted the victim’s life.

If you wonder how much your accident is worth, the answer depends on many variables that a skilled personal injury attorney can navigate effectively. They can provide legal advice, calculate the value of your claim, avoid common pitfalls, and substantially improve your chances of recovering a fair settlement reflecting the true cost of the accident.