February 9, 2021 | Car Accidents
In 2019 alone, there were about 75,000 car accidents in Oklahoma. These accidents resulted in a little less than 25,000 injuries. If you’ve been in a car accident, depending on its severity, you may be eligible to receive compensation. Most car accident injury cases – including insurance claims and third-party lawsuits – resolve with a private settlement between the parties.
People often wonder how much they might receive for a settlement like this, but the answer isn’t always simple.
The value of a settlement deal is determined from a variety of factors. Unfortunately, you generally won’t be able to determine what kind of compensation you might receive without a high level of knowledge and experience with car accidents. For this reason, many people don’t go through the settlement process alone; instead, they hire an experienced attorney.
When you or a loved one is involved in a car accident, there are often a number of stressful factors involved. A great way to alleviate some stress is by understanding the accident settlement process.
Below, we’ll walk through nine things that will factor into your total settlement award.
Insurance Benefits and Policy Limits
The first and most relevant factor to determining settlement awards is the type of insurance policies that are held by all of the involved parties. Some people may have policies with more coverage than others. At a minimum, all drivers are required to have a base liability policy.
- $25,000 for the bodily injury or death of one person in a single accident
- $25,000 for an injury or destruction of property caused by a single accident
- $50,000 for the bodily injury or death of more than one person in a single accident
This means that if the other party is being held liable for the accident, their insurance will help cover a portion of your expenses. Whatever the insurance doesn’t cover is the driver’s liability. This is where further settlement pay comes in.
Liability is often resolved by establishing negligence. Negligence occurs when a party fails to take proper care or actions while doing something. In terms of driving, negligence can be determined by establishing that:
- The at-fault party had a duty of care to avoid foreseeable harm while driving their vehicle
- The at-fault party did, in fact, breach their duty of care through distracted or drowsy driving, operating under the influence, or any other unlawful breach
- The said breach resulted in an accident that caused your damages to occur
If these liability factors are all established, your settlement can be negotiated more easily. On the other hand, if the other party can also prove that you were partially liable, your awarded amount could decrease. For example, if your brake lights were faulty and someone rear-ended you, it may prove that you were also at fault for the accident.
In more extreme car accidents where clear liability exists, insurance companies may try to offer you a quick and small settlement for your injuries. Before accepting such a settlement, identify your medical needs for both the short- and long-term future.
Car accident attorneys are trained to wait for health expenses that can be analyzed by medical experts. Immediate expenses may include emergency medical transport, hospital charges, surgical interventions, and prescribed medications. Future expenses may include diagnostic treatment, rehabilitation, and follow-up appointments.
Avoid refusing medical treatment at the scene of a serious accident. You may feel fine at the moment, but latent pain from an injury is possible after adrenaline leaves your system. Refusing attention could allow the insurance company to argue that your injuries weren’t sustained at the scene of the crash.
Car accidents are stressful situations for everyone involved, especially for a victim. Non-economic challenges may also be rewarded in a settlement. Some of the most common types of lifestyle alteration compensation include:
- Pain and suffering
- Temporary or permanent change of appearance or disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life after the accident
- Extended feelings of embarrassment or humiliation due to injuries
Lifestyle changes are often awarded based on age, the severity of the accident, and how much the accident affected your day-to-day life.
Damage of property is relatively easy to prove. Damages you can claim include the vehicle itself and the belongings that were damaged inside the car during the crash. These costs can be covered both through your own insurance policy and the insurance policy of the other party involved.
After you get into a car accident, you may have additional fees and immediate expenses that you accrue. These costs can be included in your settlement. Some common out-of-pocket expenses include:
- Prosthetic limbs
- Car rentals
- Transportation fees
- Hiring an aide or home caretaker for tasks you can no longer complete
- Home modification costs, like the addition of a wheelchair ramp
Be sure to keep copies of all of the receipts and bills that you pay with these charges. This will help to demonstrate the true cost of things that you paid out of pocket.
When you’re injured in an accident, your ability to work as normal may decrease. In this case, you may miss time from work, which could stop your income from coming in. When determining your settlement award, courts will determine whether you were unable to work and how much money you lost because of the accident. If you become permanently disabled, your settlement could be even higher.
It’s important to keep track of your missed hours to display your lack of work to the court. If you are self-employed, the process may be more complex, but you can still receive an award for missed work based on your previous tax returns.
Sometimes, insurance companies won’t give you a fair offer for your settlement. This isn’t your fault – it’s a common practice. If this happens, your attorney will discuss your options with you, which may include litigation.
Moving to a litigation phase may be ideal if you have serious injuries and permanent life changes as a result of your accident. However, if your case isn’t as strong and liability is shared between parties, a lower settlement may be worth considering.
Negotiating a settlement takes time and patience. It can be tough to continuously incur expenses while waiting for a settlement to come in. However, the longer you wait, the more time there is to analyze all of the expenses associated with your accident.
By being patient and sticking through the process, you can receive a higher settlement. Never settle for less than what you deserve.