Most people have been in at least one car accident in their lives. With that experience under your belt, you already know it's no easy task to get what is fair and rightfully owed to you from the insurance companies. While they may seem concerned by inquiring about your injuries, you must understand that insurance adjusters are working for the insurance companies—not you—and their goal is to close your claim with the least compensation paid out as possible.
Understanding your rights is critical at this point in the game, and make no mistake, an insurance adjuster is not going to advise you of your rights as a personal injury attorney would do. They aren't under any obligation to let you know how to maximize your settlement.
Some of your needs could include medical costs, pain, and suffering, and lost wages from being unable to work during your recovery. However, every accident is unique, and so is the type of compensation you can get depending on your state's laws and the circumstances of the accident. An attorney can help you navigate the system and ensure you get a fair settlement. Let's take a deep dive into the question, "What should I ask for in a car settlement?"
What kind of compensation should I be eligible to receive?
You're probably familiar with the basic types of compensation you can get after a car accident, like medical bills and property damage. Still, a car accident can drastically impact your life. If you were severely injured, you're now looking at a mountain of medical bills and an uncertain financial future.
Under these circumstances, you should definitely seek legal advice. Otherwise, you may not calculate for future medical treatments and other life adjustments into your settlement. If you don't offset these costs, you could wind up settling for far less than you are entitled to.
When answering the question, "what should I ask for in a car accident," it will depend upon many factors such as where the accident occurred, what type of vehicles were involved, and whether you were the driver or the passenger.
Why does the state matter?
We've already mentioned that state laws can impact the kind of compensation you can receive and from whom. This is because some states are "at-fault" while others are "no-fault." In an "at-fault" state, if a driver is responsible for causing an accident, they are also responsible for paying the other party's vehicle damage and medical expenses up to their insurance policy limits. Any damages beyond the policy limits have to be paid out of pocket.
In a "no-fault" state, each injured party should have their medical expenses paid by their own private PIP insurance, which is the requirement to carry in these states. However, vehicle damage is the responsibility of the driver who caused the crash. There are a lot of conditions and caveats to the law, so when in doubt, one of our personal injury lawyers can help define all of the details for a successful settlement or verdict.
Below is a list of "no-fault" states:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
Why does it matter if I'm the driver or the passenger?
When you get into a car that another person is driving, that person is responsible for keeping you safe. If they cause an accident, they will typically have liability for your injuries which will be paid by either PIP or regular insurance depending on the state in which the accident occurs. However, if you have serious injuries, either of these policies could be maxed out. In this case, you can go after more compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. When both drivers share liability, you as a passenger may be able to get compensation from both party's insurance companies.
If there were multiple passengers in a car accident, insurance coverage could be exhausted pretty quickly. Unfortunately, you might get stuck settling for less than your case is worth. If all parties cannot agree on how much each will get on their own, the passengers will have to file a lawsuit to determine how much each party will receive for their injuries.
Furthermore, if you are the passenger and your spouse or close family member was the driver, some insurance policies have rules on how that can be handled. In specific cases, you may be denied any compensation if you willingly got into the car knowing the driver was drunk. Another example of how you may be denied is if it were proven you have any liability yourself, such as grabbing the steering wheel or otherwise interfering with the safe operation of the vehicle.
What else should I ask for in a car accident?
If you've been in a car accident with injuries, you're probably already understanding the accident is costing you in more ways than just medical bills. Here is a breakdown of the types of compensation you may be eligible to obtain.
Property damages: Even in "no-fault" states, you have the right to be compensated for your property damage which can include your vehicle and any other property damaged or destroyed during the accident.
Lost wages: If your injuries caused you to miss work, you could be compensated for lost wages. This can also include lost benefits during this time, like PTO or other accrued benefits.
Medical expenses: Remember, in serious injury cases, the medical bills are likely to keep coming. You should be compensated for ongoing care and treatment, or any special medical devices you now need, or in-home care.
Pain and suffering: Even if your injuries aren't severe, you're likely to experience some pain. Compensation for pain and suffering is something that should be figured into any settlement.
Loss of "consortium" Consortium is a legal definition of the relationship between spouses. Suppose your injuries cause you to be unable to have physical intimacy with your partner. In that case, there should be compensation for the loss.
Loss of enjoyment: Suppose your injuries have made it so you cannot partake in the activities you used to enjoy. This is also compensable.
"Punitive" damages: When a person or company behaves in a manner that can be construed as reckless or intentional, you could be eligible for punitive damages. Punitive damages are rare and are intended to be a warning to others or to set an example. For instance, when a wealthy athlete goes out drinking and then drives at excessive speeds and kills another driver, that athlete could be looking at a lawsuit that could warrant punitive damages.
What are some car accident settlement examples?
There are a lot of factors that go into a car accident settlement, but generally speaking, you should be looking at about three times the cost of your medical bills. If your case goes to trial, a judge will look at the type of injuries you sustained, the treatment plan recommended by your doctor, the length of therapy needed, your lost income, and the extent of the severity of the wreck.
You should understand that you should never settle until your treatment has been completed. That's the only way to understand the scope of the monetary damages. If your injuries are permanent, this will also factor into your compensation. On average, a car accident settlement is worth between $14,000 and $28,000. However, if the driver at fault was under the influence, you may receive more.
One thing to be aware of about car accident settlements is that insurance companies almost always try to undervalue your claim. When you feel you're being taken advantage of, you need to reach out to Morgan & Morgan's personal injury lawyers. In just the past few years, some of our car accident settlements have been in the millions. In fact, one very recent one had a pre-trial offer of $500,000. With our personal injury attorneys representing the client, we were able to increase that sum to $2.5 million.
The bottom line is that our qualified attorneys understand how to protect our clients' rights and interests after an auto accident. We never settle for less than what we think your claim is worth, and if that means we have to take the case to trial, that's exactly what we'll do.
Do not pursue compensation alone. If you're asking, "what should I ask for in a car accident" you could be missing out on some forms of compensation you're not aware you're entitled to. You simply cannot rely on the insurance companies to have your best interests at heart because they are not working for you, no matter what their commercials and advertising say.
With a Morgan & Morgan attorney at your side, you can expect better results, compassionate legal representation, and the guidance you need during this difficult time. We do the heavy lifting when it comes to establishing liability and coming up with a fair amount for your injuries. Best of all, we don't get paid unless you do. That's right! There's no upfront cost for you to have legal representation. Contact us today for a free, no-risk case evaluation.