As the bills pile up after a car accident, it is normal to ask yourself how much you can expect your personal injury claim to be worth. Legally, the liable party is responsible for paying all of your damages, including medical bills and lost wages. But how is the value of your loss determined and how is fault assigned? Getting in touch with an auto accident attorney in Houston, TX can help answer all your questions as you start building a strong case.
What Determines the Amount of a Car Accident Settlement?
A settlement is an amount of money the insurance company offers to pay a claimant in order to resolve the matter outside of court. The key thing to remember is that insurance companies are only incentivized to offer as much money as they believe a judge would require them to pay. For the insurance company, offering a settlement is a way to save on legal expenses.
The value of your car accident settlement will be determined by how well you and your lawyer can demonstrate the facts of your case. To secure a high settlement, you will need to show evidence to support your statements. In negotiations with the insurance company, your lawyer should show that you have documentation of your losses and proof of the other driver’s negligence.
What Damages Are Eligible for Compensation in a Personal Injury Case?
Accidents involving bodily harm fall into the area of personal injury law. The amount of money an insurance company pays out for a personal injury settlement should be based on the value of the expenses the liable party is legally responsible for reimbursing. Usually, those expenses fall into the following categories:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
In addition to the kinds of losses listed above, car accidents usually involve significant property damage to the vehicle and the possessions that were inside. Those losses can also be added to the auto accident claim. For example, if you lost a laptop, a phone, or any kind of valuable equipment, you may be entitled to reimbursement.
Treating injuries is often one of the most costly aspects of a car crash. The law recognizes that you should not have to pay for medical expenses that resulted from someone else’s mistake. Accordingly, you can claim compensation for trips to the ER, doctor’s appointments, meetings with specialists, and medications. Any diagnostic tests required to determine the nature and extent of your injuries should also be compensated.
In the case of mild to moderate injuries, compensation is usually determined after the treatment is completed by reviewing the medical bills. If you accept a settlement offer before fully understanding the cost of your injuries, you risk paying the difference out of pocket. However, catastrophic injuries can require continuing medical attention over the course of a long period of time. In the case of life-altering injuries, you are eligible to claim both current and future medical expenses.
When it comes to receiving compensation after a car accident, lost wages is another big category. If you needed to take time off work to recover from your injuries, the liable party is responsible for paying you all of the income you had to forego. In addition to your salary or hourly wage, you have the right to claim:
- Missed promotions
- Tips and commissions
- Paid vacation days not accrued
- Paid sick leave not earned
- 401k benefits
- Health insurance benefits
A skilled lawyer will work carefully with you to determine all of the ways the accident caused you to lose compensation. If you work part time or have a side hustle, the lost wages from those income sources should be added to the claim. Freelancers and people in the gig economy are able to claim lost wages for the work they declined based on evidence of their normal income, such as tax returns and correspondence with clients.
Reduced or Lost Earning Capacity
Serious car accidents can take a permanent toll on your career, forcing you to either leave the workforce or significantly reduce your responsibilities. The kinds of injuries that often lead to lost or reduce earning capacity include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Damage to internal organs
If your injuries prevent you from ever fully resuming your job, your settlement should account for all of the financial loss that will accumulate over the rest of your career. Getting fair compensation in the face of tragic injury is especially important if you are the family breadwinner or if a relative needs to take time out of their own work to become a caretaker.
Pain and Suffering
Injuries are painful, frightening events that would be difficult to go through even without the expenses that go along with them. As such, it would be unfair to say that the liable party can just pay you the value of your bills and call matters even. You are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering in addition to your other damages. The monetary value of your discomfort is determined subjectively according to the severity of your injuries.
Dealing with the disruption and uncertainty an accident causes has a negative effect on most people’s lives. According to the law, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your distress. Stress, the loss of activities you enjoy, disfigurement, and even the loss of spousal attention are all considered “general damages.” General damages have no exact monetary value, but they deserve to be compensated nonetheless.
Other Factors That Affect the Value of Your Settlement
Determination of Fault
In many accidents, both parties are partially at fault. Fortunately, the other party does not need to be 100% culpable for you to receive some compensation. As long as you are less than 50% to blame, you can argue for an appropriate portion of the cost of the damages. For example, if the other party is found 80% responsible for the crash, they should pay for 80% of your losses.
The Severity of the Crash
By definition, the more severe the accident, the more costly the damages. A skilled lawyer will focus on collecting evidence to show the full extent of your injuries and the damage to your vehicle.
Your Negotiation Strategy
It is important to remember that securing a settlement offer is not the same as arguing your case in front of a judge. Legally, most of the terms are up for negotiation between you and the insurance company. Your lawyer’s communication skills will play a large role in determining the amount of compensation you ultimately receive.
Many people make the mistake of accepting the first settlement offer they get. Instead of rushing to sign for an offer right away, you should always consult with a lawyer to determine whether negotiating with the insurance company might yield a larger payout.
Find an Auto Accident Attorney in Houston, TX
Getting the full value of your damages is not something anyone should be fighting for on their own. Our team of knowledgeable attorneys is there to help people like you hold insurance companies accountable for honoring the terms of their policies. To get in touch with an auto accident attorney in Houston, TX, contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner.