Your compensation will vary depending on whether you settle your claim or a jury rules in your favor. Auto insurance providers and investigators calculate some parts of car accident claims easily. Other factors do not involve a bill or receipt, increasing the challenge of coming up with a number.
Determining how much a car accident is worth requires a thorough examination that sometimes includes input from experts like medical professionals and life care planners.
Reaching a settlement depends on both sides agreeing on how much a car accident claim is worth. The auto insurance provider involved with your case will determine that your claim is worth much less than the value your lawyer places on your claim.
Unsettled disputes over a car accident claim’s value force a case to go to trial. If your car accident claim requires litigation, you will ask for a specific amount of money to recoup your losses. However, the court ultimately decides the value of each claim.
When you consult with an experienced car accident lawyer, they can give you an estimate of how much your car accident claim is worth. They cannot, however, guarantee a specific financial outcome.
Your lawyer will rely on various tools and tactics to place a value on your car accident claim. They will evaluate factors easy to quantify, like medical expenses, lost earnings, and travel to and from the doctor. They also evaluate factors that are more challenging to quantify, like pain and suffering and other ways your car accident injuries have derailed your life.
After considering relevant factors, your lawyer will assign a fair value to your car accident claim. Yet, this does not mean you will receive this amount of compensation. The value your lawyer assigns serves as a starting number to present to the auto insurance carrier and their legal team.
A skilled car accident lawyer will aggressively pursue maximum compensation for their client’s injuries. Until you can meet with a lawyer to discuss your car accident claim, this guide provides a broad overview of several factors that increase or decrease how much a car accident claim is worth.
Economic Losses in Car Accident Claims
Your total amount of economic and non-economic losses make up the value of your car accident claim. Each car accident claim has different amounts of economic loss included in its total damages. The most severe crashes force injured victims to miss ample time from work as they amass medical bills, resulting in massive economic losses that can easily reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. In most cases, the more severe the car accident and injuries, the more economic losses a victim incurs.
Here is a general overview of economic losses that typically make up a portion of a car accident claim:
Medical Treatment Costs
After a car crash, those involved immediately begin to amass medical treatment costs. Those with the most severe injuries need ambulance transport to the nearest emergency room for treatment. The arrival at a hospital comes with more medical bills.
The treating physician must examine someone to diagnose their injuries. This not only includes a physical exam but often includes costly X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other costly tests and scans to provide an accurate diagnosis.
Medical expenses after a car accident drastically increase when someone needs surgery. Depending on the exact injury, a car accident victim might need multiple surgeries. Surgery comes with aftercare which can include days or weeks of hospitalization. Surgical costs also include nursing staff, surgical supplies, and anesthesia. Even after car accident victims return home, many have to continue to make follow-up doctor visits.
Sometimes car accident victims sustain permanent injuries that require around-the-clock care. They might receive care at home, or they might need to reside in a long-term nursing care facility.
Living in a nursing home significantly increases the value of a car accident claim. Most insurance providers do not cover the costs of a nursing home unless a car accident victim or their family holds a separate policy to cover long-term nursing care.
Lost Income and Earnings
Car accident injuries often require victims to take some time away from work, whether employed by someone else or self-employed. Those who have full-time benefits like vacation days and sick days typically have to use some or all of their paid time off. In some severe cases, car accident victims use all paid time off and must take an unpaid leave of absence from work.
Some car accident victims might qualify for temporary disability payments, but they do not fully replace their earnings. In the most severe cases, car accident victims suffer permanent injuries that prevent them from earning income for life, legally called lost earning capacity. A lifetime of lost earnings drastically increases the value of a car accident claim.
Rehabilitation remains a large part of most treatment plans for minor and major car accident injuries. Depending on the severity and type of injury, car accident victims might need one or more types of specialized therapy for rehabilitation. Some car accident victims spend weeks in the hospital or suffer a temporary loss of function, resulting in muscle loss. They need physical therapy to rebuild their muscles and regain their mobility.
Other car accident victims sustain spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries that make it difficult to perform simple tasks that are part of their daily routine. Occupational therapy helps car accident victims re-learn how to do everyday tasks like getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and combing their hair.
Some car accident injuries damage speech and language functions like speaking, reading, and understanding. Speech and language therapy can help victims work through these challenges. Similarly, mental health professionals help car accident victims face the mental anguish and emotional distress that often comes with the trauma of a car crash. The more specialized therapy a car accident needs for rehabilitation, the more economic loss they accumulate, increasing the value of their car accident claim.
Home Modification Costs
After spending days or weeks in the hospital, many car accident victims can return home and begin moving on with their lives. However, they might not have fully recovered from their injuries or may return home to deal with a permanent injury.
Depending on the situation, some car accident victims might need to modify their homes to make them more accessible. Home modification costs vary greatly depending on the exact modification. Some modifications only cost a few hundred dollars, while others can be thousands.
Examples of home modifications a car accident victim might have to pay for include:
- Installing grab bars in the shower and bathroom
- Purchasing a hospital bed for home
- Constructing a wheelchair ramp
- Constructing a bedroom and/or bathroom on the main floor
Home modifications add to the value of a car accident claim, sometimes significantly increasing the amount of compensation someone might receive.
Costs for Replacement Services
People engage in many activities that contribute to maintaining their homes and households. Severe car accident injuries can prevent some people from performing the tasks they did before the accident. Many families help out, but this isn’t realistic for all households, especially when a family member also serves as the primary caregiver. Sometimes households need temporary or permanent outside help.
Examples of replacement services that might be an expense included in a car accident injury claim include:
- Lawn care services
- Handyman services
- Cleaning and laundry service
- Cooking and grocery shopping
- Childcare and child transportation
- Personal assistant to help with errands and driving
If your family already uses these services, they do not qualify as an economic loss that you can include in your car accident claim. However, you might get reimbursed for these and similar expenses if you had to hire help after the accident.
Non-economic damages are difficult to quantify, so it’s key to let a skilled car accident lawyer review your claim. Experienced lawyers know what constitutes fair compensation and usually have a network of experts who can support your claim for compensation. Many factors can inform how much the non-economic portion of your car accident claim is worth. However, three major factors influence almost every car accident injury claim:
The Severity of Injuries
In most car accident claims, those who sustain the most severe injuries receive the most compensation if they settle or win their case in court. Severe injuries cost more to treat, directly leading to more economic and non-economic losses. For example, a car accident victim who breaks their arm visits the emergency room, gets a cast, and will eventually need some physical therapy. They may not require surgery and may heal in less than a year.
On the other hand, if a car accident victim suffers a brain injury or a spinal cord injury, they suffer more physically and emotionally. Plus, they typically must spend days or weeks in the hospital, especially if they require surgery.
The Nature of Injuries
Certain types of injuries can increase the value of a car accident claim. Some injuries leave victims with chronic pain and discomfort. Some car accident victims who face struggles with body function and mobility also have to cope with mental anguish on top of their physical pain.
This can lead to challenges with various negative emotions, from anger to humiliation. For example, car accident victims who must undergo amputation or have permanent scars from burns or surgery after a car crash often receive more money to compensate them.
Chances for a Full Recovery
If your doctor(s) determine you are unlikely to make a full recovery from your car accident injuries, your claim will be worth more than if you healed completely.
Your chances for a full physical recovery depend on the severity and nature of your injuries. Each factor supports the amount of money your lawyer will demand in damages for your car accident claim. Your lawyer will evaluate how your long-term prognosis will affect your life and use that to place a value on the non-economic portion of your car accident claim.
Insurance Policy Limits Can Reduce the Value of Your Car Accident Claim
The amount your car accident claim is worth compared to the amount of compensation you receive if you prevail in your case often differs because of insurance policy limits. This is especially true with high-value claims when damages far exceed the other driver’s liability insurance policy limits. You can only receive compensation for damages up to the policy limit.
Similarly, the insurance company will not offer more than the policyholder’s coverage limit during settlement negotiations. You can recover additional compensation under your auto insurance policy if you have underinsured motorist (UI) coverage.
Your personal injury lawyer can evaluate your claim and advocate for the maximum compensation. If the other driver isn’t carrying the required insurance or they have excessively low coverage, your lawyer can examine your case for third parties who might share fault for the accident and your injuries with the driver.