The amount of compensation you may receive for your car accident claim varies based on many factors and considerations. Some factors are easy to calculate, and others require expert opinions and careful evaluation. The insurance company involved with your car accident claim may say that your is worth less than what you expect or the number your lawyer assigns.
Settlement negotiations typically revolve around disputes over a claim’s value. When parties cannot agree on the value of a car accident claim, a trial could be imminent. In these situations, a civil court will decide the value of your car accident claim.
While your car accident attorney could usually give you a rough estimate of the potential compensation you might receive, guaranteeing a specific financial outcome is next to impossible. Your attorney could assess the potential value of your car accident claim. Considerations such as medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, and travel expenses to and from the hospital are easy to quantify as losses. However, placing a monetary value on your pain and suffering and how your injuries have affected your life is not so easy.
Although you can usually depend on an attorney to investigate your accident and carefully assess a fair potential value to your claim, you cannot depend on receiving the amount he or she presents to the insurance company or their legal team. An experienced car accident lawyer could pursue the best financial outcome possible for your claim. Until you have the chance to discuss your car accident claim with your attorney, this guide aims to provide a broad overview of the factors that can increase or decrease the value of your claim.
Economic Losses in Car Accident Claims
The value of your car accident claim includes the economic and non-economic losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries from the accident.
Economic loss varies widely among claims. The most severe car crashes can force accident victims to take time away from their job while medical bills start rolling in. If your child was injured in a car accident, you and/or the other parent often must miss work to provide care.
Severe car accidents translate into a massive economic loss that can easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. A general rule of thumb is that the more severe a car accident, the more costly can be. Examples of the specific expenses that your attorney may include when valuing your car accident claim include:
Within minutes after a car accident occurs, your medical expenses will start to accumulate. Emergency response services typically arrive at the scene of a severe traffic accident to transport you or anyone else with injuries to the nearest hospital. The ambulance ride and expensive emergency room visit are only the beginning of what is to come if you have suffered severe injuries.
It is likely that the doctor who examines you will need several x-rays and/or diagnostic imaging, such as costly CT scans or MRIs. Some car accident victims must undergo one or more surgeries to correct damage from the accident. Recovering from surgery can translate to weeks in the hospital. Surgery also comes with additional costs such as nurses, supplies, anesthesia, and more. Once accident victims have clearance to go home, they still typically need to return for aftercare and follow-up visits with doctors and specialists.
Car accidents that cause permanent injuries sometimes require accident victims to seek out long-term nursing care. When victims cannot receive in-home care, they sometimes need to live at a long-term nursing care facility. Nursing homes are not covered under most insurance policies. Long-term nursing care costs can bankrupt a family—even if they purchased a separate nursing home policy.
Lost Wages and Benefits
Accident victims who are forced to miss work because of injuries begin to lose income once they have exhausted all their paid-time-off. Some car accident victims might qualify for disability payments, but they only cover a portion of lost wages. The more time you need to take off work because of a car accident, the higher the value of your claim. Permanent injuries or conditions that occur as a result of a car accident may prevent car accident victims from working at all. Lawyers would also include this lost earning capacity when they place a monetary value on the car accident claim.
Car accidents can be physically and emotionally traumatic events that require accident victims to spend a great deal of time working with a variety of specialists during recovery. Some accident victims need regular physical therapy to rebuild muscle they have lost from laying in a hospital bed, or to regain lost functions from the injury. Other car accident victims suffer severe injuries in their back, spinal cord, or brain that can lead to difficulties with motor and cognitive functions.
Occupational therapists help accident victims re-learn how to operate their daily activities, sometimes teaching them new ways of doing common tasks such as personal grooming, cooking, and getting dressed.
Speech and language therapists help accident victims regain lost functions in speaking, reading, and understanding. When a car accident and the following injuries cause severe emotional trauma, some accident victims need to engage in therapy with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional. One or more of the previous examples are typically part of the rehabilitation process for car accident victims who suffered severe injuries. These specialized services are costly and could add to the value of a car accident claim.
Home Modification Costs
The vast majority of car accident victims can return to their homes after spending some time in the hospital. Yet, returning home does not mean that a victim has fully recovered from their accident injuries. Returning to a normal routine can involve making changes to the home, for more accessibility.
Depending on the severity of injuries and their permanence, some home modifications are major. For example, you might have to construct a wheelchair ramp, reconfigure your home to allow for a bathroom and bedroom on the main level, install handrails throughout the house, or put up grab bars in the shower or tub area. Some changes might only cost a few hundred dollars; other home modifications can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. Any changes you or your loved ones need to make to your home, as a result of your injuries, could increase the value of your car accident claim.
Replacement Service Costs
Before you suffered injuries in a car accident, you likely contributed a fair amount of labor to maintaining your home. Severe injuries might prevent you from performing these duties, if they have not done so already. This can overwhelm some households, highlighting the need for outside help.
Some common replacement services that accident victims and their families sometimes hire include:
- Lawn care service
- Snow removal service
- Carpenter or repair person
- Cleaning service
- Laundry service
- Cook or grocery delivery service
- Nanny, tutor, after-school childcare, or daycare service
- Driver or personal assistant
You might already pay for some of the above services. But, any additions that result from your injury could qualify as economic loss to be included in your car accident claim.
Non-Economic Losses in Car Accident Claims
Financial loss from a car accident, and the resulting injuries, make up only a portion of the loss that accident victims often face. Car accident victims face physical challenges in coping with injuries and overcoming other physical challenges. Families suffer emotionally and need to show patience to their loved ones after injury. Your car accident lawyer would review your case and evaluate the impact that your injuries have had on your life. This can present itself in ways that are not easily quantifiable.
Examples of non-economic damages that could increase the value of your car accident claim include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement
Placing a monetary value on intangible losses is a subjective process, requiring experience. A skilled car accident lawyer would know the acceptable range from their experience in the field. But they also typically rely on experts. Three major considerations that could impact how much the non-economic part of your claim may be worth are:
How Severe Are Your Injuries?
The more severe your injuries, the more compensation you might recover from your car accident claim. For example, a few broken bones typically heal and do not require hospitalization, or a long time away from your job. On the other hand, those who suffer from brain injuries, severe back injuries, or spinal cord injuries would likely need to remain in the hospital and miss work for a long time. Some accident victims suffer catastrophic injuries that prevent them from ever working again. Permanent injuries typically result in high-value claims to compensate accident victims for the physical and emotional trauma of their injuries.
What Is the Nature of Your Injuries?
Your car accident attorney would also review the nature of your injuries to place value on the non-economic aspects of your claim. Some injuries cause chronic pain and others lead to persistent complications that evoke anger, humiliation, frustration, and other negative feelings.
Some examples of serious injuries that could increase the value of your car accident claim include permanent scars from injuries or surgery, and amputation of fingers, toes, feet, hands, arms, or legs. Amputees can especially suffer from frustration and humiliation. Large scars from cuts or burns, especially those on highly visible areas of the body can also increase the value of a car accident claim.
How Likely Are You to Make a Full Recovery?
If your doctor and other medical professionals who have evaluated your condition predict you will fully recover from your car accident injuries, your claim would not be worth as much as if you suffered permanent injuries.
If you are unlikely to make a full recovery, or must cope with a permanent disability or chronic medical condition, your attorney would ask for more compensation as part of your car accident claim. Your long-term prognosis is strongly related to the severity and nature of your car accident injuries because they all provide support for the amount of compensation your attorney demands for damages.
In some cases, your attorney will not only speak with your physician, but also call upon other medical experts who can testify about your diagnosis and chances of a full recovery.
Insurance Policy Limits Affect the Amount of Compensation You Could Receive
Even if your attorney values your claim at a specific amount, you might not collect the full amount of compensation you deserve for your injuries. In no-fault insurance states, you will file a claim under your mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) policy to recover medical expenses and lost wages up to your policy limit before you file a claim with the other driver’s carrier. Once you have exceeded your PIP limits, your next step would be to file a claim against the at-fault driver.
The driver’s bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage could compensate you for damages that your personal injury protection coverage did not pay. Yet, some drivers do not comply with the law. They might not carry liability insurance, or they might not have enough coverage.
Regardless of the situation, the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits can limit the amount you receive. Severe accidents can meet BIL policy limits just as they can meet PIP limits. You may collect additional compensation under your own auto insurance policy if you purchased uninsured/underinsured (UM/UI) coverage.
Your car accident lawyer could help you sort through the complexities of your insurance claim and the policy limits related to your car accident.