Money and physical health are the primary—and interconnected—things you think about after a car accident. The more serious the impact on your physical health, the more money you will need to pay for your medical treatments.
More serious injuries will increase the worth of your car accident claim if someone else caused your car accident. However, you need to work with an experienced car accident lawyer to maximize the money that you can receive for your car accident injuries.
Before you can talk about money, you must prove that someone else caused the car accident. Someone will have the legal obligation to pay you when you can gather evidence that shows that they did something to cause your injuries. Your attorney will work to compile the necessary proof that you need to show either the insurance company or a jury that you deserve money.
How Can the At-Fault Party Make You Whole in Your Claim?
Once you have proven legal responsibility, you will move to the next step of your case: damages. The person who has injured you has the legal obligation to pay for all your damages, not just the ones that have directly cost you money. You may be entitled to damages for far more than you think. Car accident damages encompass both the direct economic costs and the intangible things you have experienced since the accident and will continue to go through. They cover both the past and the future.
What Economic Damages Can You Seek for Your Car Accident Injuries?
Your car accident check will start by paying you the money that has come out of your pocket because of your injuries. The most obvious thing that will cost you money is your medical bills. Even if you have health insurance, you will likely have paid some share of the costs for medical treatment. Just the copayments and deductibles alone can add up to significant money.
Further, your health insurance company is also entitled to reimbursement for what they have spent, and the responsible party is required to directly cover future expenses. If you have suffered severe injuries, your medical expenses can be considerable.
The other large sum of money that comes out of your pocket is the property damage to your car. The responsible party is obligated to pay for the damage to your car or the value of your car if it has been declared a total loss. The insurance company will often try to underpay you for a totaled car, and you might not have enough to replace your car if you do not fight for the correct amount of money for the vehicle’s worth.
How Does Lost Income Work in a Car Accident Claim?
The last part of your direct economic damages is lost income. You may obtain payment for everything you could have earned at work but did not because you suffered an injury. Again, this is not as straightforward as you think.
Several things can complicate the lost income part of your case, including:
- The insurance company may claim that you can work based on their review of your medical records.
- You can seek compensation for a reduction in your earnings capacity, and not just for the time that you can not work at all (including the loss of a promotion that you should have received).
- Your future income is not necessarily the same income that you might earn today, but the insurance company may try to assume that you are earning the same amount years in the future.
The challenges with your economic damages are significant enough before you even address the non-economic part of your case. Non-economic damages are those that did not directly cost you money. That fact does not necessarily lessen the extent of your injuries or make these damages any less serious.
How Non-Economic Damages Work in Your Car Accident
Non-economic damages measure what you have been through and will continue to go through since the car accident. Your physical injuries have consequences for you. While you suffered an injury and are recovering, or if you have suffered permanent injuries, there are numerous effects on your life. For example, you are in constant physical pain if you have suffered whiplash.
The part of non-economic damages you have likely heard of is pain and suffering. These damages encompass both the physical pain that you are feeling and the mental anguish. Physical pain does not just happen on its own. It causes you stress, depression, and anxiety. You can receive compensation for all of these.
What Are the Elements of Your Non-Economic Damages?
You can also receive payment for any effect that your car accident injury caused you, including:
- The loss of enjoyment of the life that you had before the injury
- The embarrassment and humiliation caused by your physical injuries
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional distress from the accident
For accident victims, the problem is knowing how to value these damages. They are entirely subjective by nature. They all depend on what you are going through. A broken leg or a severe fracture can greatly impact you based on your life before the accident. You can be more prone to depression because of your mental health history before the accident.
In a car accident case, the rule is to take your victim as you find them. The responsible driver must pay you even though you may have been more susceptible to an injury (for example, under the eggshell plaintiff rule).
Insurance Companies Will Undervalue Your Car Accident Damages
Still, you wonder how the insurance company will value your non-economic damages. You may never know without an attorney and will get far too little.
The insurance company will try to use an “objective” formula to value your non-economic damages.
Whenever you see the word “objective” used in a personal injury case, you should know that the insurance company will try to manipulate the situation in any way they can.
How Do Insurance Companies Value Non-Economic Damages?
There are two methods used to calculate your non-economic damages (and specifically pain and suffering):
- The multiplier method will attach a number to your medical costs based on the severity of your injury. Spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries will receive higher multipliers. This method applies when you have suffered a long-term or permanent injury.
- The per diem method might apply when you have sustained an injury you will recover from after a short or intermediate amount of time. The insurance company may assign a dollar value per day until you have recovered. They may use the per diem method when you fracture a bone.
No matter what formula the insurance company uses, they will invariably come up with a far too low number to compensate you for what you have gone through. Their mission in any car accident case is to pay you as little as possible, regardless of the true nature of your injuries and suffering.
However, it may be hard to articulate your reasons why the insurance company is not offering you enough money for your non-economic damages beyond simply saying, “This does not seem right.”
Your Attorney’s Experience and Tenacity Can Mean More Money for You
This stage is where your attorney’s knowledge will make a big difference in your case. Ultimately, your car accident settlement is a legal agreement between you and the insurance company. They make a settlement offer, and you choose whether to accept it.
The insurance company cannot force you to take an offer. You have the legal right to full compensation and do not have to settle for pennies on the dollar. You have the right to say no to the insurance company and return with your measure of what you believe you deserve.
The Insurance Company Has an Advantage That You Can Overcome
You need to know what your case is worth to negotiate your car accident settlement. In any negotiation, information is power. If the insurance company is the only one with it, they will have the upper hand throughout the process.
Information is one thing that the insurance company will have in abundance throughout your claim. They have sophisticated models and up-to-date knowledge of what claims are worth in different parts of the country. They use that to know how much they do not want to pay (essentially, what your claim is worth).
How Can I Negotiate for Higher Compensation?
You may wonder how you can negotiate with a company with extensive information and the financial motivation to underpay you. An experienced attorney can level the playing field between you and the insurance company. Your lawyer also knows what your case may be worth, and they are committed to fighting on your behalf for the highest possible amount of money. When you have an aggressive car accident attorney on your side, the insurance company can get away with far less.
Without an attorney, you may be in the position of thinking that you must take whatever the insurance company offers you. However, their offer will be for only a fraction of what you deserve. The story’s moral is that you should never trust the insurance company to be fair and reasonable when you have filed a claim. They have motivations, and doing right by one is not one of them. To an insurance company, you are nothing but a cost they aim to avoid to the fullest extent possible.
Can You Can File a Lawsuit if the Insurance Company Does Not Pay?
If you cannot come to an agreement with the insurance company, the jury will decide what your case is worth. They may be more likely to award you the actual value of your damages because they do not have a balance sheet or profit statement to worry about. The jury is your decision-maker of last resort if you cannot settle your case.
Most cases will settle before they reach a jury, but the option is always there if you cannot obtain a fair settlement or your claim has been denied entirely. However, you risk getting nothing if the jury finds you have not proven your case.
If You Hire an Attorney, Will They Maximize Your Car Accident Compensation?
Yes. You are always better off hiring an attorney for your car accident case. The value of your injuries does not change, but you have a greater chance of recovering the full value of your injuries if you have an attorney who knows what your case is worth and how to fight on your behalf effectively.
A car accident lawyer can provide invaluable assistance if you’ve been in a car accident. They have experience dealing with insurance companies, gathering evidence, and navigating the legal process. The right lawyer can help you understand your rights, assess the strength of your case, and determine the compensation you may be entitled to for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
They can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, handle all legal paperwork, and, if necessary, represent you in court. Having a personal injury lawyer by your side can greatly increase your chances of obtaining a fair settlement and easing the burden of the legal process.
Fortunately, you do not need to pay anything out of your pocket to hire a lawyer. You only need to pay a lawyer if you get money for your car accident injuries, meaning there is no risk to you.