Determining the exact value of your car accident claim is tricky, and those involved in the accident will have different ideas of what the claim is worth. The amount of money you could receive if you win your car accident case varies based on numerous factors.
Insurance companies and investigators easily calculate some factors. Other factors are not tangible, making it more difficult. Valuation requires a meticulous evaluation that sometimes includes input from medical experts, lifecare planners, and others.
To protect your rights, a skilled car accident attorney will diligently pursue the maximum compensation commensurate with their client’s injuries. Until you have the opportunity to consult with a lawyer about your car accident claim, this guide provides a general description of many of the main factors that add to or detract from the value of a car accident claim.
Negotiating Your Car Accident Claim
Negotiating your car accident claim hinges on the idea that both sides can agree on how much your claim is worth. The insurance company involved with your case will value your case much lower than what you expect and what your lawyer believes your case is worth.
Unsettled disputes over the value of a claim result in litigation. If your car accident claim goes to trial, you will seek a certain amount of compensation. However, the court will ultimately decide how much your car accident claim is worth.
Car accident lawyers typically provide a ballpark estimate of the value of a claim to their clients but cannot guarantee a specific number. Your lawyer will rely on various strategies and tools to assign a value to your car accident claim.
They will consider easily quantifiable things like medical treatment costs, lost income, and transportation costs to and from doctor visits. They also review factors that are more difficult to quantify, like pain and suffering and other ways your car accident injuries have affected your life.
Your lawyer will carefully evaluate your car accident claim and assign a fair value. However, you cannot expect to receive the amount of compensation they present to the insurance company or their lawyers.
Car Accident Claims Come With Various Economic Losses
How much your car accident claim is worth depends on the economic and non-economic losses you have suffered because of the car accident and your injuries. Each claim has different amounts of economic loss.
Severe car accidents force injured people to take time off from work while accumulating medical bills, leading to large economic losses that easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The general rule is that the more severe the car accident and injuries, the more economic losses incurred.
Here is a broad overview of economic losses often included in the value of a car accident claim:
Car accident victims begin to accumulate medical expenses within minutes after a crash. Ambulances transport those with severe injuries to the nearest hospital for treatment in their emergency room. Once an injured person arrives at the hospital, they incur more expenses. The treating doctor needs to examine the person for injuries, which includes more than a physical exam.
Many car accident victims must undergo tests and scans for doctors to learn the full scope of their injuries. They can include costly X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other scans and lab tests.
Medical costs for a car accident claim drastically increase when someone needs surgery. In some cases, accident victims need multiple corrective surgeries. Depending on the situation, some need to spend weeks in the hospital to recover from injuries and surgery.
Other costs associated with surgery include nursing staff, supplies, and anesthesia. After doctors release car accident victims from the hospital, most have to return for follow-up visits.
Sometimes car accident claims cause permanent injuries, forcing victims to seek long-term nursing care in their home or a facility. If you or a loved one who suffered permanent car accident injuries needs to live in a nursing home, it drastically increases the value of a claim. Most insurance carriers do not cover nursing home costs unless the family purchased nursing home coverage under another policy.
Lost Wages and Benefits
Many car accident victims need to take time off from work because of their injuries. Those who work full time typically use all their vacation time, sick time, and other paid time off. If they need ample recovery time, they eventually must take an unpaid leave of absence from their jobs.
Depending on the situation, some car accident victims can qualify for temporary disability payments, but these benefits do not cover the full amount of someone’s regular salary. The more time a victim takes off from work, the more economic loss they suffer, increasing the value of their car accident claim.
In the worst-case scenarios, car accident victims suffer permanent injuries or conditions that prevent them from returning to work or seeking gainful employment in the future, legally referred to as lost earning capacity.
Car accident victims who suffer severe injuries typically need one or more types of specialized treatment as part of their doctor’s treatment plan. Car accidents are traumatic events that take a physical and emotional toll on many who suffer injuries.
Some accident victims spend weeks in a hospital bed or temporarily lose muscle and function. They need regular sessions with a physical therapist to rebuild muscle, regain mobility, and improve other lost functions. Others suffer back, spinal cord, or brain injuries that impact their ability to carry out simple tasks because of challenges with motor and cognitive functions.
Regular sessions with an occupational therapist help patients re-learn how to brush their teeth, comb their hair, get dressed, and perform other daily functions.
Speech and language therapists assist those who struggle with speech, reading, and comprehension after car accident injuries. Some car accident victims also need mental health services from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor to cope with the emotional trauma related to their accident and/or injuries. The more specialized treatment a car accident victim needs, the more economic loss they incur, increasing how much their car accident claim is worth.
Home Modification Expenses
Most car accident victims return home after being hospitalized for days or weeks. However, getting released from the hospital does not mean they have fully recovered from their car accident injuries. Depending on the scope and type of injuries, some victims need to modify their homes to make them more accessible.
The cost varies greatly depending on the extent of the modifications. People might spend a few hundred or thousands of dollars. Sometimes people need to add grab bars or handrails, especially in the bathroom, or they might need a hospital-grade bed in their home. Other times, people need to make major changes to their home, such as building a wheelchair ramp or creating a living space with a bedroom and bathroom on the main level for those who cannot use stairs.
Changes you or your loved ones need to make to your home because of your car accident injuries increase the value of your claim.
Replacement Service Costs
Homeowners and renters partake in many activities in service of their families and to maintain their homes. Severe car accident injuries sometimes prohibit injured victims from performing tasks they did before their injuries. Families sometimes chip in, but this might not be feasible for some households. This forces car accident victims and their families to spend money on outside help.
Common services families might hire after a member suffers severe car accident injuries includes people who can help with:
- Lawn care
- Snow removal
- Fixing things around the house
- Cleaning, cooking, and laundry
- Grocery shopping
- Childcare and tutoring
- Driving and running errands
Any of these services you already pay for do not qualify as an economic loss. However, you could get reimbursed for these expenses if you have to add help after injuries.
Car Accident Victims Also Face Non-economic Losses
Economic losses from car accident injuries only make up part of how much your car accident claim is worth. If you have recently suffered car accident injuries, you have first-hand experience with the physical and emotional challenges related to your injuries.
Your lawyer will review your claim, use previous similar cases, and possibly consult with experts to review how your injuries have affected your life in ways that aren’t easy to quantify.
Examples of non-economic damages that add to the value of a car accident claim include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
These intangible losses are difficult to quantify, so you need an experienced lawyer to review your claim.
Skilled car accident lawyers know the typical range for fair compensation from their experience and have connections with experts who can support your claim for damages.
Many factors can impact the value of your non-economic losses. However, three major considerations factor into non-economic losses in almost every claim:
Severity of Car Accident Injuries
In most cases, those who suffer the most severe injuries have car accident claims worth more. Severe injuries are more costly and directly lead to more economic and non-economic losses.
For example, someone who breaks their leg needs medical treatment, a cast, and some physical therapy. A simple break often heals completely in under a year and does not require surgery. Yet, someone who suffers a severe back injury, spinal cord injury, or brain injury might need surgery and often spend weeks in the hospital.
Nature of Car Accident Injuries
The nature of some car accident injuries can drastically increase how much their claim is worth. Some car accident injuries leave victims with lifelong pain and struggles. In addition to their physical pain, car accident victims with severe injuries that impact their function and mobility cope with negative feelings like anger, frustration, and embarrassment.
For example, those with permanent visible scars, those who suffered an amputation of digits or limbs, or those who suffered severe burns from an explosion during a car accident might receive more compensation because of their injuries.
If your treating physician(s) determine you will not fully recover from your car accident injuries, your car accident claim will be worth more than if you made a full recovery. Your long-term prognosis is strongly related to the severity and nature of your car accident injuries because they all document the amount of money your lawyer demands for damages in your claim.
Your lawyer will consider how your prognosis will impact your life and your work to determine the non-economic losses you’ve incurred from your injuries.
Insurance Policy Limits Affect How Much Your Car Accident Claim Is Worth
Some motorists do not carry mandatory liability coverage or do not have enough coverage to pay for your injuries.
This limits the compensation you could receive to the other driver’s policy coverage limits. You might be able to recover additional damages under your own auto insurance policy if you purchased uninsured or underinsured (UM/UI) coverage.
This same is true if you suffered injuries in a hit-and-run car accident. If law enforcement identifies the driver who left the accident scene, you can take action against them and file a claim with their insurance carrier, if they have insurance. Without insurance, you will have to sue them directly to recover damages. If you cannot find the hit-and-run driver who caused your injuries, you will only recover damages up to the policy limit you have for your uninsured motorist coverage.
Contact a car accident lawyer who can review the facts of your claim and help fight for maximum compensation in light of policy limits involved with your car accident claim. When policy limits are low, your attorney can look for third parties who might share liability with the driver.