When someone gets into a car accident, they could recover compensation for their losses if they can prove the liable party caused their injuries. Many people ask how much they can expect from a car accident settlement. Unfortunately, however, there is no one-size-fits-all answer regarding car accident settlements.
The amount someone could recover varies based on different factors. This includes your recoverable damages. Once you determine the worth of your recoverable damages, you can better understand how much compensation you could expect. Usually, car accident attorneys can help you determine how much you can seek. Then, they can help you go after the best possible results through a claim or lawsuit.
What Are Recoverable Damages in a Car Accident?
Recoverable damages refer to the amount of money the court requires someone to pay for causing someone else's injuries. For example, after a car accident, the amount of compensation someone could recover often depends on the severity of the injuries. A person with severe injuries that could affect them for the rest of their life could get more than someone with minor injuries. The goal is to recover compensation for all your losses.
The types of car accident compensation someone could recover include economic and non-economic damages. Often, the more serious your injuries, the more economic and non-economic damages victims may be able to seek through car accident claims.
Economic damages refer to measurable losses. These compensate the person who sustained injuries for their actual monetary losses. Therefore, you could recover any out-of-pocket expenses you had to pay for your injuries through economic damages.
Types of economic damages you could recover after facing injuries in a car accident could include:
- The amount you had to pay towards medical expenses. Medical care can get costly, depending on the severity of the injuries and the medical treatment you require. You could recover compensation for the costs of any emergency room care, surgeries, hospitalizations, diagnostic tests, medications, or ongoing doctor's appointments.
- The projected costs of future medical care. If the injuries you sustained in the auto accident appear to require medical care far into the future, you could receive compensation for future medical care costs. After settling the case, you could receive this compensation if a doctor states the injuries will require medical care.
- The amount of income you lost. If your injuries prove severe enough, you might have to miss work for some time. If this happened, you could recover compensation for your lost wages or income.
- The projected future income you could lose. If your injuries prove so severe that a doctor states you cannot work in the same capacity, you could recover compensation for your future lost income. Within future lost income, you could also recover lost benefits, such as healthcare and retirement benefits.
- The cost to repair or replace your vehicle. If someone else caused the car accident and the vehicle sustained damage, you could recover whatever the insurance didn't cover for property damage through a car accident claim or lawsuit.
Economic damages often prove more straightforward to determine because you typically have receipts showing how much you had to pay out of pocket.
Non-economic damages refer to subjective and unquantifiable non-monetary losses. They aim to pay someone back for their incurred physical and emotional losses.
For example, types of non-economic damages you could recover after a car accident include:
- The emotional distress you now have to deal with. Car accidents and the injuries associated with them can cause negative psychological responses. Some of these negative emotional issues could include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fear, sleeping issues, and in severe cases, depression.
- The physical pain you endured because of your injuries. Physical pain could refer to physical challenges you face directly after the accident or ongoing pain.
- The loss of enjoyment of life you endured after the accident. If you can no longer participate in activities you once loved, you could recover compensation for losing the ability to play sports or do hobbies you enjoyed before the accident.
Non-economic damages often prove more difficult to calculate since they are subjective, and no receipt can indicate their value. Usually, an attorney can help to calculate the value of your non-economic damages.
Other Factors That Could Affect a Car Accident Settlement Amount
While your recoverable damages give a good idea of your settlement’s potential worth, other factors could affect the settlement amount.
Some of these factors include:
- How severe the injuries are. If your injuries prove more severe, you could likely see a bigger settlement because of higher medical bills.
- The amount of damage to the vehicle. If the vehicle sustained minor cosmetic damage, you wouldn’t receive as much compensation as if the vehicle were totaled.
- Who bears liability. For instance, if a trucking company is liable for your damages after their driver caused your accident, you could seek compensation through the company’s corporate insurance policy. A corporate policy often comes with higher maximums.
These factors can greatly affect the amount someone could recover after a car accident. A personal injury attorney can explain how other factors may play a role in your case.
An Attorney Can Help You Determine the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
An experienced car accident lawyer could provide more information if you're struggling to figure out how much to expect from your car accident settlement. Many personal injury attorneys have handled similar cases and understand how to calculate damages. Once they calculate the damages, they can negotiate with the insurance company for financial compensation on your behalf. Having a personal injury lawyer with negotiation experience can help you recover the maximum compensation available.
Attorneys can also help to ensure you don't miss important timelines. Each state has a statute of limitations. This gives an amount of time someone has to file a lawsuit. For example, South Carolina law gives a car accident victim three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the liable party. After the statute of limitations deadline passes, you may not have the ability to recover compensation from the accident through the court system.
Showing the At-Fault Party Caused the Crash Can Be Key to Getting a Settlement
Car accidents happen across the United States for a variety of reasons, including driver error. Accidents can happen when someone drives negligently and doesn't care for others on the road. Knowing the cause of a car crash generally proves essential as it can determine liability for a crash. As mentioned, an experienced car accident lawyer can build evidence to show how the accident happened and who bears liability.
Some of the most common causes of car accidents include distracted driving, driving under the influence, driver fatigue, and reckless driving. If someone caused an accident for these reasons, the injured party could file a claim or lawsuit against them to recover compensation for their injuries.
You can and should hold someone accountable for causing a preventable crash. If the following forms of negligence caused your accident, you could seek compensation.
Distracted driving refers to when a driver participates in any activity that takes their full attention off of the road. Texting and driving commonly cause a distraction for drivers across the United States. Any activity that takes someone’s eyes off the road can cause a car accident.
Other common distractions that could cause car accidents could include:
- Eating or drinking
- Tending to children or animals
- Manipulating the stereo or a navigation system
If someone causes an accident and you can show that the accident occurred because of distracted driving, you can hold them liable for your injuries.
Driving Under the Influence
According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 32 people die from drunk driving every day in car accidents. Alcohol and drugs impair the brain’s ability to function correctly.
The effects of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of just 0.02 could cause the driver to lose their judgment, multi-tasking ability, and visual acuity. This shows that even a small amount of alcohol can impair someone’s ability to drive appropriately. If someone causes an accident because they drive while intoxicated, they could face a civil lawsuit and criminal charges.
Driving while fatigued can have devastating consequences. People who drive while fatigued can have the same impairments as those driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Other effects fatigued driving has on drivers include impaired cognition and performance.
Drowsy driving can cause someone to have slowed movement, an inability to focus or pay attention, and other dangerous cognitive and physical limitations. All of these can have a significant effect on someone’s driving ability. If someone causes an accident because they are driving while drowsy, the injured person could file a claim or lawsuit against them to recover compensation.
Driving recklessly can take many different forms. However, reckless driving commonly occurs when someone drives in a way that doesn’t show care for others on the road.
Common examples of reckless driving could include:
- Running stop signs or red lights
- Weaving in and out of traffic while driving on a two-lane road or highway
- Driving on walking paths, sidewalks, or the shoulder of the road to get around traffic
- Tailgating other drivers and failing to keep a safe following distance
- Excessive speeding for a long stretch of the road
People who engage in reckless driving could face severe punishments if they cause a car accident. Someone who sustained an injury in these accidents could file a claim or lawsuit against the liable party. If you can prove that reckless driving caused the accident, the other driver could have to pay to compensate you so you can take care of your injuries.
Should You Settle After a Car Accident?
When you file an insurance claim after a car accident, you can resolve your case in one of two ways: take a settlement from the liable party through their insurance carrier or win a verdict in court against the Defendant. Most personal injury cases settle before they ever hit a courtroom, but you can also settle during the trial process. In general, it’s most efficient to settle your Myrtle Beach car accident claim if the offer adequately satisfies your expectations and covers your injury-related damages. However, not every case works out this way.
You may want to have a Myrtle Beach car accident lawyer represent you in a compensation claim. Your attorney will protect your rights, work to obtain the maximum compensation you deserve, and advise you when you should or should not settle your car accident claim.
Ultimately, deciding whether you should settle after a car accident in Myrtle Beach (or anywhere else) depends on your case’s unique circumstances. Below, you’ll find some information about when it’s a good idea to settle, when you should avoid it, and the factors that could influence the decision.
What Is the Purpose of a Settlement?
South Carolina law allows car accident victims to seek damages (i.e., money to cover losses) from the party that caused the collision. With a settlement, both parties mutually agree on an amount that will satisfy the victim’s claim for damages and end the pursuit of compensation from the defendant.
Ideally, your settlement will cover the entirety of your economic and non-economic losses. After all, personal injury law provides the remedy as a way to make victims whole.
However, you may receive a settlement offer below your desired amount if:
- The insurance company agrees with part of the damages you request and wants to settle that portion of your claim while sorting out the rest.
- The insurance company doesn’t agree with the amount of money you demand and offers what they feel you deserve.
A Settlement Agreement Is a Contract
A settlement is a contract. The insurance company or defendant agrees to pay you a certain amount in exchange for your ironclad promise not to file any further claims for compensation. Once you sign the settlement agreement and accept the funds, you give up your right to seek further damages.
Bear this in mind as you consider accepting an offer. For example, if you settle your claim and discover you need another surgery to correct a shoulder injury from the accident, you cannot turn to the insurer to cover the cost. Instead, you will bear sole responsibility for paying for the operation unless the settlement contract violates the laws of South Carolina or they find a loophole.
When you violate your settlement agreement, this breach of contract may result in legal action against you.
When Should I Settle After My Car Accident?
In certain circumstances, you may want to consider settling. Remember, you don’t always want to go to court to obtain rightful compensation. A jury trial can prove a costly and time-consuming affair, but if it’s necessary, you always have the option. Everyone involved generally prefers reaching a fair settlement out of court.
Some of the situations in which you might want to settle include when:
The Settlement Meets Your Expectations
Your insurance claim will most likely include various economic and non-economic damages. For example, you may have physical injuries that give rise to exorbitant medical expenses, keep you from working, and put an emotional and mental strain on your life.
Additionally, if you had car damage in the wreck or lost other personal property, you should include that in your claim. Altogether, you may have losses into the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Depending on your level of pain and suffering, you could deserve much more. Certain ailments like catastrophic injuries can have a long-term impact on your life and could allow you to demand higher compensation.
With this in mind, if your settlement offer matches, exceeds, or closely resembles the compensation you seek, you may want to settle. That’s an ideal scenario, but your situation may not reflect that. At the least, your settlement should cover the financial losses you incurred, include pain and suffering damages as applicable, and factor in future accident-related expenses. So, you could accept a reasonably fair amount even if it doesn’t look exactly like the amount you demanded.
After You Better Understand Your Prognosis
You should consider a settlement only after you receive a prognosis for your injuries and understand what remaining care you will require to heal.
Every scan, test, operation, doctor’s visit, hospital stay, physical therapy session, and counseling session should be accounted for before you make a claim. You can’t truly know what to demand from the insurance company without knowing how much your injuries will cost in the future. Guessing will most assuredly leave you dissatisfied with the settlement you receive—and paying for expenses your insurance claim should have covered.
You should only settle after starting and completing some treatment in most cases. If you need treatment over the long term or your health problems could recur, your attorney should factor those estimates into your claim.
You Receive a Partial Settlement Offer
You may also consider settling for part of your claim. You could receive a partial settlement offer if you and the insurer agree on the value of certain damages. It won’t bar you from seeking further financial recovery for the remaining portions of your claim as long as any documents you sign or checks you cash do not stipulate that you have a full and final payment or release the Defendant (liable party) in whole.
Having a Myrtle Beach car accident lawyer negotiate and review any settlement agreements will mitigate the risks of falling victim to unfair tactics of the insurance company. You must also ensure that you only agree to a partial settlement for items on your claim that will not require further compensation. For example, accepting a settlement for vehicle damage may work out okay, but accepting a settlement for medical costs would likely prove unwise without proper legal guidance.
Odds of Winning in Court Are Not in Your Favor
If you could bear liability for your damages or you have little evidence against the other driver, you may want to settle your case out of court. However, you must weigh certain evidence and the likelihood that you will receive a trial verdict in your favor. If the outcome does not seem certain, filing a lawsuit may not prove the best choice.
For a case that does not have strong supporting evidence or involves only mild injuries, the insurance company may offer a settlement below what you want but is still more than what you can secure with certainty in court. Again, walking away with something may prove better than leaving with nothing.
The Cost of Going to Trial Is Greater Than the Compensation
Rejecting a settlement after a car crash in Myrtle Beach generally means you’re prepared to take your claim to court. However, a lawyer can help you think carefully before taking a case to trial. If the cost of litigating a trial exceeds or nearly equals the compensation you would receive after a court award, it’s probably not worth it.
To determine if a lawsuit offers the best course of action, you and your lawyer must consider court costs, incidentals, treatment expenses, the cost of expert witnesses, and other fees.
When Should I Avoid Settling My Car Accident Claim?
The decision to settle a case is yours. Neither a judge nor an attorney can force you to settle against your will. Your accident injury lawyer can advise you, but ultimately the choice belongs to you. However, settling may prove the best possible option in certain situations. They include when:
You Get a Low Initial Settlement Offer
Insurance companies often throw out low settlement offers at the beginning of your insurance claim to prey on your vulnerability. They know you need money immediately and probably want to put the accident behind you as quickly as possible. Don’t be fooled by assertions that the insurance adjuster wants to get you paid quickly so you can get back on your feet. They do not advocate for you and do not have your best interest. Avoid initial lowball offers.
The Settlement Is Far Less Than the Value of Your Claim
When a compensation offer falls far below the actual value of your case, you should not settle. You may see this low amount even with a second or third offer. No matter how often the insurer returns with a settlement offer, if you know you’re entitled to more and your losses substantiate a higher payout, hold out. If the insurance company won’t change its tune, it’s probably time to take legal action.
Your car accident lawyer can determine if bringing a lawsuit makes sense for you. Sometimes just the threat of a lawsuit can make the insurance company offer a fair settlement and get you compensation for your car accident. On the other hand, insurers don’t like spending extra money on a trial if it’s not going to profit them in the end.
How Long Does a Typical Car Accident Settlement Take?
The time it takes to settle your car accident claim in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina depends on the circumstances of your case. It could take anywhere from a few weeks to a year. An attorney can help you understand how your case’s unique factors may speed up or delay the time it takes to see a resolution.
How Much is the Average Car Accident Settlement?
How much you can get for a car accident will vary by case. Your recoverable damages, the evidence of your losses, and the insurance policy limits will all influence your settlement amount.
Generally speaking, the amount you could receive in your case depends on:
- The severity of your injuries
- The amount of your past, present, and future medical costs
- To what extent the injuries affected your career and your life
- Who bears liability for your damages
Car accident victims represented by an attorney could receive a payout that compensates them for all of their damages, such as intangible losses. It can prove challenging for many people to make a strong case for certain damages on their own, such as for their accident-related trauma.
An Attorney Can Determine How Much to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement
After getting into a car accident, the last thing someone wants to have to deal with is trying to figure out how much compensation to fight for. With a car accident attorney’s help, injured victims can ensure they seek the maximum amount of compensation for their injuries. A personal injury lawyer can fight for the compensation that covers all your losses.
An attorney can retrieve evidence to determine what amount you could seek after a crash. Contact Myrtle Beach injury law firms that offer free consultations. During the consultation, you can determine if a law firm is the right fit.