What’s the Average Car Accident Settlement in California?


Somebody somewhere knows what the exact average car accident settlement is in the State of California.

This number is about as useful to you as a fifth wheel.

Each car accident case is vastly different. There is no ‘average case’ that determines the worth of your case. Instead, the extent of the other driver’s negligence, the extent of your injuries, and, sadly to say, their policy limit determines value.

At the Wakeford Law Firm, our car accident attorneys find it far more useful to discuss this question in terms of damages than to talk about the average car accident settlement in California.

There are dozens of factors that can impact your final settlement offer. Here, we’ll discuss those factors.

The Full Extent of Your Damages

The first question we must answer in determining your California car accident settlement amount is: What is the full extent of your damages?

In every action against a negligent driver, you have injuries or damages (or else you cannot make a claim or file a lawsuit). In a car accident, your injury damages can include any of the following:

  • Medical expenses,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Loss of enjoyment,
  • Lost wages,
  • Loss of employment,
  • And others.

High damages are often because you’ve suffered a permanent impairment or because you can no longer work your normal job.

In this case, you will need to secure further training in order to seek new employment or, you simply won’t be able to work any longer. You deserve compensation for that loss. You can include both past wages and future wages in this calculation.

In the case of pain and suffering, there are those who have to live with certain kinds of pain for the rest of their lives. For instance, cases with hip and spinal injuries often cause serious, lingering pain.

In other cases, victims may no longer have the ability to walk or run. Those who enjoyed jogging or playing sports have suffered another injury. They can no longer partake in the activities that they once enjoyed. These are all damages that you deserve to be compensated for.

In cases where a car accident robs you of your ability to use your arms or legs, you will not only require significant changes to your home, but further medical treatment, and you may not be able to work for a while. In cases where a car accident leaves you disfigured, you may also face serious adjustments to your quality of life.

These are all damages that you can be compensated for in California. Your settlement will depend on the extent of your damages.

Negligence and Liability

Your damages define the highest possible settlement that you can receive. That amount, however, can be reduced by your own percentage of culpability.

California has a pure comparative fault or comparative negligence rule.

In other states, a plaintiff may not be able to seek recovery if their level of fault exceeds 50%. For some cases, they may not seek recovery if any of the blame lies with them.

In California, you can recover damages even if you are 99% responsible for an accident. However, your damages drop based on your amount of the blame.

In other words, let’s say that you are rear-ended by another driver and suffer whiplash. It is determined that, because you were driving a car that didn’t have functioning brake lights, you are 10% responsible for your injuries. You are awarded $10,000 for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and missed time from work.

The defendant would only be responsible for paying 90% of those damages or $9,000 because that is their share of the blame.

In personal injury lawsuits, including traffic accident liability, your total damages are reduced by your share of the blame.

Insurance Issues: Underinsured Drivers

When you file a claim against another driver’s insurance policy, the insurance company is only responsible for damages up to the policy limit. In other words, if you have $500,000 in damages, but the other driver only has a $50,000 policy, then the insurance company will only pay out $50,000.

Now what?

In this case, you can either accept or reject the settlement offer and then sue the individual directly for damages. In most cases, a driver’s insurance policy insulates them from being directly responsible for the injuries on another person.

But in cases where the injured driver’s damages exceed the policy limit of their insurance, in order to recover the full value of your damages, you will have to sue that driver directly.

It’s also true that drivers who carry the bare minimum of the state-required auto insurance generally don’t have significant damages on which to draw.

So what happens when you sue them? In certain cases, you may be able to recover some or all of your damages.

In other cases, the individual against whom you have received the judgment can turn around and file for bankruptcy, discharging any debt to you.

While driving someone into bankruptcy is no small thing, you have to question what exactly it is that you want to achieve from your lawsuit. Is it compensation or revenge?

Other Insurance Company Considerations

When you file a claim against another driver, you will be dealing with their insurance company. The insurance company has a fiduciary responsibility to their policyholder to protect their interests.

In addition, the insurance company’s own interests are aligned with that of their policyholder. They want to pay as little as they possibly can in order to run a profitable company. This means devaluing your claim as much as possible.

On your side, you have your personal injury attorney whose job it is to protect the value of your claim and ensure that you are compensated for the full extent of your damages.

Our Case Results


A negligent driver rear-ended our client who suffered a significant back injury resulting in pre-trial settlement of $750,000.


Our client was a passenger in a vehicle involved in a low-speed impact resulting in back surgery. Settlement of his third-party liability and his underinsurance claims resulted in total settlement of $565,000.


Our client’s mother was struck and killed in a crosswalk resulting in a policy limits settlement of $500,000.


A bus rear ended our client causing serious back injuries. Result: $125,000.


Our client came to us with a low back injury after having been sued by a motorist in a disputed fault automobile collision. The police report placed fault on our client. They claimed he entered an intersection in his Porsche on a red light. This supposedly was the cause of a collision with a large pickup truck. The truck went on to collide with several more vehicles after the initial collision. The police report included numerous witness statements most of which blamed our client. After the course of the next two years, we took numerous depositions. Eventually, what we had known all along eventually became evident. The police report was wrong and it was actually the driver of the pickup who had run the red light. After multiple days of mandatory settlement conference, just before trial, the other driver’s insurance finally agreed to compensate our client for his back injury and paid $115,000 to settle the case.


While our clients, grandparents and their two grand-kids were driving through an intersection, another vehicle illegally turned left in front of our clients. The insurer for the other driver contended that the claimed injuries were not severe and not caused by the collision. After aggressive advocacy for our clients, we made a policy limits demand and contradicted the insurer’s position regrading our clients’ injuries. The insurer paid its entire policy to our clients.

Although these results may not indicate the possible outcome of your case, you can see that we work tirelessly to get the best possible results for our clients. To learn more about the potential value of your San Francisco car accident claim, call us now at 415.569.7495 or contact us to schedule your free consultation.

Injured? Don’t Delay.

Talk to an experienced attorney now.

Our car accident lawyers represent victims of accidents caused by negligent and reckless driving in San Francisco, Corte Madera, San Rafael, Mill Valley, Sausalito, and the surrounding Marin County areas.

Talk to a Bay Area Attorney for Help with Your California Car Accident Settlement

Car accident settlements are complex affairs. You have competing interests locked against one another. The Wakeford Law Firm helps those involved in car accidents receive the full value of their damages. Give us a call or talk to us online to get the most out of your California car accident settlement.

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