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.
Car accident cases are vastly different and you are compensated not on a comparison to an average amount, but the extent of the other driver’s negligence, the extent of your injuries, and, sadly to say, their policy limit.
At Wakeford Gelini, our car accident attorneys find it far more useful to discuss this question in terms of damages than to talk about average settlements. 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 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.
When the damages are high, it’s often because you’ve suffered a permanent impairment or because you can no longer do the work for which you’re trained. 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 can and should be compensated for that loss. You can be compensated for both past wages and future wages.
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, in cases where hips and spines are injured, the pain can be extensive.
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 what is known as a pure comparative fault or comparative negligence rule. In other states, a plaintiff may be barred from recovery if their level of fault exceeds 50%, 51%, or, in some cases, they may be barred from 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 are reduced by 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.
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.
Talk to a Bay Area Car Accident Injury Attorney Today
Car accident settlements are complex affairs. You have competing interests who are locked against one another. Wakeford Gelini helps those involved in car accidents receive the full value of their damages. Give us a call or talk to us online in order to set up an appointment today.