How Much to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement

September 30, 2023 | Steve Fields
How Much to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement
How Much to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement

After the jarring experience of a car accident, beyond the immediate physical and emotional trauma, a looming question often emerges: "How much can I expect from a car accident settlement?"

The question reflects not just the pursuit of justice, but also the very real financial anxieties that arise from medical bills, vehicle repairs, and potential lost wages.

While every case possesses its unique set of facts, circumstances, and resulting injuries, understanding the underlying factors that influence settlement amounts can provide some clarity during these uncertain times.

At Fields Injury Law, we aim to demystify the factors that play into determining car accident settlements, giving you a clearer picture of what to anticipate as you navigate the legal aftermath of your accident with our Minnetonka car accident attorney by your side.

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How Do Car Accident Settlements Work?

A car accident settlement is a resolution reached between the involved parties (often including their insurance companies) without going to trial. In essence, it's a negotiated agreement where the injured party agrees to a specified amount of compensation in exchange for dropping any further legal actions against the at-fault party.

Settlements are designed to compensate the injured party for a range of damages, from medical expenses to pain and suffering. 

Settlements vs. Court-Awarded Damages

While settlements are negotiated outside of court, damages are the monetary awards granted by a court after a trial.

Both parties generally prefer to settle, as it guarantees a certain outcome, reduces legal expenses, and speeds up compensation. However, taking the case to court may be the best option if an insurer is unwilling to offer a fair settlement. If the plaintiff wins, the judge or jury will determine the compensation amount based on the evidence presented. 

Having a car accident lawyer can empower you to make informed decisions regarding how far to take negotiations or when you need to sue. Remember that as legal professionals, car accident lawyers can guide and advocate for you every step of the way. 

What Determines My Settlement Value?

Determining the right compensation amount in a car accident settlement involves a complex process shaped by multiple variables. While every accident is unique, overarching factors will play a pivotal role in influencing settlement figures. 

Liability and Fault

Establishing fault is foundational to any car accident settlement. In Minnesota, a system of comparative negligence allows damages divided according to each party's degree of fault. For instance, if you were found 10 percent at fault, you could recover 90 percent of your total damages. Your lawyer will work to ensure that you don’t accept more than your fair share of liability, protecting your eligibility to recover maximum compensation. 

The Severity of Your Injuries

The severity of your injuries directly affects the settlement amount. Generally, more severe injuries command higher settlements due to increased medical costs and potentially long-term implications.

The nature of the injury, its prognosis, and expected recovery duration can also influence the settlement. Chronic or permanent injuries, for instance, tend to result in higher compensation due to their lasting impact on the victim's quality of life.

Types of Damages in a Car Accident Claim

Damages in personal injury claims are generally identified as either general (non-economic) or economic damages. Both types of damages may require a complex investigation to assess them accurately. 

Economic Damages

You incur these tangible, out-of-pocket expenses due to the accident. Primary components are medical bills, property damage, and lost wages or income due to time off work. However, these also account for future losses.

For example, a chronic injury or permanent disability may prohibit you from returning to work or earning the income that you did before the accident. If you are unable to drive a vehicle yourself due to a long-term injury, you may require lifelong assistance or caregiving.

Some common economic damages in car accident claims include:

  • Emergency room visits
  • Hospital stays and surgeries
  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation
  • Prescription medications
  • Medical devices (e.g., crutches, wheelchairs)
  • Future medical care related to the accident
  • Income lost due to time off work immediately after the accident
  • Reduced earning capacity if you're unable to return to your previous job
  • Repair or replacement costs for your vehicle
  • Replacement of damaged personal items, like electronics or clothing
  • Transportation costs to and from medical appointments
  • Over-the-counter medical supplies
  • Home modifications (e.g., ramps, widened doorways) for severe injuries
  • Funeral and burial expenses in the unfortunate event of a fatality
  • Costs for ongoing physical or occupational therapy
  • Mental health therapy or counseling related to trauma from the accident

In short, an accident can result in a massive economic impact. Document everything. Maintaining organized expense records can significantly enhance your claim's credibility.

Non-Economic Damages

These damages, often harder to quantify, encompass pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship or consortium. They're inherently subjective, so a persuasive argument often requires compelling testimony, medical evaluations, and sometimes expert witnesses. However, a skilled attorney can present and uphold an argument that attests to these very real losses and their impact on your life.

Some of the non-economic damages you may pursue include: 

  • Physical pain resulting from injuries sustained in the accident
  • Ongoing discomfort or chronic pain related to those injuries
  • Anxiety, depression, or other emotional challenges resulting from the trauma of the accident
  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares
  • Inability to partake in hobbies, recreational activities, or other forms of leisure previously enjoyed
  • Strain or loss in marital relations, including loss of companionship, affection, or sexual relations due to injuries
  • Visible scars, burns, or other physical alterations that affect appearance and self-esteem
  • In cases of wrongful death, the emotional and relational loss experienced by close family members
  • Deep-seated emotional trauma or torment stemming from the accident
  • Overall reduction in the quality or fulfillment of life due to physical, emotional, and psychological effects of the accident

Punitive Damages

While not frequently applicable, punitive damages come into play when the at-fault party's actions were particularly reckless or malicious. These damages aren't necessarily designed to compensate the victim but rather to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future.

The Insurance Company’s Role 

Often, insurance companies might present a disheartening initial offer for far less than what you might expect or deserve. They expect victims to be eager for quick compensation, which can lead to hasty decisions.

Consult a car accident attorney before accepting any offers to ensure the insurer doesn’t shortchange you.

Some of the tactics that insurance providers and their adjusters employ include: 

  • Delayed processing: Insurance adjusters might sometimes delay responses or the processing of claims. This tactic can wear victims down, hoping they'll accept a lower settlement out of desperation or frustration. Knowing this can help you remain patient and persistent.
  • Requests for excessive documentation: While providing evidence like medical records or proof of lost wages is standard, be cautious if the insurance company continuously asks for more information, especially if it seems irrelevant. They might want to find inconsistencies in your claim or simply stall the process.
  • Recorded statements: An adjuster may request a recorded statement from you regarding the accident. While this might seem innocent, they do this to find inconsistencies in your story or get you to inadvertently admit fault or downplay your injuries. Give such statements only in the presence of your attorney.
  • Minimizing injury claims: Insurance companies may sometimes downplay the severity of your injuries, arguing that they resulted from pre-existing conditions or weren't as serious as claimed. Having detailed medical records and, if needed, expert medical testimony can counteract these assertions.

The insurance company’s primary goal is usually not aligned with your best interests. Partnering with a skilled car accident attorney familiar with these negotiation tactics can level the playing field, adequately representing you and increasing the likelihood of a fair settlement.

Your Attorney’s Role

While the insurance company seeks to minimize your car accident claim, your attorney will do everything possible to maximize its value.

Some of the benefits of retaining legal representation and the tactics that they will use to add value to your settlement include: 

  • Comprehensive understanding of the law: Attorneys well-versed in car accident claims possess a deep knowledge of the laws, rules, and regulations governing such incidents, as well as the law specific to your area. At Fields Injury Law, we possess an in-depth understanding of Minnesota’s traffic accident patterns and how these interplay with civil and judicial proceedings. This understanding equips us to tackle complex cases, ensuring you get fair treatment and rightful compensation.
  • Efficiency and proactivity: Filing a claim requires thorough documentation, from medical records to accident reports. A misstep or omission can jeopardize your claim. Skilled car accident attorneys ensure every document is correctly filed and deadlines are met.
  • Skilled negotiation: Dealing with insurance companies can be tricky. They have vast resources and can employ various tactics to reduce or deny your claim. An attorney can effectively counter these strategies, ensuring you aren't pressured into accepting a low-ball offer.
  • Good judgment and objectivity: After a car accident, emotions can run high, and pain, frustration, and anxiety can cloud your decisions. Your dedicated attorney offers a clear, objective viewpoint, guiding you through the process with your best interests at the forefront.

Looking to Maximize Your Car Accident Claim? Get the Fields Advantage. 

At Fields Injury Law, our legacy is built on an unwavering commitment to the individuals we represent. Our robust track record of success stems from our core values—we're not just in it for the legal battles—we're here for you, striving for justice every step of the way. 

With a blend of experience, skill, and compassionate representation, Fields Injury Law stands as a beacon of hope for those seeking rightful compensation. When you partner with us, you're not just getting an attorney; you're gaining an advocate dedicated to your cause.

Contact us today at (612) 206-3495 to learn more about your legal options for compensation and how working with a dedicated Minnetonka personal injury attorney can help your case.

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Steve Fields

Founder | CEO | Principal | Attorney

Steve Fields founded Fields Law in 2001 and quickly established a reputation with his Personal Injury clients for being a lawyer who truly cares. After more than 20 years, those clients continue to refer their friends and family whenever they have been injured or become disabled.

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