How Much Are Most Car Accident Settlements?
The only honest answer to this question is “it varies.” Some attorneys offer estimates, but these estimates are little more than guesses, mostly because so little information is available. Many car accident settlements include gag orders. Parties who disclose the details are in contempt of court.
Furthermore, the damages in a car crash claim vary widely. Medical bills are a good example. Two or three days in a hospital could cost as little as $5,000. The lifetime medical bills in a spine injury case could cost as much as $5 million. There’s a lot of space in between these figures.
Medical bills aren’t the only component of damages in a car crash claim. Victims are also entitled to compensation for lost work, which once again, could be a few days or a lifetime. Compensation is also available for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life.
One certainty is that, no matter how much a car accident settlement might be, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney uses the same process. This process involves advanced skills, like evidence collection and legal analysis. Everyday skills, like hard work and open communication, are just as important.
Evaluating the Case
The first part of a case evaluation has nothing to do with the final settlement amount, at least not directly. Good lawyers always put first things first. This means connecting victims with top-notch doctors who know how to diagnose and treat injury-related conditions, as well as auto mechanics and other providers who get victims back on the road.
Indirectly, these and other economic losses represent a significant portion of a final settlement. Attorneys never pad the bill in these situations. However, as we all know, quality healthcare and automotive care isn’t cheap.
Next, using the police accident report and other available evidence, a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer develops a working legal theory of the case. It’s only a working theory because not all evidence, especially vital electronic evidence, is available at this point.
Once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, the next phase begins. If a lawyer jumps the gun, the settlement might not cover all future medical costs. If that happens, the victim will be financially responsible for them.
Setting the Settlement Value
A car crash claim’s settlement value is like a new car’s sticker price. Setting the settlement value is basically a three-step process.
We discussed part one, economic losses in a car crash claim, above. However, we didn’t discuss California’s complex collateral source rule. Frequently, there’s a difference between the amount billed and the amount paid. That’s especially true among doctors and other professionals. For example, a doctor might bill $10,000 for a service, but the patient, or the patient’s insurance company, might only pay $1,000. If a health insurance company or other collateral source pays some of the economic losses, that payment could affect the final settlement.
Part two involves noneconomic damages, such as the aforementioned pain and suffering. Generally, attorneys multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four to determine noneconomic losses. The multiplier depends on the facts of the case and a few other factors.
These other factors are part three. These factors include the strength of any insurance company defenses, the victim/plaintiff’s need or desire to settle quickly, and perhaps most importantly, the insurance company’s attitude. Some insurance companies roll over and play dead. Others fight claims to the bitter end.
Resolving the Claim
The final element only has two parts. As mentioned, informal settlement negotiations usually begin once medical treatment is substantially complete. Sometimes these negotiations bear fruit. In fact, if all issues in the case are clear, the insurance company has a legal duty to settle the matter within about a month.
However, informal settlement negotiations often drag on. The issues in a car crash claim are hardly ever crystal clear. Additionally, unlike many victim/plaintiffs, the insurance company is in no hurry to settle the case. Finally, insurance company lawyers notoriously make unreasonable, low-ball offers.
Therefore, most claims settle late in the process, during mediation. By this time, the issues are usually clear, since all evidence is available. Additionally, a third-party mediator ensures that the insurance company negotiates in good faith. Because of these things, mediation is about 90 percent successful in SoCal.Vehicle collisions usually cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim. You have a limited amount of time to act.
Image Credit: Photo by Osman Köycü on Unsplash
Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.