January 24, 2024
Were you involved in a car accident that was not your fault? Are you dealing with injuries and emotional trauma as a result of it? If so, you’re probably wondering about how much to expect from a car accident settlement.
In many cases, a car accident isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a major disturbance that forces you to have to rearrange your life. As a result, it’s important for a car accident settlement to cover not only your current costs but the costs you are likely to incur in the future as a result of the accident. It should also sufficiently compensate you for your pain and suffering.
What is a good settlement offer for a car accident? Because every car accident is different, it is impossible to say what a “good” settlement offer for your car accident would be without first knowing the facts of your case. Nevertheless, there are certain steps anyone involved in a car accident can take to increase their chances of receiving a favorable car accident settlement.
Continue reading to learn how to get more money from a car accident settlement.
The Car Accident Settlement Process Explained
The settlement process usually starts with you filing a claim with the insurance company. If you were not at fault, you generally will get in touch with the other party’s insurance company to file your claim, but it’s essential you notify your own insurance company about the accident as well. While the deadline to file an auto claim in Indiana is two years from the date of the accident, it is preferable to initiate the claims process while the details of the accident are still fresh.
How Is It Determined Which Driver Is at Fault?
Determining who is at fault for a car accident in Indiana can be complex.
Indiana is what is known as an at-fault state. This means the party whose negligence was found to have caused the accident will be responsible for compensating the other party for the damages they incurred. Indiana also abides by the standard of comparative negligence. With this standard, the fault of each party is determined by the extent to which they contributed to the accident. For instance, if a party is found to be 30% responsible for an accident, their final settlement will be reduced by 30%.
How Is Car Accident Compensation Calculated?
If you search the internet for information about the average car accident settlement, you’re likely to find that settlements span a wide range of values. Some will be as low as hundreds of dollars, whereas others will be in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
Factors that can play a role in determining the amount of your car accident settlement include:
● How much at fault you were for the accident (if at all)
● The severity of your injuries
● The type of medical and/or mental health treatment you received and will need in the future because of the accident
● The extent of your financial costs related to the accident
● How much insurance coverage you and the other driver(s) have
● The amount of pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident
Take the example of a person who was paralyzed from a car accident that was not their fault. The accident will have a permanent impact on their life, and they likely will require consistent medical care. As a result of these factors, it’s likely their settlement will be substantially higher than settlements for parties with minor injuries.
There are other ancillary factors that also can have an impact — and these are the factors over which you have more control and can use to your advantage in your settlement. We’ll review what these factors are in the next sections.
How to Get More Money From a Car Accident Settlement
Our personal injury clients often ask us: how much is a car accident settlement? While we can give them a rough estimate based on the details of their case, we also have to remind them that the ball is in their court when it comes to receiving the maximum settlement possible for their type of car accident.
Suppose you were in a car accident that left you with serious neck and back injuries. Despite experiencing crippling pain, you did not seek medical treatment in the days following the accident. Months later, however, upon realizing your pain has worsened to the point you can no longer perform routine activities, you file a personal injury claim with the other party’s insurance company, but what you are ultimately offered as a settlement is significantly lower than the average neck and back car accident settlement for cases of your kind.
Can you guess why you were offered a lowball settlement? It’s because your inaction following the accident likely suggested to the insurance company that your injuries were not that serious. You may have been experiencing crippling pain, but the insurer would have no way of confirming that unless you had been seen by a physician and were actively being treated for your injuries (e.g., with physical therapy).
As the example above illustrates, the steps you take following an accident can make or break your case. Car accident cases usually hinge on circumstantial evidence (i.e., evidence that does not directly prove that an event took place, but suggests that it did). As such, no stone should be left unturned after your accident when it comes to gathering evidence to support your claim.
Continue reading to learn valuable tips for potentially increasing the amount of your car accident settlement.
Remain at the scene of the accident and call the police.
What should you do after a traffic accident in Indiana? When you are in a car accident, it is always a good idea to stay put and call the police as soon as possible. A police report can prove invaluable when it comes to receiving a fair and reasonable car accident settlement.
Contact a personal injury attorney.
If you’ve already called the police, the next call you should make is to a personal injury attorney.
Making sound decisions after a car accident can be difficult. You’ve just experienced a traumatic event and a rush of adrenaline, and you probably are in fight or flight mode. Rather than trying to navigate the aftermath of the incident in this state, you can speak with an experienced personal injury attorney, who can guide you about what to do next. It is advisable to not speak with anyone about the accident until you’ve had a chance to speak with your attorney. Police officers or first responders, of course, are the exception.
By working with an attorney, you can focus on recovering from the accident instead of dealing with the tedious car accident settlement process. Your car accident attorney also will know how to negotiate on your behalf to secure for you the best possible settlement for your case.
Document the incident and collect evidence.
It isn’t always easy to think clearly after a car accident, but if you can gather information and evidence from the scene, it can help to streamline the car accident settlement process.
If nothing else, you should document the incident, whether that be by recording a voice memo on your phone or jotting down details on a notepad. The important thing is that you have a record of what happened, when it happened and how it happened.
Seek medical care and stay consistent with treatment.
It is common for people involved in car accidents to not feel much pain immediately following their accident, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t injured. After car accidents, people tend to experience a rush of adrenaline, which temporarily masks their pain. This is why it is a good idea to seek medical care after a car accident, regardless of how minor the accident seemed.
Seeking medical care early on (preferably immediately following the accident) can indicate to the insurance company that you suffered injuries as a result of the accident and not something else. For example, if you wait months to file an auto insurance claim, and during that time, you fall off your bike, the insurer would have no way of knowing whether your injuries were caused by the car accident or your fall, which could result in a reduced settlement.
Being evaluated by a medical professional early on could also help you get the treatment you need. For example, if you suffered a back injury from the accident, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. If you consistently make it to your therapy appointments and follow up with your physicians as recommended, this will help demonstrate to the insurer that your injuries are serious.
In the same vein, if you are suffering emotional trauma as a result of the accident (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder), it may be a good idea for you to be evaluated and treated by a mental health professional. This can help establish your level of pain and suffering, a factor that could play a role in the car accident settlement you’re offered.
While some medical providers will be willing to work with you on a lien basis, other providers may require for you to pay for treatment from your own pocket, but in most instances, the insurer will reimburse you for out-of-pocket costs.
It is crucial that you keep thorough records of your medical and mental health appointments, their cost and what was discussed during these appointments in the event the insurer requests this information. Also, before paying out of your pocket for an expense related to your car accident, be sure to discuss the cost with your attorney to make sure it is something for which you eventually can be reimbursed.
The main thing to remember is: never downplay your injuries. If you do, it is cause for the insurer to offer you the minimum settlement for your accident.
Don’t post anything online that contradicts your story.
Insurance companies, in general, are always looking for reasons to not pay you or lowball you. For example, if you tell an insurer that the back pain you’ve been suffering from since your car accident has immobilized you, but then you post a video of yourself playing football with your friends on social media, the insurer may not consider your injuries to be serious and provide you with a settlement offer that reflects this.
Should I Sue After a Car Accident?
Whether you should sue after a car accident depends on your satisfaction with the compensatory damages that were offered to you. If you believe the settlement is not sufficient in covering your medical costs and pain and suffering, then you should talk to your attorney about bringing a lawsuit.
You may wish to consider suing after a car accident if:
● The insurer denies your auto accident claim.
● The car accident settlement is unusually low.
● The insurer is refusing to negotiate.
● The car accident claim exceeds insurance limits.
● Someone was severely injured or died in the car accident.
Understanding How Much Someone Can Sue for in a Car Accident
To understand how a car accident lawsuit works, it’s important to grasp the difference between compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are the damages you seek through the claims process. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are awarded to the victim(s) and aim to punish the at-fault party for the misconduct that led to the accident.
In Indiana, punitive damages are capped at triple the amount of compensatory damages or $50,000 — whichever amount is higher. The judge in car accident lawsuits has the authority to reduce punitive damages in instances where the award is greater than the cap.
How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue?
You have two years from the date of the accident or from the date you discovered your injury to file your Indiana auto accident claim. As long as your claim is filed within this deadline, you can bring a lawsuit, even if it has been more than two years since the accident.
FAQs About Car Accident Settlements
Still unsure how to win a car accident claim? Check out our FAQs to see if you can find the answer you’re looking for.
What should I do if I’m the at-fault driver in a car accident?
If you are the at-fault driver in a car accident, you usually will need to file a claim with your auto insurance company (if you have one).
Whether your insurer will reimburse you for the damages you incurred will depend on the type of insurance you have. Liability insurance generally will only cover the other driver’s damages. Collision insurance generally will cover your damages as well as the other party’s attorney.
Why is my car accident settlement taking so long?
One of the main questions we hear from our clients is: How long will my car accident case take to settle?
We get it. You probably have suffered a lot due to your car accident. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how long a car accident settlement will take because of the sheer number of variables involved.
For example, maybe we came to you with an initial settlement offer from the insurance company, but you felt that the offer failed to sufficiently account for the damages you suffered. In this case, we would go back to the negotiating table to try to secure you a better deal. This can take time.
How much does a car accident attorney cost?
Whether health insurance covers car accidents will depend on the type of auto insurance coverage you have and on the terms of your health insurance policy. In most cases, your health insurer will cover at least some costs of medical treatment for any injuries you sustained as a result of the accident.
What happens when a car accident claim exceeds insurance limits?
When an auto accident claim exceeds insurance limits, the insurer will usually settle for whatever the limit is. That said, the affected party can always bring a lawsuit with help from a personal injury attorney if the settlement does not fully account for the damages they incurred.
Can a car owner be sued for another driver’s accident?
Whether a car owner can be sued for another driver’s accident depends on whether the car owner was negligent in allowing the driver to borrow their car.
As an example, if a car owner loaned out their car to a driver whose license they knew was suspended due to driving while intoxicated, it is possible the state could hold them at least partially responsible for the other driver’s accident.
If you are the car owner in such a scenario, it would be advisable for you to be represented by an attorney.
Can someone sue you for a minor car accident?
Parties generally can sue for minor accidents. They may wish to sue you if your insurance coverage limits were not sufficient in reimbursing them for the losses they suffered as a result of the accident.
Wondering how to get more money from a car accident settlement? Let us guide you.
At Hensley Legal, we understand how much of a financial strain car accidents can be, so we want you to be reimbursed fairly. If you don’t call us, please call another firm, because insurance companies are not your friend, and we want you to get the car accident settlement you deserve.
Whether you are seeking only compensatory damages or you want to escalate your case to a lawsuit, we are here to help and guide you through the claim settlement process. Call us today to learn how to get the most money possible from a car accident settlement. Our team is standing by 24/7 to answer your questions.