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Average Car Accident Settlement Amount

Legally reviewed by: Miriam Domer August 30, 2022
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Wondering about the average car accident settlement amount? It may help to know that many factors can affect your settlement offer, like the extent of your injuries, amount of vehicle damage, and whether the accident was caused by negligence. In any case, you shouldn’t have to pay medical bills for injuries you didn’t cause.

If you’re seeking a payout for a serious injury or property damage to your vehicle, a car accident lawyer may be able to help. Get in touch with one today through LegalFinders for a free consultation, and begin your car accident case.

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The average car accident settlement falls somewhere in the range of $40,000. Remember, this is an average amount, which means it takes into account both the high and low end of settlement amounts.

In truth, the settlement offer amount will depend on a number of factors, such as the extent of damages, how the accident occurred, and more. One often overlooked factor in car accident claims and the resulting settlement is legal representation, or who was representing the case and the claimant.

No, working with a personal injury lawyer does not guarantee you a higher car accident settlement. But, as with any specialized field, having expert representation does mean that you will be better equipped to fight for maximum compensation.

Unless you have worked as an attorney or elsewhere in the legal realm, this is something you likely may not be able to do as well on your own. A car accident attorney knows personal injury law and how to apply it to your case. They are familiar with verdicts of past cases like yours, and they know how to help you claim all the damages which will apply.

This is a crucial step — claiming maximum damages means you may be more likely to get a decent and fair offer. Why? You may not get the amount you ask for, but claiming all damages means you may get closer to a settlement offer that actually reflects the amount you deserve.

A lawyer can help you identify all the ways you may have suffered due to an accident and explain how these can be listed as damages. You probably already know the most obvious damages to claim, such as medical expenses and vehicle damage costs.

But did you know you may also be able to claim damages for pain and suffering? If you missed wages while working, not only might you be able to claim payments for the salary or wages you lost, but also for any employer-paid benefits you lost, such as 401k earnings.

While working with a car accident lawyer will not ensure you get a higher payout, it can help you rest easy. When your claim covers the maximum amount of damages possible, you have a fair chance at a decent car accident settlement amount.

How Car Accident Settlement Amounts Are Determined

Each car accident case will differ from the next. In general, the average settlement amount is calculated by determining both economic damages, also known as special damages, and non-economic damages (known as general damages).

The court will assign a number by which to multiply all special damages (this is known as the multiplier method). Multiplying the sum of special damages by the multiplier gives you the amount for general damages. Then, you total the amount between general and special damages, and this becomes the settlement amount.

To better understand why settlements are calculated in this way, it may help to understand more about each type of damages. Types of damages and examples are as follows:

  • Special damages: medical treatment costs, property damage, lost wages, recovery costs caused by the injury (i.e. in-home care), loss of irreplaceable items, etc.
  • General damages: non-monetary damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress over the wrongful death of a loved one, or loss of consortium (companionship)

The reason that the multiplier method is used to calculate general damages is because these are injuries which you can’t put a number on. How do you put a value on the loss of a family member, or how much pain and suffering someone will have to endure due to the loss of a limb? How can you calculate the amount someone should receive if they get into a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence which causes them to become paralyzed, forever changing the course of their life?

This is why courts use the multiplier method: to find a way to assign value to injuries which damage parts of you that are invaluable.

In rare cases, you may also be awarded punitive damages, or compensation intended to punish the defendant and set an example for future people, according to the Legal Information Institute. These are not damages you can claim, however. They must be awarded by the court when the defendant’s actions are determined to be particularly harmful or reckless.

Factors That Affect Car Accident Settlements

Because each auto accident is unique, so, too, are car accident settlement offers. They are determined by a number of factors depending on the details of the accident and resulting injuries, as well as the state where the accident occurred. Some factors which may affect settlement offers include the following:

Actions And Statements Following The Accident

Everything you say or do immediately after a motor vehicle accident might affect your claim later on. For example, if you refuse medical attention and tell the law enforcement officers that you don’t feel injured, this might affect the outcome of your claim. The defendant’s lawyers may try to suggest that your injuries were not caused by the accident, and it may be difficult to prove otherwise, without medical records.

This is why it’s always a good idea to seek medical care following an accident. Likewise, it’s important to speak first to a reputable car accident lawyer, even before speaking to your insurance company. Your lawyer can handle communications for you to ensure you don’t say or do anything that could affect your claim or the amount of your payout.

Auto Insurance

Some drivers only carry the minimum amount of insurance coverage legally required of motorists. Unfortunately, this means you may only be able to file an insurance claim that exceeds their insurance policy, if they were completely at fault.

In no-fault states, you must file with your own insurance policy and may only sue at-fault drivers if your injuries are serious and exceed your policy limits.

Most states are known as at-fault states, so you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver to seek compensation to cover the costs incurred from the accident.

Types And Severity Of Injuries Sustained

You may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit for any amount of damages due to bodily injury or property damage if the car accident was caused by a negligent driver in an at-fault state. However, it’s important to understand that the greater the severity of your injuries, the greater the settlement payout may be.

This is because catastrophic injuries, or those which cause life-altering effects to the lives of accident victims, result in more widespread costs. For example, minor injuries, like broken bones or cuts and lacerations, may lead to only a few weeks to a few months of recovery, and several thousand dollars or less in medical costs.

In contrast, a loss of limb may cause a person to be unable to return to work, which will change the course of their life as they know it. For these reasons, the type of injury is taken into account when calculating car accident settlement offers.

Other Accident Related Damages

The amount of your property damage for your vehicle may be taken into account as well. For instance, if the at-fault driver totaled your car due to negligence, this may be considered and worked into your payout.

Non-economic damages, like pain and suffering will also be considered. For these types of damages, your personal injury attorney will have to demonstrate how the accident led to your ongoing suffering and why you deserve compensation for it in addition to your physical pain.

Eligibility For Future Damages

Car accident lawsuits for severe injuries often take into account the need for future damages when calculating a settlement value. Future damages refer to the ways you may continue to suffer as a result of your injuries.

People with catastrophic injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, herniated discs, traumatic brain injuries, or back injuries, may see consequences or adverse effects for years to come. They may need in-home medical help, long-term physical therapy, wages if they are unable to work, and other forms of financial support.

The Statute Of Limitations

Your state’s statute of limitations may also affect your personal injury case. A statute of limitations places limits on how long you have to file your claim, as well as the amount you may be awarded (in some states). Many states have caps on both economic and non-economic damages.

If you fail to file your claim within the filing deadline, you may not be able to receive a personal injury settlement. Likewise, even if you are able to start your case, your state may have a damages cap. A car accident injury lawyer can help ensure you begin your case before the statute runs out and inform you of any caps on damages which may apply.

Presence Of Negligence

The average settlement for a car accident is largely affected by the presence of negligence in the car crash. That is, if negligence was not a factor, you may not receive any payout. The value of your case hinges on your ability to prove that the defendant’s actions were negligent, that this negligence led to the accident, and that your injuries were a direct result of the accident.

This is why it helps to work with experienced car accident attorneys, who will refute any claims by an insurance adjuster who tries to shift blame onto you. Your lawyer can use evidence from the accident and your resulting injuries to show that you were not at fault and that you deserve a fair settlement for your injuries.

Percentage Of Fault

Whether you’re hurt in a car accident, motorcycle accident, truck accident, or any other auto accident, all related claims are affected by the consideration of fault. In some states, being even 1% at fault will bar you from receiving any settlement offer, known as the pure contributory negligence principle.

In other states, you may only claim damages if you are less than either 50% or 51% at fault for the accident. This principle is called the modified contributory negligence principle.

Fortunately, most states now operate on a principle of comparative fault, which means accident victims may be able to file personal injury claims even if they have fault in an accident. In most of these states, the claimant’s settlement payout will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

This is why it’s imperative to ensure that you do not receive a higher percentage of fault than you deserve. One of the benefits of a strong attorney-client relationship is that your lawyer will work tirelessly on your behalf to discredit any wrongful accusations of fault.

LegalFinders Can Help You Reach A Car Accident Lawyer Near You

If you’re researching the typical car accident settlement amount, you may benefit from working with an esteemed car accident lawyer. Whether you need legal guidance for yourself or a loved one, LegalFinders can help.

Our extensive network of car accident attorneys provides access to top-rated lawyers in your area. When you call for an initial case evaluation, we’ll connect you with the best law firms for your case. Don’t waste another minute without expert legal help — your payout can be affected by the timeliness of your actions. Call us today to learn more about how we can help.

Article Sources

Legal Information Institute — Contributory Negligence

Legal Information Institute —  Comparative Negligence

Legal Information Institute — General Damages

Legal Information Institute — Negligence

Legal Information Institute — Punitive Damages

Legal Information Institute — Special Damages

Merriam-Webster — Statute of limitations