If you were injured in a car accident, it’s certain that you’re dealing with medical bills, lost time at work, and physical and emotional distress. A car accident insurance settlement can reimburse you for all that money you’ve paid out for medical bills. But it can also make up for lost wages, the physical or psychological trauma you’re dealing with, and repairing or replacing your car and any other personal property damaged in the wreck.
If you’ve filed an insurance claim and you’re dealing with the defendant’s insurance company by yourself, you’re probably beginning to feel like you are being victimized once again, this time by the driver’s insurer. One piece of advice: you should seriously consider finding a good car accident lawyer before you do anything further. Hopefully, you haven’t said or done anything to undermine your claim, because insurance companies try to trick you into doing just that, in order to avoid paying the rightful settlement money you deserve.
Just how much constitutes a “fair settlement”? It’s a very good question, but all auto accident claims are different due to a variety of factors, such as …
- The seriousness of the injuries
- The health of the victim at the time of the accident
- The prognosis for the victim’s recovery
- How long recovery might take
- The nature of the victim’s prescribed rehabilitation.
Economic Damages and Policy Limits
Economic damages are those which can be easily calculated. They involve bills, payments, wages, and balance sheets — something which can be quantified. Their opposites are non-economic damages; they are things we cannot see and touch easily. Non-economic damages deal with aspects such as physical pain, emotional anguish, humiliation, reputational damage, loss of enjoyment of activities, worsening of prior injuries and loss of consortium – defined in this case as “familial association.”
One other thing we must share before diving into any settlement calculation is insurance policy limits. All Kentucky drivers must have a minimum coverage of $25,000 for bodily injury per person per accident, $50,000 bodily injury for all persons in each accident and $10,000 property damage liability, usually referred to as “25/50/10.” Smart motorists usually carry significantly higher coverage amounts, simply because the value of medical costs has shot up 300 percent or more since these amounts were established. So if you’re seriously injured, and the negligent driver’s coverage is exhausted, your insurer makes up the difference. If your financial needs exceed both combined policy limits, you may have to sue the negligent driver personally for the difference.
We’ll use this simple model.
Let’s say you suffered a compound fracture of your left leg which required surgery, a brief hospital stay, but no rehab, resulting in a final bill of $8,500. You also missed a week of work, representing $2,000 in lost income. Your average car accident settlement might be approximately $25,000 (though it could fall anywhere from $18,000 – up to a maximum amount of maybe $28,000). So, if you accept the “average” coverage amount from the driver’s insurance company as your final settlement, your insurance company will not be involved at all.
But anything over that $25k policy limit triggers some compensation from your insurer.
Settlements are typically much higher for more severe or permanent injuries. You may get paid more if the other driver was found to be driving under the influence or broke a traffic law which led directly to your car wreck.
Non-Economic Damage Calculation
Putting an exact price on your pain and suffering is virtually impossible. However, that is exactly what is attempted when calculating non-economic damages. They can include:
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish/emotional stress
- Permanent disability
- Loss of ability to enjoy life
There are so many variables to this seemingly simple task. It centers on how your attorney uses the evidence in your case to maximize your non-economic damages. Some of these factors include:
- The type, severity, and length of time it takes you to recover
- Whether you’re permanent disabled, scarred, or disfigured
- How your injuries impact your daily life (or employment)
- The changes in your relationships with family, associates and friends
- Your long-term medical prognosis.
A quick and simple example would involve a couple involved in the same fiery accident in which both suffered serious, but not horrific, facial burns. The husband is a firefighter and his wife is an on-air reporter for the local television station. Since the wife’s face is an essential element to her employment, she will likely receive noticeably higher non-economic damages for her pain and suffering than her firefighter husband.
As far as an estimation of non-economic damages, when comparing them to economic damages, settlements can run from two to ten times the amount of medical bills and lost income – again, depending on the circumstances of the accident, extent of injuries, and whether punitive damages are demanded by the injured victim’s lawyer in order to punish the defendant’s reckless or willful behavior for causing the accident.
When represented by a seasoned injury lawyer, insurance companies would rather negotiate reasonable settlements with injured plaintiffs. As far as they’re concerned, a reasonable settlement is preferable to a trial where things could go badly for the insurance company. This is why it is so important to have a skilled attorney whose reasonable and fair demand for damages is accompanied by a strong case that proves the negligence defendant’s culpability.
Contact Us to Learn How Much is Your Car Accident Case Worth
The Pikeville, KY car accident lawyers at the Johnson Law Firm have extensive experience with the court system and insurance companies. Billy Johnson has represented vehicle accident victims throughout Kentucky, as well as in other states. He can help determine responsibility, establish your claim, and earn you financial compensation. The Johnson Law Firm offers prospective clients an initial case evaluation for free, in person or over the phone.