According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association, there were over 2.4 million people injured in car accidents in 2021 alone. Accidents of any severity can cause injuries, leave you without a vehicle, or cause you to incur mounting medical costs. Settlements are meant to reimburse the victim for the extensive costs that result from a car accident. An accident may result in a variety of injuries and expenses depending on both the severity and the type of accident. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common injuries from car accidents and the average reported settlements that were won.
Type of Injury
Whiplash & Soft Tissue
Back & Neck Injury
General Bodily Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury
*All averages are based on settlements where the victim was found to be the minority percentage of fault.
Average Car Accident Settlement Amounts
Settlements are intended to cover the losses a crash victim experienced as a result of the accident. The amount that you could recover from your car accident differs greatly based on a few different variables. In this next section, break down some of these settlements from above. While there is no specific formula or exact estimates for these settlements, the estimates below are based on averages and will include what factors can increase or decrease that number.
Types of Injury
Whiplash & Soft Tissue Injuries
A soft-tissue injury is classified as an injury to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that support the body's joints. One of the most common injuries in this category is whiplash. This is likely because whiplash occurs at speeds as low as 15 mph (with or without a seatbelt). Unlike cases of broken bones, soft tissue injuries are harder to prove. A well-prepared case has well-documented treatment from a medical professional with a timely diagnosis and follow-up care. Due to the frequency of these cases, the range of settlements won starts at 3,000 and can reach upwards of 100,000 in cases where the victim sustained grade 4 whiplash (the most severe).
Broken Nose & Other Bones
Due to airbags and impact, broken bones are a common injury in car accidents. What determines how much you might receive in one of these cases? It comes down to the severity and permanency of the break. For cases where a car accident has resulted in a broken nose, the break is considered permanent if your ability to breathe or the appearance has been altered permanently. As a general rule, the more medical involvement (treatment, medication, rehabilitation), the higher the settlement will be. Therefore, data show permanent damage settlements that have reached over 100,000 while more minor cases are closer to 3,000.
Though this is a complex injury to quantify, studies show that not all car accident injuries are those you can see. The National Library of Medicine concluded that 22% of car accident victims have PTSD. Emotional injuries such as PTSD can disrupt the victim’s daily life, ability to drive, relationships with others, and ability to work. Since this is not a physical injury, recovering damages from PTSD can be difficult. An expert witness is often called to examine the victim and report their findings to the court. Therapy, medications, or mental health services are some of the frequently recovered damages associated with emotional injuries. PTSD is often pursued in addition to other injuries that have occurred as a result of the accident. Therefore, estimating an exact dollar amount for this type of injury is difficult. Cases have been settled for anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000. An example of a $500,000 case came from a victim who suffered severe bodily injuries after being hit by a semi. Due to the fact the victim had to change jobs, suffered mentally, was unable to drive, AND had proof of treatment, they were awarded a large settlement.
One of the leading causes of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is car accidents. TBI cases typically result in higher settlements due to the importance the brain has in the body. From airbag deployment & hitting your head on the steering wheel to being jostled around during serious accidents, there is a lot of opportunity for negative impact on the brain. It’s common to see brain injury settlements reach over $700,000 in cases where your ability to work and lifestyle have been altered. Permanent brain damage cases where there is an at-fault party can reach into the millions. For example, there was a case where a child was struck in a crosswalk leading to permanent cognitive damage, and his family settled for upwards of $4,000,000.
Cases of paralysis result in higher settlements due to the severity and permanence of the injury. Many aspects of a person's life can be changed due to this injury. Lifetime care may be necessary following the accident, which is just one demonstration of the economic damages that can be pursued. The average of cases for minor injury where a person did not have total paralysis was $1.2 million, with more severe cases coming in at $13 million. Some factors that play a role in the settlement are severity, location on the body, life changes, and medical bills (care, surgeries, medications, and rehabilitation).
Factors That Influence Car Accident Settlement Amounts
Now that we’ve seen the numbers, let's talk about the elements of the accident that can influence how much you are able to recover following your accident and injury. This section will cover information regarding insurance and understanding liability, as well as laws and data that can help provide a clearer picture of how a settlement is reached.
Severity of Injuries
If you have been injured as a result of a car accident, it is important that you seek medical attention immediately. This allows doctors to assess and diagnose your post-crash health, painting a clear pattern for insurance and court claims. Data shows that the severity of the injury directly correlates to how much is recovered. For example, a person with minor whiplash is likely to recover much less than someone with permanent limb loss. Additionally, if your injury resulted in surgery, you are more likely to receive a higher settlement due to the cost of treatment and recovery. No matter the severity of the injury, if you have suffered on behalf of someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation.
Fault, Liability & Negligence
If another party is solely responsible for the accident, you are more likely to be able to recover the full extent of the damages suffered. However, the more fault you share, the more your recovery is reduced. Many states operate under Comparative Negligence Laws, which we will thoroughly explain below.. Conversations with law enforcement, insurance adjusters, and other parties involved can all be recorded as evidence when proving fault, so ensure proper preparation before making statements.
Many states operate under something called the comparative negligence rule. A victim is able to collect a percentage of the damages awarded based on their percentage of fault. That means that a person who is 30% at fault can recover 70% of total losses. The person at 70% of the blame would still be able to file a claim for their 30% loss. Twelve states, including Alaska, California, Florida, New York & Washington, follow this rule.
Other states follow the rule of modified comparative negligence. This is further broken down into the 50% and 51% rules. In the first category, a victim can pursue a claim if they are found to be less than 50% responsible. For the 51% rule, a victim cannot pursue a claim if they are found to be at fault (51% or more). States that follow modified negligence rules include Utah, Tennessee, Maine, Colorado, and Idaho.
Financial loss can vary significantly from case to case and come from a wide range of places. It is important to keep clear documentation of any costs that are a direct consequence of your injury. For example, economic losses could be medical bills, loss of wages, property damage, repair costs, and future earning capacity (in cases where the accident may affect your ability to work your job).
States fall under two separate law categories: fault and no fault. In no-fault states, one must first rely on their own insurance coverage to pay for injuries to them or the passengers in their vehicle. Only once they have reached their insurance limit are they able to pursue compensation from the other party. In no-fault states, the driver purchases personal injury protection, which typically covers up to $10,000 in medical bills and lost wages exclusively. There are 12 no-fault states (Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Utah.
The rest fall under the “fault” or "tort” law states. In these states, the driver who caused the crash will always be responsible for losses. A benefit of the fault rule is that the responsible driver's insurance covers a wider range of damages associated with the accident.
Drivers are required to have liability insurance in most states. Insurance companies compensate victims based on fault and only up to policy limits. If damages exceed the amount of insurance coverage, the company will not pay the excess. Those costs are able to be recovered through a claim against the at-fault driver and their insurance. The person responsible for the accident will also have restrictions on their own insurance coverage. This is where it can be helpful to have an experienced attorney to uncover any insurance coverage to help you secure a higher settlement.
How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help Recover Compensation
The cost of an attorney can seem pretty daunting. However, with their knowledge and experience in dealing with legal procedures and insurance companies, they can help you secure the settlement you deserve making them worth every penny. First, most lawyers are paid only if your case is won. Therefore, if you lose, the lawyer does not collect the agreed-upon percentage in your contract. Further, lawyers often offer a free consultation to meet them and discuss some of the details of the case.
Expert Tip: Ensuring the lawyer you choose fits your needs is important. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding their experience with similar cases, communication style, availability, and estimated fee structure.
Lawyers have experience translating all of the medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, and property damage into a dollar amount that you can pursue in your settlement. Your lawyer will put together evidence to justify and support your claim. Lawyers are experienced in calculating and proving damages that go beyond financial losses. They are there to argue compensation for any emotional trauma that may have resulted from the accident as well. Your lawyer is there to ensure you are seeking every possible opportunity for damage recovery.
Liability is a legal concept that places the fault of an incident on one of the parties involved. Lawyers work to prove the at-fault parties' involvement in your injuries and damages. Once hired, lawyers collect evidence that best supports your claim. Through their network of reliable professionals, they can call in an expert witness to recreate the accident or provide insight to prove fault. Lawyers are used to working with insurance companies and are ready to fight on your behalf to make sure your case is a success.
Provide Support and Legal Counsel
Legal processes can be overwhelming, especially when recovering from an accident. Attorneys have experience requesting police and traffic records, negotiating medical bills, and working with insurance companies. They are there to ensure all paperwork is filed timely and correctly and help to translate complex legal language. Experienced lawyers know what works best in court and collect the evidence that best supports your claim. Having a lawyer on your side can significantly reduce the stress involved so you can focus on healing from your accident.
Legal Resources for Car Accident Victims
The American Bar Association (ABA)
The American Bar Association is a go-to website for accessing resources in all subtopics of the law. For victims of car accidents, there are resources regarding personal injury claims and cases, which can include examples of settlements. Further, they have created a legal advice site where qualifying people can ask questions free of charge to lawyers in their state.
Insurance Information Institute
For all your questions regarding insurance, the “Triple I” or Insurance Information Institute can help provide more clarity. They aim to provide fact-based information to help empower consumers. Their website has many blogs, videos, and other resources to further your research and allow you to make informed decisions.
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