There is not an exact formula that determines how much money you will get after an accident lawsuit because each case is different. However, there is way to determine an estimate of how much you can get. The unknown factor is how much will you get for pain and suffering. For the average settlement for a car accident, a rule of thumb people use is to assume 3 times the cost of your medical bills.
Since your insurance company pays for your medical bills and car repairs, pain and suffering is the only part of the settlement that will be determined by court. To determine the exact amount, the judge looks at the type of injury diagnosed, the type of treatment, duration of treatment, pre-existing conditions, severity of the crash, and wage loss due to time spent in the hospital and rehab.
Your settlement will be larger if you were not at fault with the accident. You should determine if the injuries cause by the accident will be permanent before you settle. No settlement will be offered or made until you are completely finished with your medical treatment. So when you speak with the insurance company, tell them you are still having medical treatment
Choosing a Lawyer
A lawyer will usually take 1/3 of your final settlement amount. Make sure all his expenses are itemized, and save all your receipts and bills so you can give them to him.
The questions your lawyer will have for you are:
- What kind of treatment did you have? Was it just doctor visits? Or was there also any physical therapy, diagnostic testing to screen for conditions, x-rays, etc.
- How long was the treatment for?
- How much did you have to pay out of pocket?
- How much time did you miss from work?
- Do you have any prior injuries to your affected area?
If you don’t use a lawyer, you can try to settle your bills with the insurance company. But they will always try to low ball you since it’s their job to do it. They may try to argue that your medical bills are too high because you received unnecessary treatment, or that you were healthy enough to go to work. However, if you followed your doctor’s recommendations for treatments and missed days of work, then you should be able to recover your medical bills and lost wages caused by the accident.
How Much is Your Compensation?
To determine your accident settlement value, add together your medical bills, auto repair bills, income lost from not being able to work, cost of the car rental, and pain and suffering. Your insurance company can cover all related medical expenses, car repairs and income lost. The more difficult question to answer is, how much are you entitled to recover for your pain and suffering?
How to Calculate Pain and Suffering
The Multiplier Method
A common method for estimating these damages is to multiply your expenses for medical bills and income lost by an arbitrary multiple between 2 and 4. For example, if you had a neck injury related to a car accident, your medical bills were $5,000, and you missed 2 weeks of work, which cost you $3,000, your expenses are $8,500. Depending on the other factors in the case, the accident settlement value of your claim is somewhere between $17,700 (2 times cost) and $34,000 (4 times cost).
Some factors that increase the multiplier are:
- Whether there are any aggravating conditions in the accident, such as drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs
- The severity your injuries
- The time of recovery
- Whether the injury is permanent or just temporary
Take a common sense approach when you look at the case. If your out-of-pocket monetary expenses are high compared to the injuries, use a lower multiple. An example of this is if you had to go to the emergency room, you received a lot of treatment, your medical bills were high, but you were treated for minor injuries. On the other hand, if you had major injuries and your out-of-pocket expenses are low, use a higher multiple.
The “Per Diem” Method
Another way to determine your pain and suffering settlement is by giving it a per diem (per day) rate and adding it to your expenses.” Let’s use the example above. You had medical bills of $2,500 and a job-related income loss of $3,000, for a total of $8,000. Assume that you received treatment for a neck injury for three months, and you still had pain in your neck for two months after that. Using the per diem method, you assign an amount to each day that you suffered from your injuries. In this case it would be 6 months.
When you are asked, how did calculate your pain and suffering number, use your actual income figures to account for damages of the time you were in active treatment. Your reasoning is that dealing with your injury is at least as difficult as your regular job. And it’s a valuation method you can use when your case goes to court.
In court, the multiplier method is not formally recognized. You can’t stand in front of a judge and tell him you want four times your expenses. Judges will award you the settlement they deem fair and adequate for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Therefore, you can use the per diem to explain to a judge what you are claiming.
Putting the Pieces Together
The best way to evaluate your settlement value is to use both methods: multiple of expenses and per diem. Then use common sense to determine what a reasonable number is for your pain and suffering claim. As an example, fenders benders could be worth $500-$3000 and major accidents could be worth $15,000-$35,000.