By: Mitchell Williams, Esq., Harris & Graves
Car accidents range in severity from a minor fender bender that’s little more than a few scratches in the paint job to catastrophic incidents where people die or are left permanently disabled. Between these extremes is a huge range of factors that affect the value of a settlement. It’s not surprising that, when involved in an accident, many people are curious to know how much they can get in a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not at all cut-and-dried. There are many factors that go into each case, and every lawsuit has its own unique qualities. Let’s look at how much you can expect from a car accident case, and explore why having a car accident lawyer increases your odds for significant settlement.
Where Does the Money Come From?
The first thing to understand is where the money comes from for your case. For the most part, the settlement you receive comes from the insurance company of the other driver. In some cases, if the other driver wasn’t insured or didn’t have enough insurance, your insurance company can help to cover the difference, if you have uninsured motorist coverage or under-insured motorist coverage.
If the other driver is wealthy enough, such as a driver for a large corporation, they might pay out the damages directly. For the most part, however, you’ll be dealing with insurance companies, both yours and the defendants.
What Am I Entitled to Receive?
When you get seriously injured in a car wreck, you can be eligible to receive benefits for a wide variety of injuries. The easiest to value are those related to property damage, medical bills and lost wages and compensation. You know what it costs to fix your car. You know what your medical bills have been so far, and you can estimate what your future costs will be. You know how much you get paid for your job, and again, you can estimate what you stand to get paid in the future.
What about less obvious costs? It’s much harder to put a value on the pain and suffering you’ve endured, on the value of the lost relationships, comfort, companionship, and consortium you’ve faced. It isn’t as easy to value the mental and emotional trauma you endure. In cases where the other driver was acting in a malicious fashion, was drunk or was grossly negligent, punitive damages may even be appropriate.
How Are These Things Valued?
Generally speaking, special damages is a term that refers to those damages that are easy to value. Other damages, called general damages, are usually valued using a formula that applies a multiplier to your special damages.
Unfortunately, just about everyone uses a different formula, and nobody wants to tell each other what their formula is or why they use it. It’s all but a foregone conclusion, however, that your attorney will use a high-value multiplier, while the other driver’s insurance company will use a lowball multiplier. All of this is part and parcel of the negotiations process to arrive at your eventual settlement.
How Your Car Accident Lawyer Negotiates Settlement
Your accident case will begin when you file your lawsuit and issue a demand letter to the defendant. This letter will outline, as you see it, the facts of the case and the value of your injuries, broken down in as much detail as possible. The other driver, in the best case scenario, would agree and pay what you ask.
Unfortunately, this almost never happens. Instead, representatives of the defendant—their attorneys or insurance agents—will respond with a very low counteroffer, punching holes in your story and presenting their point of view.
From here, a back-and-forth dance will take place. You will make an offer, they will make a counteroffer. You’ll come down a bit, they’ll come up a bit. Eventually, if all goes well, you’ll reach a middle ground that satisfies both parties.
What’s the Average Value?
Unfortunately, there’s no average settlement value. Every case is completely unique, and it depends on the severity of the damage done. If you’d like more information about how much your specific case is worth, your best bet is to talk with a respected and experienced car accident lawyer. The right attorney will know how to value your injuries both special and general and can negotiate a solid settlement on your behalf.
For many years, the team at The Law Offices of Blaine Barrilleaux has negotiated cases like yours for clients across the Lafayette, Louisiana area. If you’ve been hurt in an accident like this, contact us for a free consultation today!
About The Author
Mitchell Williams is a car accident lawyer in Columbia, South Carolina and the managing attorney at Harris & Graves. Harris & Graves, P.A., is a personal injury law firm servicing Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, and Florence, South Carolina. Mitchell is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law and is licensed to practice law in both the U.S. District Court as well as the District Court of South Carolina.