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How Much Is a Car Accident Claim Worth?

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Main Blog How Much Is a Car Accident Claim Worth?

Did a car accident hurt you? Are you worried about how you will pay your medical bills and make up for lost income while you recover? If so, one of the biggest questions on your mind is likely: How much money can I get from a car accident claim?

The truth is that the value of a car accident claim can depend on how badly the accident injured you, the cost of your medical care, whether you had to miss work, and how much it damaged your car.

Let’s take a closer look at how a car accident lawyer determines the worth of an auto accident claim.

Key Takeaways

Medical Expenses


  • One of the biggest parts of any car accident claim is the cost of your medical care. Even a short ambulance ride and ER visit can result in bills totaling thousands of dollars. But that’s often just the beginning.
  • Depending on your injuries, you may need ongoing doctor visits, diagnostic tests like X-rays or MRIs, prescription medication, physical therapy, medical equipment, and even surgery. Over time, these medical expenses can really add up.
  • See a doctor right away after an accident, even if you don’t think the accident seriously hurt you. Some injuries, like whiplash or concussions, may not show symptoms immediately. A doctor can identify and treat any injuries. They also document the link between the crash and your medical issues.
  • Keep track of every medical bill, receipt, and insurance statement related to the accident. This paper trail will document your medical costs when filing a claim. Also, hold onto records of any future medical care you will need. Your claim should factor in not just current bills but anticipated future expenses, too.

Loss of Income

Missing work is another big financial hit many car accident victims face. While you’re laid up recovering from the crash, those paychecks you rely on to pay the bills can come to a halt.

Whether you work full-time, part-time, are self-employed, or have some other working arrangement, you should recover any income you lose because of the accident as part of your claim. This applies not just to wages already lost, but to future income you stand to lose as well.

For example, if your doctor says you need to stay home from work for the next two months, your claim should seek money to make up for the paychecks you will miss during that time. Likewise, if your injuries force you to take a lower-paying job, you can seek the difference in income.

In worst case scenarios, car accident injuries can prevent you from working at all. In these situations, you may recover loss of earning capacity damages – money to compensate for the income you likely would have earned had you keep working.

Proving lost wages often involves providing recent pay stubs, a letter from your employer, tax returns and other documentation of your income before the accident. If you are self-employed, you may need to show business records and invoices.

For loss of future income, you may need expert analysis to calculate the value of your lost earning potential over time.

Pain and Suffering

Not all car accident injuries appear to the naked eye. Many people experience significant pain and emotional distress after a crash. While harder to quantify, these real damages deserve compensation.

Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the physical pain, discomfort, inconvenience, emotional anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life the accident causes. The amount depends on the severity of your injuries and the degree to which they negatively impact your life.

For example, if you broke your leg in multiple places and face months of excruciating recovery and rehabilitation, your pain and suffering would likely be valued higher than if you got a minor sprain that heals completely within days.

There are no set rules for calculating pain and suffering damages. Different insurance companies and juries may arrive at different amounts. One common method is to multiply your economic losses (medical bills and lost income) by a number.

Document how your injuries affect you. Keep a daily journal logging your pain levels, physical limitations, sleep issues, emotional state, and activities you can no longer participate in. The more detail, the better. This compelling evidence can help support your claim for fair pain and suffering compensation.

A money bag labeled "Income" with a downward-pointing arrow.

Vehicle Damage

The cost to repair or replace your damaged vehicle after an accident can cost thousands, especially with newer models. Even if your car looks okay from the outside, it may have sustained expensive mechanical or structural damage.

Do not repair your vehicle until your lawyer inspects the damage.

Then, get a trusted mechanic or body shop to evaluate your vehicle as soon as possible after the crash. They can assess the full extent of the damage and give you an estimate for repairs. In some cases, the insurance company may want to send out its own adjuster, too.

If your vehicle is totaled, meaning the cost of repairs exceeds its value, you may receive the fair market value of the vehicle before the crash. This is the amount your car would have sold for, not the amount you paid for it originally, minus depreciation for age and wear and tear.

While your car is in the shop or you’re searching for a replacement, you’ll likely need to rent a vehicle to get around. The cost of a rental car should also be included in your accident claim. Be sure to save every invoice and receipt.

Your lawyer can help make sure you get proper reimbursement for your damaged vehicle. Don’t let the insurance company lowball you or pressure you into accepting an inadequate repair or valuation.

Other Damages

Medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and car repair costs are some of the main building blocks of an accident claim. But they are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ways an accident can cost you financially.

There may be other out-of-pocket expenses you incur because of the crash, like rides to medical appointments, childcare while you recover, or household services you can no longer perform yourself. If the accident aggravates an existing injury or health condition, you can claim the cost of additional treatment required.

Consider future anticipated losses. For example, if you will need surgery in two years because of the accident, factor in that cost. Likewise, if your injuries will prevent you from advancing in your career, you may recover compensation for loss of future earning potential.

Every car accident is different, so there’s no set dollar amount your claim is guaranteed to be worth. The unique facts of your case will determine what constitutes full and fair compensation in your situation. The key is accounting for ALL the economic and non-economic consequences of the crash.

Vehicle involved in a traffic accident

Insurance Company Tactics

Another big variable in the value of a car accident claim is the insurance company handling it. Insurance adjusters have a bag of tricks they use to minimize payouts and protect their bottom line.

One common tactic is to request a recorded statement from you about what happened. They’re hoping to get you to say something that can be used to pin blame on you and reduce your claim value. Let your lawyer do the talking.

The adjuster may also request your medical records far beyond what’s relevant to your claim in hopes of finding any pre-existing conditions on which to blame your injury. Or they may hire a private investigator to spy on you in public. If they catch you doing any physical activity on camera, they’ll argue you aren’t really hurt.

Perhaps the most troubling insurance company tactic is to simply deny claims and dare you to sue them. They know that many people will give up a valid claim because of the stress, time commitment, and cost.

Other times, the adjuster may admit you have a claim but make a lowball settlement offer in hopes you’ll accept it out of desperation.

An experienced car accident lawyer knows all these underhanded strategies and can fight back against them. It levels the playing field to have a knowledgeable advocate in your corner during the claims process.

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What Is the Average Car Accident Settlement?

According to recent data, the average car accident settlement is around $20,000. However, settlement amounts can vary widely, from the low four figures to over a million dollars. It all depends on the extent of the losses and the particular facts involved.

For example, a settlement for a minor fender bender resulting in a sprained wrist may only amount to around $2,500. On the flip side, a devastating crash resulting in spinal cord damage or brain injury can easily have a settlement value in the six or seven figures.

Rather than focusing on averages, have a car accident lawyer evaluate your case. They can give you a far more accurate estimate of your unique claim. Most initial consultations are free, so there’s no cost to getting an expert’s take on your situation.

How Long Does a Car Accident Claim Take to Settle?

Like settlement amounts, the time it takes to resolve a car accident claim can vary substantially. Some clear-cut claims with minor injuries may settle in a matter of weeks. More complicated claims with serious injuries often take several months and sometimes even years.

The biggest factor is usually the severity of your injuries. If you recover completely within a few months, the claim may move more quickly. That’s because it’s easier to know the full extent of your losses. If you suffer catastrophic injuries requiring long-term care, valuing your claim is tougher.

Another key factor is whether the insurance company accepts liability right away or fights the claim. A lawsuit will typically take longer than a settlement, but sometimes, filing suit is necessary to get the compensation you deserve.

While the timeline isn’t entirely within your control, there are things you can do to help your claim progress:

  • Get prompt medical treatment and follow all of your doctor’s orders.
  • Gather strong evidence to support your claim, like photos of the accident scene and injuries.
  • Keep detailed records of all expenses and communication related to your accident.
  • Return your lawyer’s calls and provide the requested paperwork right away.
  • Don’t post about your accident, injuries, or activities on social media.

The most important thing is that you get the full amount you are owed, even if it takes a bit more time. Accepting the first settlement offer just to get things over with quickly can cost you dearly in the long run.

How to Choose the Right Car Accident Lawyer

If you’ve decided to get a lawyer for your car accident claim, the next step is finding the right one. There’s no shortage of personal injury firms out there competing for your business. How can you choose?

A good starting point is seeking referrals from friends and family. If someone you trust has had a positive experience with a car accident lawyer, that can be a strong endorsement. Online reviews and attorney rating services like Avvo can also provide helpful insights.

Once you have a list of potential attorneys, set up a free initial consultation with each one. Most firms offer this as a no-risk way for accident victims to get their questions answered and see if the attorney is a good fit. Come prepared with relevant documents and a list of questions.

Here are some key things to look for as you evaluate car accident lawyers:

  • Substantial experience handling car accident cases
  • A track record of success in obtaining high-dollar settlements and verdicts
  • Availability to give your case the personal time and attention it deserves
  • Transparent and respectful communication style
  • Willingness to take your case to trial if needed
  • Positive reviews from past clients
  • Contingency fee structure (no fee unless you recover money)

Above all, trust your gut. The right lawyer for you is someone you feel comfortable with and confident can get you the best possible outcome. You want a legal partner who puts you at ease while fighting hard.

Get Help With Your Car Accident Claim Today

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash, don’t wait to get the legal help you need. The sooner you have a knowledgeable lawyer, the better protected your rights will be. Contact a trusted personal injury attorney today for a free consultation. Let a car accident lawyer fight for the full and fair recovery you deserve.

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