Car accidents have three results, namely bodily injuries, wrongful death, and property damages. Often, injured crash victims suffer two out of the three, and they are entitled to settlements. There are several types of auto accident settlements available to victims.
However, while some get fair compensation, others get the maximum compensation. The third group of people gets less than what they deserve because they fail to negotiate well. It could also be that the insurance company coerced them to settle quickly.
This article analyzes the different factors that affect accident compensation. We will also cover how to maximize a car accident settlement in Texas. If you suffer an accident injury, waste no time beginning your claim for damages. You can contact our experienced car accident attorneys at Glenn Law for legal advice.
What Are the Types of Auto Accident Compensation?
As common as motor vehicle collisions are, not everyone is aware that they are entitled to a settlement. Some incur medical bills that are beyond their insurance coverage and spend years paying off the debt. This shouldn't be the case if you are not the fault party to the accident.
Personal injury claims are known for three types of damages. They are economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. The first two covers the following compensation:
- Medical Expenses: Following an accident, an injured victim would require medical treatment. Getting treated often amounts to thousands of dollars in bills, especially for severe injuries. When making a compensation claim, ensure you include past, current, and future costs of treatment. Accident lawyers often advise that victims wait until they attain Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) before asking for a settlement. However, it is better to start the process on time due to the time limit set by the Statute of Limitations for filing lawsuits.
- Pain and Suffering: Injuries like broken bones, spinal cord injuries, or head injuries can be excruciating. They might affect how you live and enjoy life. Thus, the law ensures you get a fair settlement for your pain and suffering. You can also get adequate compensation for loss of enjoyment of life.
- Lost Wage: Asides from leaving you in a world of pain, car accidents might limit your ability to work. In more severe cases, it can prevent you from working for the rest of your life. When this happens, you can make a financial recovery from the responsible party.
- Property Damage: If the auto accident totals your car and damages other personal property in the vehicle, you can include them in your accident claim. The insurance adjuster would determine the worth of the property when the accident happened and pay the equivalent.
- Out-of-Pocket Expenses: If you had to make some out-of-pocket expenses while negotiating with the fault driver's insurer, you could recover the amount spent. It usually covers things like trips to the hospital, renting a vehicle, getting a new phone, etc.
- Emotional Distress: A motor vehicle accident often leaves victims with post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of mental anguish. You can go through bouts of depression and anxiety and even suffer nightmares. Once a mental health care provider confirms that you're going through emotional distress, you will receive compensation for it.
Punitive damages are not part of the settlement negotiation. You can only get this compensation through an accident lawsuit. Insurance providers do not award punitive damages; only courts have the power to do so. They are awarded against the fault driver for gross misconduct or negligence to deter them from committing the act next time.
Most crash victims are not aware of this. They accept auto accident settlement from insurers without considering if their case is eligible for punitive damages. They shortchange themselves as insurance companies will not pay beyond the insurance limit of the fault party. This is why we advise crash victims to work with an experienced attorney.
What Is the Average Settlement for a Car Accident in Texas?
According to the Center for Disease Control, about 38,000 die from motor vehicle accidents each year in the United States. In 2018, traffic crash deaths resulted in $55 billion in medical and work loss costs. In Texas, traffic crash wrongful death and loss stood at $5.70 billion.
These numbers show that car accidents are costly. But what is the average car accident settlement amount for car crashes in Texas? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The money a person gets in an accident settlement depends on several factors. But generally, it ranges from thousands, tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands.
Below, we look at the factors that affect a settlement sum.
The Severity of the Injury
The severity of your injuries determines the outcome of the injury claim settlement. A person with a spinal cord injury will get more money than someone who suffered a minor injury like bruises. Similarly, people who suffer a permanent injury that results in permanent disability will also get more.
The Extent of Your Damages
This refers to financial losses and non-financial losses. The more you spend on medical bills, the more compensation you'll get. The damage to your car also determines the settlement sum. For instance, the money an injury victim whose car got totaled will get is not the same as someone whose car only had a minor fender bender.
The At-Fault Party's Insurance Coverage
The policy limit of the responsible party's auto insurance coverage determines how much compensation you will receive. Suppose your damages amount to $30,000, and the fault driver's insurance limit is $20,000. You will only get $20,000 as compensation.
The only way to get the balance is by filing an auto accident lawsuit. But a court action is not a guarantee you'll get the outstanding amount. This is because most people cannot pay for damages out-of-pocket. Another way to get your money in this instance is if you have underinsured motorist coverage.
In Texas, the law mandates drivers to have the following coverage:
- $30,000 for bodily injury liability coverage
- $60,000 for liability coverage for all bodily injuries in an accident
- $25,000 for property damage liability coverage
Always find out the insurance coverage of the fault party before starting the settlement negotiation. Work with a legal professional to ensure you get everything you're entitled to from the negligent driver.
How To Maximize a Car Accident Settlement
When it comes to getting a fair settlement, the first thing to note is that claims adjusters are not your friend. No matter how friendly and kind they appear, their bottom line is to protect their client, the insurance company. As such, you must follow the steps listed below to give yourself a chance of getting fair compensation.
- Present Strong Evidence
Insurance adjusters and members of the jury rely on the evidence. The quality of your proof determines the outcome of your accident injury claim or personal injury lawsuit. Thus, ensure you keep a detailed journal of your expenses. Get your medical provider to give you a comprehensive medical report and obtain a police report too.
If there were witnesses at the accident scene, present their statements, and get them to testify, if possible. Strong evidence gets you more money, and a weak one, not so much. If you don't know how to go about it, get a personal injury attorney to handle it.
- Get Medical Expert Testimony
If you had to undergo spinal fusion surgery or neck fusion surgery, you need expert testimony. The expert will testify as to the nature of your injury, cost, and impact on your life. If future damages will arise from your injury that would need more treatment, the expert will point this out. All this information would add to the value of your accident injury settlement.
- Value Your Claim Fully
It is prudent to get an independent claim valuation before commencing an auto accident claim. This way, you know the worth and value of your claim and won't get cheated by the insurance company. An accident injury attorney can advise you on this and get a claims adjuster to asses your losses.
- Calculate Future Damages
Crash victims often focus on the now and forget about the future. In their bid to get a quick settlement, they fail to calculate future damages. The latter includes future wage loss and medical bills. If your injury requires physical therapy and medical equipment, ensure you have it in the amount, you're negotiating for. If you don't, you'll handle the cost yourself.
- Stay off Social Media
Insurance representatives want to pay very little money as compensation. So, they comb the evidence to find a way to do this. If the evidence yields nothing, they'll focus the light on your life. This is why posting about your accident on social media platforms is a bad idea. Adjusters can misrepresent and misinterpret your post in a bid to back you into a corner and offer you peanuts. Even if a news outlet reports your accident, avoid commenting until the end of the claims process.
- Get an Accident Law Firm Involved
In other words, when commencing negotiations for an accident injury settlement, lawyer up! You need to get an accident victim lawyer involved as soon as possible. It will make the insurance company take your claim seriously and make an excellent first impression. Also, the adjuster is less likely to try to bully a licensed attorney into submission.
Furthermore, even if the negotiation process drags out, the personal injury lawyer will commence a personal injury claim in court. They ensure your case doesn't get statute-barred by doing the preceding, and you'll get compensated eventually.
How Do You Respond to a Low Settlement Offer?
As personal injury lawyers, we know that dealing with insurance companies is one of the most challenging aspects of a personal injury claim. After going through the stress of proofing the responsible party's liability, you might get a low settlement offer. If it's not the latter, the insurer may apply other bad faith tactics to get you to settle in time.
When either of the two happens, you need to know how to respond. If faced with a low settlement offer, do the following:
- Remain polite and professional. Getting angry and yelling at the insurance adjuster will not help your claim. Rather they might use it to paint you as an unreliable witness, thereby putting you at a greater disadvantage during settlement negotiations.
- Ask questions and try to determine why the insurance claims adjuster evaluated your case the way they did. Be specific about your questions, and use the response you get as a guide to making a counteroffer. Their answer would also help you decide whether to file an accident lawsuit or not.
- Present the facts; this is why you should document the entire process. Show evidence of your injury, medical expenses, lost wages, car repair cost, etc. Also, present the independent evaluation you carried out. All this evidence makes it harder to dispute whether you deserve a higher settlement.
- Respond in writing and not over the phone. Written communication between you and the insurance company serves as evidence of all that transpired. In it, state why you disagree with the claims adjuster, and as always, back it up with evidence.
- Lastly, do not fall for common insurance tactics. Sometimes what appears to be a fair settlement is the minimum amount you should get. Thus, keep negotiating as no law mandates you take the first, second, or third offer. It's better to start the negotiation process with a figure in mind and stick with it.
What's the Difference Between a Settlement and a Jury Award?
Injury victims use the words settlement and jury award interchangeably, but they are different. A settlement is what you or your personal injury lawyer arrive at with an insurance company. It is a lump-sum payment, and you can't demand more once you sign off on it.
Settlements come into play after filing an insurance claim or before a personal injury lawsuit goes to trial. Once trial commences, what you get at the end is a jury award (judgment sum). The jury award is adopted as the judgment of the court and is binding on both parties.
Need Help With Your Car Accident Settlement in Texas? Contact Glenn Law
Getting a car accident settlement is easier, faster, and less exhausting when you work with an accident attorney. This is what Glenn Law is here for. The combined years of experience of our lawyers make us the best people to represent your case. We work on a contingency basis and will demand no upfront payment. Get in touch with Glenn Law Firm today for a free case review.