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One of the most common questions we get from potential clients is: How much is the average car accident worth?
The answer to that question is often not what the asker expected, because, in truth, so many unique aspects in every accident make a one-size-fits-all answer impossible. How much insurance does the at-fault party have? How severe were the claimant’s injuries? Was the claim resolved through a settlement or litigation, and when?
While all of these factors ultimately determine how much compensation the claimant receives, one factor appears to have the biggest influence on the amount of money a claimant can obtain for the expenses and impacts of their injury: Is the claimant receiving assistance and guidance from an attorney?
In this post, we explain the importance of having an attorney to seek the maximum amount of compensation available to you. If you plan to go ahead with a claim, an experienced car accident lawyer can answer your legal questions during a free case evaluation.
Individuals often feel tempted to file a car accident claim on their own because they worry about how much it would cost to seek the services of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Going into this process without an attorney is often a mistake because:
California allows individuals who were injured in a car accident that someone else’s carelessness or recklessness caused to seek compensation from the at-fault party (generally through their auto liability insurance policy) for both the economic and psychological impacts of the accident.
In the personal injury claims process, damages means “compensation for harm.”
While having an attorney is the most important factor in collecting the maximum amount of compensation available in your case, other issues can affect how much your claim is worth, discussed below.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than 16.6 percent of drivers in California are uninsured. The problem with this, aside from violating the state’s motor vehicle laws, is that insurance pays most car accident settlements and awards.
While you may file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver and even obtain a court judgment in your favor, uninsured drivers do not usually have the money to pay for another person’s injury expenses out-of-pocket. Collecting these judgments is often a slow and difficult process.
This is one of those factors that immediately makes sense to most people.
With some exceptions, generally, the more severe your injury is, the more likely you are to:
All of the above-listed issues are associated with more severe injuries that result in higher valued cases.
A highly educated professional at the peak of their career will generally have a higher-valued car accident claim than a young person with no working experience or a retired person who no longer earns an income. This does not reflect the importance of one life over another, but simply how income affects case value. Lost income is a recoverable damage, as is lost earning capacity, which you calculate using your income before the accident. This means that more income may result in a higher economic damage claim.
The personal injury claims process can take a while. In California, claimants have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.
However, before even filing the lawsuit:
Settlement negotiations begin when an insurance adjuster makes their initial settlement offer. Negotiations can continue until you agree to the terms of a settlement offer—with the guidance of your attorney, of course—or until the court delivers a verdict. Just because you must file a lawsuit within two years does not mean the case will take that long to resolve.
It is not usually difficult to obtain a settlement offer from an insurance company, particularly if their insured was liable for causing your injury. Obtaining a fair settlement, however, can be a different story. Often insurance adjusters don’t start making fair settlement offers until the case is ready for trial and they face an uncertain outcome or a likely loss.
An experienced accident attorney can provide you with the information and guidance you need to understand the value of your case and the pros and cons of accepting any settlement you receive so you make the decision that best meets your needs.
Look for a car accident lawyer who feels comfortable fighting for your right to obtain the maximum amount of compensation available for as long as it takes through settlement negotiations or litigation. You may want to avoid a lawyer who pressures you to take a quick settlement or who won’t continue fighting when the other party makes a settlement offer that you find unacceptable.
We can only say that if you want the most you can get out of your claim, it may take time.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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