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How much do car accidents usually settle for?

One of the first questions most people have for their attorneys after an accident is what their case may settle for.

An experienced car accident lawyer will be able to answer that question. He or she will look at a number of different factors related to the case. This includes things like the amount of damage to their client’s vehicle. It also includes medical bills and lost wages caused by the crash. Using this information, and their experience with similar cases, your attorney will be able to estimate what your case may be worth.

But if you were to ask a lawyer what the average car accident settles for, you’re unlikely to get a single answer. Because each case is unique, and the amount they settle for is based on so many different factors, there is no average settlement.

If you’ve recently been the victim of a car accident, keep reading to find out how car accident settlements are calculated.

 

What is the Average Cost of a Car Accident?

 

Photo by Clark Van Der Beken

It’s difficult to identify an average settlement for a car accident. But determining the average cost of damage and medical bills caused by car crashes is easier to calculate.

Every year, more than 6 million car accidents occur on U.S. roads.

Some of these accidents are minor. Consider a fender bender or a slow-speed collision. Also factored into this number of wrecks are those that don’t cause enough damage to even require a police report. Vehicle owners may even choose not to repair the damage if it's very minor or only cosmetic. In contrast, major collisions can total a vehicle, causing tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

The average car accident causes around $3,321 in property damage.

Besides damage to vehicles, medical bills also drive up the cost of car accidents. On average, auto liability claims for bodily damages total $15,443.

Both vehicle damages and medical bills are factored into the settlements. However, these expenses are not the only ones that go into determining the compensation that a personal injury lawyer might seek for their client.

 

Factors That Go Into Determining a Car Accident Settlement

 

Photo by Scott Graham

There are a number of factors that go into determining what a car accident settlement is worth. These damages are divided into two distinct categories; compensatory damages and punitive damages.

IN THIS SECTION:

  • What Are Compensatory Damages?

  • What are General Compensatory Damages?

  • What Are Punitive Damages?

 

What Are Compensatory Damages?

The first category of damages that go into determining a settlement’s value is compensatory damages. This category actually covers the majority of damages that may fall under a settlement. Because so many different types of expenses fall under this category, it is often divided further into two additional categories; special compensatory damages and general compensatory damages.

Damages under both categories are those that can be paid to reimburse a victim for damages that they have suffered.

Many of the most common damages fall under the “special” category. This includes things like medical bills, vehicle repairs, and lost wages as a direct result of the accident. Some other special damages include:

  • The cost of an ambulance ride
  • Property damage beyond vehicle repairs
  • Unexpected childcare
  • Ongoing medical care
  • Future lost wages
  • The price of missed college courses

What are General Compensatory Damages?

Calculating the total cost of medical bills, while time-consuming, is fairly simple. From the price of the initial ambulance ride to the session fees for ongoing physical therapy or medications, all you’ll need to do is add up each of the individual bills.

General compensatory damages are harder to calculate. That’s because these damages don’t come with a bill, even though they are just as real as other medical costs.

Some of the most common general compensatory damages are pain and suffering and mental anguish. Physical pain may be caused by injuries suffered as a result of the accident. Suffering and mental anguish can come both from dealing with those injuries and the ongoing pain they cause and from the mental pain of the crash itself.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a common symptom that car accident victims suffer, especially after high-speed collisions or those that cause significant injuries. Dealing with PTSD can become a life-long struggle, and may lead to additional complications, like depression or anxiety, and may affect a person’s day-to-day life and ability to do things like care for children or hold down a job.

If someone dies as a result of the car accident, loss of companionship may also be a general compensatory damage factored into a settlement. Loss of companionship is a monetary value assigned to the loss of another person’s wages and emotional support.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are far rarer than compensatory damages. However, in certain circumstances, these types of damages may be factored into a car accident settlement.

If an attorney can prove that the person who caused the accident was acting in a way that was malicious, punitive damages may be awarded.

Because car accidents are often, by definition, accidents, punitive damages are rare in settlements. They are more common in cases of aggravated battery or sexual assault. However, if a person causes a car accident on purpose as a way of attacking another individual, punitive damages could be sought by the victim.

 

Getting a Fair Settlement After a Car Accident

 

Car accidents often carry emotional, physical, and financial burdens for victims. Alongside dealing with injuries and the pain that they cause, victims are also faced with losing their vehicle, missing work, or having to find emergency childcare. Even a small wreck can lead to years of dealing with an injury. For some, car accidents lead to life-long disabilities.

Getting a fair settlement after a car accident can help to lessen the financial burden that a wreck causes to yourself and your family. While the money can’t erase the pain, it can go a long way towards helping you to get the right treatment, and deal with other consequences of the accident.

Related Content: Top 5 most common types of car crashes in Utah

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