If you’re like most people who have been injured in car accidents, “How much is my car accident case worth?” will be one of the first questions you ask during your initial consultation with a car accident lawyer. It’s a reasonable question for anyone who is recovering after a motor vehicle accident and stressing over medical bills and lost income. But, there’s another reason so many injury victims ask this question: they’ve been offered a settlement by the responsible party’s insurance company, and they don’t know whether it’s fair.
Here’s what you need to know about determining how much a car accident claim is worth and when you need help to get fair compensation.
Factors In Determining the Value of a Car Accident Claim
When you hear about a car accident settlement or a jury verdict in a motor vehicle accident case, you typically hear a single number. It may seem a bit of a mystery where that number came from, and why some car accident claims are worth more than others.
The jury–or the attorneys negotiating a claim–don’t simply choose a number. Instead, the settlement or jury award is based on specific types of damages available under Texas law.
Types of Car Accident Damages
Economic damages represent actual financial losses. These losses may take the form of costs incurred, or of lost income. Some examples include:
- Medical expenses, including rehabilitation and therapy
- Lost wages while undergoing treatment and recovering from the injury
- The cost of assistance required, such as household help to perform tasks while you are unable due to your injuries
- Anticipated future costs for ongoing medical care and assistance
- Anticipated lost future earnings
These damages are countable, and the goal is to compensate fully for actual monetary losses. Note, though, that if the injured party was partly responsible for the crash, damages may be reduced in proportion to his or her fault.
Determining economic damages may sound straightforward, but that isn’t always the case. For example, if you’re making a claim for lost or diminished future earning capacity, establishing how much you would likely have earned in the future had you not been injured and how much your earning capacity has declined will likely require both medical and economic experts. In this situation, having an experienced Texas car accident attorney and the right experts in your corner can make a significant difference in the ultimate value of your claim.
Non-economic damages are real losses suffered by the plaintiff, but of a type that doesn’t come with a clear price tag. Some common examples include pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Proving these losses and assigning a dollar value to them can be challenging, and the insurance company’s attorney may claim that you are exaggerating your suffering to try to increase compensation.
An insurance company making an offer directly to an accident victim will often ignore this type of damages, or offer a token amount on top of economic damages. Too often, people who are concerned about their medical expenses and keeping the bills paid during recovery are inclined to accept a quick settlement, but end up cheating themselves of fair compensation.
Punitive damages, also known as “exemplary” damages, are only available under special circumstances. Ordinary negligence is not sufficient to support a claim for punitive damages. Instead, they are awarded to punish the responsible party for actions that are so dangerous or irresponsible that there is a societal interest in penalizing them and discouraging similar action by others.
Variables in Determining Damages
Every car accident case is different. The best way to get an assessment of how much your claim may be worth is to speak with an experienced local car accident attorney. Some of the variables that may impact the value of a car accident claim include:
- The seriousness of the injury
- Whether there are long-term or permanent effects
- The extent and cost of medical care associated with the accident
- The need for assistance, equipment, and other investments after the accident (temporary or long-term)
- Pain, mental anguish, and other intangible losses
- The amount of income lost during your recovery
- Any permanent loss of income or diminishment of earning capacity
Many of these factors are impacted by other variables. For example, if you’re unable to return to work, or will suffer long-term pain, your age, life expectancy, and the number of years you might have expected to work had the accident not occurred will all factor in.
How likely your case is to settle favorably before trial and the ultimate value of your claim can also be impacted by factors you might not consider, such as:
- The county where the case is filed
- The insurance company involved on the responsible party’s side
- The attorneys on both sides of the case
These variables matter because juries in some counties tend to be more generous to injured parties than others, and insurance companies and their lawyers are aware of those differences and may factor them into settlement offers.
Let a Texas Car Accident Lawyer Assess Your Claim
The best way to learn more about the compensation you may be entitled to is to talk with an experienced local car accident attorney. A law firm that handles car accident claims in the county where your accident occurs can explain how each of the variables is likely to impact your case.
At the Law Offices of George Salinas, we have that experience. We offer free consultations to ensure that you have the information you need to make good decisions about your case. You can schedule yours right now by calling 210-225-0909, filling out our contact form.
If you found this post helpful, you may also be interested in: