Calculating a car accident settlement is a complex process. Although you might have claims adjusters pressuring you to settle fast, it’s important to carefully consider all of the damages and losses that you’ve sustained. Once you accept a settlement offer, you can never return for additional cash. This remains true even if something was overlooked or if the need for additional medical treatment arises. If you’ve recently been in a car accident in Los Angeles and your case won’t be going to trial, the following is everything you need to know about negotiating a fair settlement.
Claims Adjusters Aren’t on Your Team
Claims adjusters are known for having friendly dispositions and outstanding negotiation skills. Their sole job is to limit the amount of money that their employers have to pay. Thus, it’s never in their best interests to point out things that you might have missed. For instance, they won’t tell you that you can get reimbursed for everything you’ve spent on over-the-counter medical supplies if you’ve only submitted your hospital bills. Instead, adjusters generally make lowball offers that include only the most basic forms of loss. Their offers include dollar amounts for:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Physical therapy costs
- Caregiving expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
If you’ve never negotiated a settlement for a personal injury claim before, an initial offer from a claims adjuster might seem incredibly appealing. However, it’s always in your best interest to:
- Avoid settling your claim until you’re absolutely certain that your treatment is done
- Diligently document your spending throughout the recovery process
- Limit communication with claims adjusters until you’ve obtained personal injury legal representation of your own
Several Factors That Could Make Your Car Accident Settlement Worth More
Everything that a claims adjuster accounts for in your car accident settlement offer will be accounted for by your attorney. However, there may be other things about your car accident that increase the value of your claim. These include:
- Humiliation as the result of your injuries
- Fear of driving following an accident or an official diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Disfiguring injuries
- Severe depression
Moreover, while claims adjusters account for lost wages, personal injury attorneys additionally account for lost professional opportunities. Some Los Angeles drivers aren’t able to return to work even after their injuries have healed given that their jobs require them to have functional automobiles. If your accident and the resulting injuries have left you unable to perform essential tasks relating to your career or have required you to modify your work duties in any other way, these damages and the changes they have wrought should be assigned a monetary value as well. A skilled car accident attorney will consider everything about your accident that has had a short or long-term impact on your life’s quality.
Your Los Angeles Car Accident Settlement Should Reflect the Full Extent of Your Property Damage
An initial offer from a claims adjuster will include money for the repair or replacement costs for your damaged vehicle. But what about any items within your auto that were damaged beyond repair? Moderate to severe accidents always mean that child car seats need to be replaced. (However, many car seat manuals will indicate that any and all accidents necessitate the replacement of the car seat, so be sure to consult your manual even after a minor accident.) The same is also true for many pet crates and pet safety seats. If you hastily accept the very first offer that you’re given, these are examples of commonly overlooked things that you will have to pay to replace on your own.
How Adjusters and Attorneys Arrive at Settlement Numbers
There are multiple factors that determine how much a car accident claim is worth. It is not uncommon for a car accident settlement to be limited by the amount of liability coverage that’s available. When the responsible party’s coverage limits are low, there may not be a sufficient amount available for covering all general and special damages.
When calculating a car accident settlement in Los Angeles, attorneys and adjusters account for the type and severity of injuries sustained. A person with a moderate case of whiplash won’t receive the same settlement amount as someone who will permanently live with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Factors such as required treatments, healing times, and the long-term effects of a person’s injuries are considered as well.
Liability is another key factor considered. This is the amount of responsibility or fault that you’re ultimately assigned for an accident. After assessing the official accident report and other evidence, insurance companies may determine you to be 30 percent at fault, 10 percent at fault, etc. If you are determined to be 20 percent responsible for an accident, you can reasonably expect to collect 80 percent of your damages.
When submitting settlement demands to insurance companies, personal injury attorneys assign values for both general damages and special damages. General damages include lost wages, medical bills, and automotive damages among other things. Special damages do not have a set monetary value and include things like your loss of consortium, pain, suffering, and mental anguish.
Compensatory and Punitive Damages
In the State of California, car accident victims can seek both compensatory damages and punitive damages. Not every accident victim receives punitive damages. While compensatory damages are compensation for both general and special damages, punitive damages are monies that are awarded as punishment for the responsible party. Ultimately, they’re intended to deter reckless behaviors such as:
- Driving while under the influence
- Driving while distracted
- Overtaking or engaging in other aggressive behaviors
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
Punitive damages are more likely to be awarded in instances in which the responsible party has a known history of intentional, reckless behavior, such as a person with multiple DUI convictions, and in instances in which reckless acts have had serious or long-term consequences for the injured party.
No Two Auto Accidents Are Exactly the Same
Never make the mistake of attempting to negotiate your own car accident settlement based upon the experiences of another Los Angeles driver. No two car accidents are exactly alike. Some people survive these events looking, feeling, and functioning very much as they did beforehand. Others exit these events with TBIs, radically altered physical abilities, and lingering psychological damage. You may find that even sitting behind the wheel of your automobile makes you feel panicked and out of sorts.
Never Accept a Car Accident Settlement Before Taking Care of Your Physical and Mental Health
It’s also important to do your due diligence when it comes to taking care of your physical and emotional health. A single visit to the emergency room doesn’t guarantee that all of your injuries will be identified. It’s always best to follow up with your regular doctor and to work with a chiropractor or other specialist to learn more about any musculoskeletal or myofascial changes that have occurred. You should additionally consult with a mental health professional if you feel overwhelmed, stressed, excessively anxious, or overly depressed. Although car accidents are certainly stressful, extremely negative emotions that linger are worth investigating.
Los Angeles Drivers Don’t Always Have to Go to Trial to Get Fair Compensation
Negotiating a car accident settlement without going to court can save all parties both money and time. Many Los Angeles motorists accept settlement offers outside of the courtroom and most are given fair compensation. However, if insurance companies aren’t willing to account for all of your damages and losses, it may be necessary to go to trial. No matter what the case may be, our personal injury attorneys can review your accident, your medical records, and all other case details to make sure that nothing is being neglected or overlooked. Schedule your free case review with our firm today.