Recovering proper financial compensation is a key factor in a car accident victim’s ability to return to some level of normalcy. Insurance settlements and litigation can lead to valuable financial resources on a car accident victim’s path to recovery.
When someone is injured in a car accident, it takes time and resources to recover from the physical, emotional, and financial damage. If you are considering an insurance settlement or are wondering if litigation is the better route for you, speaking with a car accident lawyer can provide valuable input about the benefits of each option. California car accidents can cause serious bodily injuries and property damage and in some cases death, so having a knowledgeable and skilled car accident lawyer on your side can be extremely beneficial for the outcome of your case.
Negotiating with the Insurance Company
California law requires a minimum level of car insurance for all drivers. This insurance is intended to cover damages, such as medical bills and property repair costs, in the event that an insured driver causes an accident. California’s minimum liability coverage presently is as follows:
- $15,000 for bodily injury or death per person;
- $30,000 total for bodily injury or death of all involved people; and
- $5,000 for any property damage caused by the driver.
While the state legally requires drivers carry these minimum amounts, it is often not nearly sufficient to cover the injuries and property damage in many accidents. Drivers can purchase additional coverage with higher limits, and it is a good idea to have substantially more than the required minimum coverage when insuring your vehicle. It is also recommended you purchase Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage to protect yourself and your loved ones from uninsured or underinsured drivers.
If you intend to negotiate with the negligent or at-fault driver’s insurance company to reach a settlement, you should keep in mind that the insurer does not have your best interests in mind. Insurance companies are profit-driven. Paying as little as possible for insurance settlements is one way they increase their profits.
The adjuster or insurance representative you speak with may seem like they care about you and your difficult situation, but they are motivated by the insurance company to keep costs low. Any settlement an insurance company offers you is likely to be far less than what you deserve.
Insurance companies have extensive financial resources and many lawyers working for them, so you are at a disadvantage if you try to navigate the negotiations alone. Working with a car accident lawyer ensures that you have a skilled advocate in motor vehicle accidents and personal injury law on your side negotiating with the insurer to get you the highest possible compensation.
Preparing for Litigation
It is not always possible to reach a settlement when you negotiate with the insurance company. When fair compensation is not offered, litigation may be the next step. Your car accident lawyer can determine this and file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf, which will include claims for all your injuries and property damages. Car accident lawsuits in California are complex, which is why a skilled personal injury attorney is crucial during this process.
Your attorney can take on all the legal tasks on your claim so you can focus on your recovery. Case investigation, gathering and reviewing medical records, obtaining police reports, speaking to witnesses, collecting documents from your employer, and filing all the necessary claim and legal paperwork on time are key parts of the case process your car accident lawyer can handle for you. They will know the best way to prepare a strong case for any upcoming litigation.
Just because a lawsuit is filed, that does not mean that it is too late for a settlement. As the legal process goes on, the car insurance company will often decide to increase its settlement offer. This frequently occurs in car accident cases. When this happens, you can decide to accept the increased settlement offer, negotiate further, or continue with the lawsuit.
Deciding on an Amount
Whether you settle or take the lawsuit through to the end, you will still need to determine what amount is appropriate for your injuries and losses. But how is that number reached? There are two broad categories of damages you can recover when asking for compensation: economic and non-economic damages.
These are damages to your pocketbook or wallet. They are simple to quantify or have an already-determined value are classified as economic damages. These include expenses like:
- Medical bills;
- Property damage;
- Vehicle repair cost;
- Lost income due to the accident;
- Estimated cost of ongoing medical care; and
- Wage loss and loss of future income
While economic damages are generally considered easy to place a value on, some expenses must be estimated. Reduced earning capacity and ongoing medical needs will significantly impact a car accident victim’s recovery and financial well-being, so calculating an accurate amount is crucial and obtaining proper medical support is necessary. Your car accident lawyer will be able to help you decide on the appropriate amount to claim.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate because they are not a set predetermined dollar amount. Regardless of their complicated nature, non-economic damages can and should be determined for inclusion in your total request for compensation. In California, these damages include the following:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish;
- Emotional distress;
- Reduced quality of life;
- Emotional and physical suffering from permanent disfigurement or physical impairment;
- Loss of enjoyment of life; and
- Future pain and suffering and emotional distress
In very limited circumstances, punitive damages may be available when the at-fault driver acted recklessly or intentionally and caused significant harm. Drunk driving would be an example.
California, along with many other states, does not place limits on the amount you can obtain in compensatory damages. The jury or court can decide upon an award that they feel is reasonable in your case. Not having a cap on compensation gives victims a better chance of receiving an appropriate and just financial award to help them recover.
All of the above factors should be considered when determining an appropriate compensation amount in your car accident lawsuit. This is necessary for you to be able to resolve your claim and receive compensation.
We offer San Francisco Bay Area Car Accident Victims a Free Consultation, and There Are No Attorney’s Fees Unless We Recover Money for You
At The Hassell Law Group, our legal team are experts in car accidents and personal injury law with over 100 years of combined legal experience. We stand up to stubborn insurance companies and we have a record of obtaining award-winning results for our clients. We fight every step of the way to achieve the best possible outcome for our car accident clients. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing unless we recover. There is thus no risk in hiring our law firm. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation. We welcome your questions, and our legal team looks forward to helping you obtain just and proper compensation for your personal injury claim.