Car Accident Settlements in California Explained

Every day, at least one traffic accident occurs in California. When a car accident occurs, the victims and their families are often left overwhelmed and devastated. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reports that there were 3,563 car accident fatalities throughout the state in 2018 alone.

Victims of car accidents may lose tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses, lost income, and car repair expenses. If you have been involved in a car crash in California, you may be eligible to receive compensation for the damages from the at-fault driver.

In California, the fault for a collision depends on which driver acted negligently in the accident. In some cases, both drivers can be at fault. But even if that happens, one driver may still be able to recover damages from the other driver.

Car accidents are one of the most common causes of personal injury claims in California. Although it’s technically possible to represent yourself in a personal injury claim, calculating the right compensation on your own can be quite tricky. If you have been injured in a car accident, it’s best to seek the assistance of an experienced California car accident lawyer immediately.

What is a car accident settlement?

A settlement is defined as an agreement to resolve a legal claim for damages. In a car accident settlement, the injured victim would usually agree not to sue the liable party in exchange for financial compensation. The at-fault party is always legally liable for the victim’s injuries.

Car accident cases typically end in settlements rather than with a jury verdict. A settlement allows both parties to have control over the outcome.

Two Methods Used for Calculating Damages for the Injured Victim’s Pain and Suffering

Each case is different, insurance companies may use different methods to calculate these awards. Putting a value on intangible damages like pain and suffering can be quite difficult. But here are two common methods that insurers use to compute these damages:

1. The Multiplier Method

The multiplier method calculates the total economic damages *such as medical bills and lost wages) as a base figure. A multiplier is typically selected to calculate pain and suffering.

For example, if the victim has $15,000 worth of economic damages and the insurance company decides to use the multiplier ‘2’ to calculate the pain and suffering, then it would be valued at $30,000

2. The Per Diem Method

The per diem method can be a little confusing but basically, a dollar figure is assigned for each day up until the victim has fully recovered.

For example, the dollar figure assigned was $150 and the victim took 100 days before they fully recovered, the damages would then be valued at $15,000.

Unfortunately, some insurance companies would tend to undervalue these intangible damages. Victims would often be tricked into settling for less when their claim is actually worth more. To avoid this, it’s best to have an experienced California car accident lawyer by your side.

How much is the average settlement amount for a car accident?

Although each case is unique, the average settlement amount for a personal injury car accident is approximately $24,000. There are several factors that can affect this number:

Although each case is unique, the average settlement amount for a personal injury car accident is approximately $24,000. There are several factors that can affect this number:

  • Medical expenses – Victims would usually need to visit a doctor, get prescription drugs, and in some extreme cases, get surgery, go through rehab, and stay in a hospital for an extended period of time to recover.

Medical expenses are a necessary element of a personal injury claim. Include the full amounts of your medical and prescription costs, even if your health insurance covered some or all of the bill. You should also be sure to include all of your bills related to your services. For example, if you had imaging like MRIs, CT scans, or X-rays, you will likely receive a bill from the hospital or facility and also for the radiologist who interpreted the test and provided the results. If you went to the emergency room, you would usually receive separate bills for the hospital and for the physician who treated you.

  • Lost wages – While the victim is recovering from their injuries, they won’t be able to work. This can cause them to suffer a dramatic loss of income due to these lost wages.
  • Property damage – Victims can also receive money from the damages that their car has sustained. They can get money to replace or repair certain parts.

A California car accident lawyer can help the victim estimate the number of their economic losses. They can also gather important documents such as medical bills, receipts, pay stubs, etc. as evidence.

In California, the minimum amount for comprehensive collision coverage are:

  • $15,000 for injury or death to one person
  • $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
  • $5,000 for property damage

Proving your desired compensation

Once you determine what your personal injury claim is worth, the next step is you or your California personal injury attorney establishing to the insurance company that:

  • The person they insured owed you a duty of care or had an obligation not to harm you
  • That person breached their duty to you and was negligent in their actions
  • Their negligence directly caused your injuries
  • Your injuries caused your damages for which the insured is liable for

Attorneys will help you reach favorable settlements

A good California car accident lawyer will vigorously fight for your rights and best interests throughout the entire legal process. It’s always better to make a reasonable settlement than going to court.

The defendant or insurer would typically prefer settling than going to court as they are worried about the ramifications that might happen in court. They will most likely try to make a good offer for the victim to avoid going to court.

If you are unsatisfied with their offer, you can coordinate with your attorney to help you come to a favorable settlement.

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