If you or someone you love has ever been involved in a serious wreck, you probably already know that determining who is at fault can be a complicated process, even if the other driver was clearly driving carelessly or recklessly. This situation can become even more complicated if there were multiple cars involved or if one of the drivers was in a commercial vehicle, such as a large truck, an 18-wheeler, or a semi-truck.
Consequences of these tragedies can be life-changing. In the aftermath of a preventable accident, many victims facing long recoveries from significant injuries and family members grieving the loss of a loved one consider pursuing legal action. One of the main issues in these discussions is often how much to expect from a car accident settlement. The quick answer is “it depends on the circumstances.”
Since there is no one answer which will apply to every case, let’s explore some of the factors which can influence the size of a car accident settlement.
How Does a Texas Car Accident Attorney Negotiate a Settlement?
Despite many important advances in vehicle safety over the years, including innovations in seat belts, child safety seats, and airbags, statistics show that driving has actually become more dangerous over time. In 2016, over 250,000 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents on Texas roads, and over 18,000 of those people sustained serious injuries. Many of the most catastrophic wrecks involve large trucks and buses. Fatal crashes involving these types of commercial vehicles increased by 28 percent between 2009 and 2016.
Police and insurance adjusters determine who is at fault in a car accident by reviewing the facts of the accident, looking at any evidence that can point to what happened and why. Then, once fault has been determined, the at-fault driver whose negligence caused the crash is responsible for damages. “Damages” is the term used to refer to the sum of money demanded or awarded in compensation for a victim’s injury or loss.
When a major accident involves a big rig or commercial truck, the process is more complicated. In addition to laws that govern all vehicles, the manufacturers, operators, and owners of semi-trucks are required to abide by an additional set of federal and state regulations. These statutes dictate how long an operator can be on the road without taking a break, how heavy a truck’s load can be, and how often maintenance needs to be performed, just to provide a few examples. In recent years, cell phone laws for truck drivers have been passed to discourage distracted driving. These commercial trucking laws also set a higher minimum insurance policy limit, meaning that individuals with truck accident injuries or individuals who are killed in a crash involving a large truck have the potential for a higher settlement amount when compared to a wreck with two passenger vehicles that carry lower insurance limits.
Since larger, more complicated accidents can involve multiple parties who share liability, negotiating a settlement may be more difficult. A victim can sometimes settle with one party and then file a claim against other parties for the balance of damages. For these more complex cases, a trial is more likely. With a trial, an additional level of risk is introduced, since a jury will be evaluating the claims and deciding how much the injuries are “worth” in terms of dollars. That assumed level of risk could result in a larger verdict than would have been attained settling out of court, or it could result in a lower verdict or even no money at all if the jury does not find fault with the other party.
Damages in a car accident case can vary, and sometimes can be quite sizable, depending on the particulars of the accident. These variables include the type and degree of negligence displayed by the at-fault driver; the severity of the victim’s injuries, and how life-changing those injuries are; the total dollar amount of medical bills incurred by the victim due to the injuries; the amount of lost wages due to the victim’s time off work after the accident; the injury victim’s physical limitations, the impact the injury has on the victim’s daily activities and quality of life, and the amount of pain and emotional distress a victim suffers.
When Texas car accident attorneys negotiate a settlement with an insurance company, they work diligently to gather evidence and information to support their position. Medical bills and records, photographs of the vehicles involved in the crash and of the victim’s injuries, testimony from witnesses and from medical or mental health professionals — these are just some of the types of information and evidential support that an attorney will gather in order to fight for the best possible settlement for a client.
Average Settlement for Car Accident: Back and Neck Injury Compensation
Many people who sustained injuries in a car crash wonder how much they can expect to receive from a car accident settlement, especially when back and neck injuries are involved. Is there an average amount you can expect to be awarded based on previous, similar cases? Unfortunately, the answer to that is also complicated, since every car accident is different, with unique causes, circumstances, and both short- and long-term effects on the people involved.
One factor to consider is how much insurance coverage the at fault driver has and will it cover the damages caused by the accident? In Texas, individuals are required by law to carry insurance, although some still choose to drive uninsured. The current minimum liability limits in Texas are $30,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident and $25,000 for property damage per accident. Sometimes when an at fault driver has insufficient or no insurance coverage, the injured party’s Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) bridges the gap.
Still, there are enough similarities among car accident injuries and deaths for there to be a large body of precedent that attorneys can draw from when trying to determine how much to demand in damages on behalf of their client. Back and neck injuries are quite common in car accidents; whiplash, for example, is a very common injury that car accident victims might suffer, since even a seemingly minor impact for the vehicles can result in violent forces to persons in the vehicles.
Even minor car accidents can cause concussions or whiplash, and the victim may experience symptoms as severe as memory loss or sleep disturbances, along with neck pain and tightness and limited range of motion. The problem with concussions or whiplash, however, is that the effects typically don’t show up on X-rays or MRI scans. In order to prove that a car accident victim suffered whiplash and deserves compensation, an attorney has to incorporate medical records and bills and other types of documentation that support the client’s claim.
Since whiplash and its effects are somewhat difficult to prove, associated damages may be on the smaller side. Back injuries suffered in a car accident can be similar to whiplash, in that they can range from moderate to severe, and can be difficult to prove unless specific injuries to the spine are visible on an X-ray or MRI. Still, a victim may deserve a large settlement after a car accident when past and future medical bills, lost wages and loss of future income, pain and suffering, and emotional distress are all taken into account.
The particular amount of damages you might deserve after being involved in a car accident will depend on the specifics of your case. Generally speaking, back and neck injury settlements have ranged from a few thousand dollars (sometimes even less), for minor injuries, to tens of thousands of dollars or higher for major injuries. Extremely severe back and neck injuries that required extensive surgeries have even been known to bring in damages in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
As a general rule of thumb, if back and neck injuries from a car accident affect the spine, require major surgery or drastically alter the victim’s quality of life, damages awarded will tend to be on the higher side. It is important to note, however, that if you were partially at fault for the accident, that fact will lower the amount of compensation that you can expect to receive. Conversely, if you were demonstrably not at fault, and if another driver can be shown to have been grossly negligent, that may increase your chances of being awarded a larger settlement.
Average Car Accident Settlement Time
Each state has its own statute of limitations — laws that establish time limits on how long you have after a car accident to file a lawsuit in civil court. In the state of Texas, the statute of limitations for most property damage and personal injury claims is two years. That means you have two years from the date of a car accident to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver.
In the case of a car accident that resulted in someone’s death and in which the victim’s family wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, the victim’s loved ones may be restricted by that same two-year statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations are a big reason why it is important to contact a knowledgeable and experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after your accident, and specifically an attorney with an excellent track record of securing just compensation for clients.
Once an insurance claim or lawsuit has been filed, the average timeline for a car accident settlement can vary. Depending on the complexity of the case, as well as on whether recovery and medical treatment are completed or ongoing, it might take just a few months to settle the case, or it might take several years or longer. Once a settlement has been reached, it may take anywhere from 30-to-60 days for the insurance company to issue a check.
Car Accident Settlement Process
The car accident settlement process is a series of multiple steps and actions on the parts of both the victim (or client) and the attorney they hire to handle their case. The very first thing the person involved in the car accident should do is to seek medical attention, as this ensures that there will be medical records and bills establishing the injuries they sustained in the car crash. Next, the accident victim should contact a reputable, knowledgeable and experienced car accident attorney, such as the attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger, who can handle their case.
Once a car accident attorney takes on a case, the lawyer and other members of the legal team work hard to gather the information and evidence they will need to support their case. For the less-complicated cases, the lawyer representing the victim will issue a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The demand letter will state the facts of the accident and all relevant details about injuries and associated medical treatment, lost wages, impact on quality of life, pain and suffering, and so on. The demand letter will also include a demand for a total dollar amount of compensation that the client deserves; an insurance company rarely pays this amount, but it serves as a starting point for negotiations. After the demand letter has been issued, the insurance company will typically respond with a lower settlement offer, and then the attorney will enter into negotiations to arrive at an amount of damages that is acceptable for all parties involved.
While some truck accident cases can be settled informally or in mediation, there are some cases that require going to trial. While a court case can be long and protracted, victims and loved ones sometimes obtain a more advantageous settlement amount than reaching an informal agreement, although there is also the risk of a lower recovery when a case goes to trial. A trusted truck accident lawyer can help advise you on the best legal strategy to pursue your claim.
This process, from start to finish, can take anywhere from several months to several years, and sometimes even longer. The amount of time it takes to reach a settlement after a car accident depends greatly on how clear-cut the facts of the case are, including how evident it is who was at fault. It also depends on whether medical treatment and recovery are ongoing, the size of the insurance policy available, and other factors. After a settlement has been agreed upon by all parties, the insurance company will issue a check to the victim; the attorney’s fee typically comes out of that amount.
Car Accident Settlement Amounts: Average Size of Damages Awarded to Victims
There are many different types of car accidents, as well as many different types of injuries that victims can suffer in a car accident. Thus, there has been a wide range of car accident settlement amounts. Average damages awarded to victims in car accident settlements can range from a few thousand dollars to many millions of dollars.
Generally speaking, severe injuries or death, high medical bills, significant loss of quality of life, significant loss of future income along with lost wages while recovering, and gross negligence on the part of the at-fault driver all combine to result in higher damages being awarded to the victim.
Texas Car Accident Attorneys Who Will Work Tirelessly for You
For decades, the attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have been advocates for victims of traumatic car accidents. We work tirelessly for our clients to secure the damages they deserve from a car accident settlement. We are caring and compassionate listeners, as well as experienced and aggressive litigators, who will fight to make sure you receive the best possible car accident settlement.
The firm handles cases involving catastrophic personal injuries and deaths. Our work spans three decades of handling airplane and helicopter crashes, truck and car accidents, oilfield and construction accidents, and other devastating accidents. We try lawsuits throughout the country in both federal and state courts and have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. To date, we have handled or tried cases in 47 states, read more about our attorneys and firm.