Auto accidents are destructive and complicated. We are here to answer all of your questions about police reports, insurance claims, settlements, and more.
Statistics on Typical Car Accident Settlement Amounts So, what do the statistics on typical car accident settlement amounts say? Well, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, in 2013 the average bodily injury car accident settlement was $15,443. Unfortunately, this figure doesn’t tell us much. Since car accident injury settlements are so fact intensive, an average doesn’t provide much help in regards to what a particular case is worth. As discussed below, there are countless factors that go into valuing a car accident injury settlement case. Only through experience can someone know how to value a car accident injury case properly. If you feel that the insurance company is undervaluing your case, it’s best to consult an experienced car accident attorney. Don’t Trust “Magic” Formulas or Online Settlement Calculators Many car accident injury victims will Google what a typical or average car accident settlement amount would be for their specific situation. This search will yield many results with websites claiming to give an exact calculation or formula to determine a typical settlement amount for a car accident injury case. Most common is the calculation of taking the dollar amount of the medical bills and lost wages of the injured victim and multiplying it by some arbitrary number (1-5) to arrive at a pain and suffering dollar amount, then adding the total amount of medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering together. However, this is almost always inaccurate. Neither insurance adjusters nor Texas juries are instructed to use this method to calculate the value of any car accident injury settlement or award. This practice arose from personal injury attorneys “guesstimating” an amount of what to demand within their demand letters to initiate settlement negotiations. This demanded amount provides sufficient room for several rounds of negotiations between the insurance company and the personal injury attorney. The reality is there is no formula or calculator that can provide an actual car accident settlement amount. There are simply too many variables involved in each case to accurately calculate an average or typical car accident settlement amount. However, there are factors that you should know that can affect the value of your case, such as the amount of your “damages,” the calculation of pain and suffering, and other relevant factors. An overview of these points are discussed below, as well as real car accident injury case settlement examples from several different counties in Texas. Before delving further into the discussion of typical or average car accident settlement amounts, it’s important to know what exactly a “settlement” is. What is a Settlement? A settlement is an agreement between parties of a legal dispute which resolves the dispute prior to either filing a lawsuit or proceeding further after a lawsuit is filed. The parties usually agree to settle the underlying dispute for a dollar amount in exchange for releasing the liable party from any further liability. In the car accident context, the liable party’s insurance company would agree to pay the injured party a sum of money in order to release their insured from any further liability. The settlement amount will be an amount both parties feel is fair to settle without proceeding further in the dispute and avoiding further litigation expenses. Keep in mind, insurance companies are businesses with a main goal of maximizing profits. This means they will do their best to pay out as little as possible in settling claims. Depending on the facts of your case, accepting a settlement may make sense. However, there are situations where filing a lawsuit and going all the way to trial is necessary to achieve top dollar for your case. Most Important Factor in Determining Typical Car Accident Settlement Amounts One of the most important factors in determining a typical car accident settlement amount is knowing what your “damages” are. Damages are a term of art in the law meaning the calculation of losses realized in a personal injury case. You must be able to prove damages in order to receive fair value for your car accident injury case. There are two main types of damages, including Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages, in addition to other sub-categories of Compensatory Damages which are broken down below. Compensatory Damages Compensatory Damages, also known as “actual damages,” are the monetary compensation that are awarded to an injured victim as a result of an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. Compensatory damages are intended to put the injured party back to where they were before the accident and make them “whole.” Special Damages Special Damages or “Specials” are a type of compensatory damages that are quantifiable, such as past and future medical expenses, past lost wages and loss of earning capacity, and other out-of-pocket expenses. You prove these damages by presenting evidence such as medical bills, paycheck stubs, W-2s, or simply a letter from your employer detailing the amount of lost time, your salary, your position at the company, and how many hours you usually work. Lost wages include the time you missed from work and weren’t paid, as well as sick time and vacation time used as a result of the accident. General Damages General Damages, also known as non-economic damages, are another type of compensatory damages that are difficult to quantify. According to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 41.001(12), non-economic damages include: Physical pain and suffering; Mental or emotional pain or anguish; Loss of consortium; Disfigurement; Physical impairment; Loss of companionship and society; Inconvenience; Loss of enjoyment of life; Injury to reputation; and All other nonpecuniary losses of any kind other than exemplary damages. Due to the difficulty in calculating General Damages such as physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of enjoyment, insurance adjusters use software such as Colossus and Claims IQ to place a value on each car accident injury claim. Adjusters enter in injury codes, medical billing codes, and other “soft” factors such as loss of enjoyment and a settlement range is spit out. The adjusters are usually bound to this...Read More
Rear-end car accidents are the most common type of collision. Determining who is at fault in a rear-end collision isn’t always as straightforward as you think. There are many scenarios where liability may not necessarily automatically go to the “following” vehicle. In some cases, liability may go either to the “lead” vehicle, the following vehicle, or both. Of course, if either party involved in a rear-end collision is 51% or more at fault in Texas, they are barred from recovering any of their damages such as medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering. Distracted Drivers and Rear-end Accidents Rear-end accidents are usually caused by distracted driving, such as texting and driving, or tailgating. The most common types of distracted driving that cause rear-end collisions are smoking, daydreaming, external distractions such as “rubbernecking,” fixing hair or putting on makeup. Proving fault in a rear-end collision involves determining which driver was “negligent.” To prove negligence in Texas, you must show four things: Duty – We all owe each other a duty to exercise reasonable care and drive safely so as not to do anything that will harm any other driver on the road. For example, we all have a duty to pay attention to the car in front of us while we drive in rush hour traffic; Breach of Duty – a breach of duty would be failing to exercise reasonable care and not driving safely, such as by failing to pay attention to the car in front of you as it slowed down in rush hour traffic because you were texting and driving; Causation – the breach of duty (e.g., failing to pay attention to the road and the driver in front of you) causes of the accident; and Damages – Damages just mean recognizable and actual losses as the result of the breach in duty. Whiplash or a fractured vertebra in a rear-end collision are great examples of damages. You’ll need to prove damages by providing evidence such as medical bills and lost wages. How to Prove You Were Not At Fault in a Rear-end Collision Usually, it’s easy to see why the following vehicle is at fault in most rear-end collisions. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Even if the following vehicle is negligent, it doesn’t always absolve the lead vehicle completely from liability. The lead vehicle driver may also be driving distracted and may also share some of the liability, proportionate to the amount of their comparative fault. Ways to prove that the lead vehicle’s driver was at least partially at fault would be to provide evidence that they were driving distracted talking on their phone while driving or looking down at their phone and texting. You may prove this by getting their phone records to show that they were sending or receiving text messages or receiving or making phone calls at the time of the accident. However, obtaining the other party’s phone records usually involve filing a lawsuit against them first. In addition, having an independent witness who saw the accident and can verify that the lead driver was on their phone or texting, will also help to prove that they at least shared some fault. When Is a Rear-end Collision Not Your Fault? Factual scenarios when a rear-end collision is not your fault or at least partially the lead vehicle driver’s fault, include when the lead vehicle: Is in reverse and causes the collision. Makes an unsafe turn or lane change by not signaling or suddenly changes lanes, cutting off the following vehicle. Quickly stops unexpectedly for no apparent reason. “Brake checks” the following vehicle. Has turn signals, brake lights or taillights that are not functioning. Is driving at a significantly slower speed than the speed limit (e.g., driving 25 MPH on the freeway). Unsafely pulls out in front of the following vehicle. Injuries Caused by Rear-end Collisions Most rear-end collisions involve a very slowing moving or stopped lead vehicle. The impact, even at low speeds can cause significant injuries to the spine, head, and internal organs. The most common types of injuries caused by a rear-end collision are: Whiplash; Vertebrae fractures; Neck pain; Shoulder pain; Numbness, tingling, and pain in the extremities; Muscle, tendon, or ligament sprains, strains, and tears; Disc herniation; Lower (lumbar) back pain; Middle (thoracic) back pain; Internal bleeding; Traumatic brain injuries, even mild cases that may go undetected through standard testing; Concussions; Headaches; Blurry vision; Dizziness; and Anxiety / Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Rear-end Collision Settlements Rear-end collision settlements are heavily determined on the type of your injuries and medical treatment that you receive. The more serious your injuries, the more likely your settlement will be larger. With “soft tissue” injuries, or those that involve sprains, strains, and bruises, generally, the settlement value tends to be on the lower side of the settlement spectrum. Rear-end collisions where there are more serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, or those requiring surgery, generally, the greater the settlement amount. The value of any rear-end collision case relies heavily on the injury severity and the amount of medical bills that have accrued, as a result of the injury. What’s most important in all rear-end accidents is getting the proper medical treatment as quickly as possible. Without providing proof of your injuries to the insurance company through medical bills and other evidence, the more difficult it will be to be fairly compensated for your injuries.Read More
Knowing whether the insurance company will be totaling your car after an accident in Texas is helpful for many reasons. First, it gives you the opportunity to get an early jump start on researching comparable vehicles to present to the insurance company in order to increase your offer on the actual cash value of the car. Second, it will give you more time to shop for a replacement vehicle while the insurance company performs their investigation and estimate of the damages. Third, it may help to avoid accruing additional costs such as storage fees that the insurance company may refuse to pay if you failed to properly mitigate your damages by leaving your car at a storage facility for an unreasonable amount of time. Texas Law on When a Car is Totaled Texas law mandates how insurance companies determine when to total a vehicle and provides a formula, as indicated in the Texas Transportation Code. According to Texas Transportation Code Section 501.091(15), a salvage or “totaled” vehicle has damage to or is missing a major component part to the extent that the cost of repairs, including parts and labor other than the cost of materials and labor for repainting the motor vehicle and excluding sales tax on the total cost of repairs, exceeds the actual cash value of the motor vehicle immediately before the damage. In other words, the Texas total loss formula to determine whether a damaged vehicle is a total loss is: Cost of Repair + Salvage Value > Actual Cash Value If the total cost of repairs plus the salvage value is greater than the actual cash value (ACV) or market value of car, then the insurance company decides to total the car. For example, if your 2008 Honda Accord has an actual cash value of $5,000 and the cost to repair it is $4,500 and the salvage value is $1,000, then your car would be totaled. $4,500 + $1,000 > $5,000 For tips on how to handle your own car accident property damage case in Texas, click here.Read More