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How Much to Expect: The Average Payout from a Car Accident Settlement

Factors that Affect How Much Someone Can Sue for a Car Accident

 

If you’ve been in a collision, you probably have many questions – particularly if you've been injured or have property damage. One common question that we’re asked by potential clients who have been injured in a car accident is: “How much can I expect from a car accident settlement?” The answer to this question depends on many different factors. Continue reading to learn more.

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The At-Fault Driver's Insurance

You have a legal right to sue the at-fault driver for the personal injuries that were caused by the crash, including aggravation of pre-existing injuries. Most states do not allow you to sue the insurance company directly. If the at-fault driver or vehicle owner has motor vehicle insurance, that insurance policy should pay for injuries and property damage caused by the accident. However, all motor vehicle insurance policies have limits, which is the maximum amount an insurance company will pay for certain damages stemming from an accident. Drivers pay for these limits with their premiums.  

Liability Insurance

If you are in a car accident and the other driver was at-fault, that driver’s liability insurance would cover your damages.

However, as mentioned above, there are often limits on a driver’s liability policy. For example, Pennsylvania only requires liability insurance minimums as follows: Source

  • $15,000 for injury or death of one person in an accident
  • $30,000 for injury or death of more than one person in an accident
  • $5,000 for damage to property of another person

 

Using the above example, even if you are seriously injured in a car accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may only be required to pay you $15,000 for your injuries. Keep in mind, these are only the minimum limits and many drivers carry more coverage. But insurance limits are an important concept when evaluating a car accident claim.

Tort

Full tort and limited tort refer to one's ability to sue for pain and suffering damages after a car crash in Pennsylvania. Limited tort coverage provides less ability to sue for damages sustained in a collision. Limited tort is often more affordable than full tort insurance. Let’s explore the pros and cons of full tort and limited tort coverages in detail.

Full tort: This is a traditional liability option that provides a driver with the ability to sue for both economic and non-economic damages, regardless of the severity of the injuries. This means that you can always recover for pain and suffering damages if you are injured.

Limited tort: This policy allows drivers to save money on their premiums. However, in exchange, they waive their rights to recover certain damages, such as pain and suffering, unless their injuries are deemed serious. Injured individuals are still able to sue the other driver or file a third-party claim against his or her insurance policy for economic damages, such as medical expenses and property damage. Pennsylvania law considers a serious injury one that results in death, serious impairment of a bodily function, or permanent, serious disfigurement. There are also other exceptions to the limitations placed on non-economic damages, including if the accident was caused by a driver who was driving while impaired.

Your Own Insurance Policy

What if the at-fault driver cut you off and left the accident scene and was never found? What if a car or driver was uninsured? What if the at-fault driver had only $15,000 in available insurance coverage? You may also be able to seek damages through your own insurance policy. 

UM/UIM Insurance Coverage

Uninsured Motorist insurance (UM) pays for injuries, such as medical expenses, that result from an accident caused by a driver who is uninsured. UM insurance also protects you and your passengers if struck by a hit-and-run driver.

Underinsured Motorist insurance (UIM) pays for injuries that result from an accident caused by a driver who has too little insurance to cover all of the injuries. 

In the example above, if you were seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver or a driver with only $15,000 in liability coverage, you could then seek damages through your own policy under the UM/UIM coverage. Keep in mind these are add-on coverages that can have higher premiums.

Accidents Involving Multiple Drivers

A multi-car accident is any crash involving three or more vehicles. The simple definition belies the truth about accidents involving multiple vehicles: The results can be devastating in terms of the severity of the injuries inflicted upon occupants of the vehicles.

When multiple vehicles are involved in an accident, figuring out who’s liable for your injuries can be complicated. When a driver is liable for injuries to several people, there might not be enough insurance money to go around.

Using the $50,000/$100,000 example, the at-fault driver only has $100,000 of coverage to go around. The most any one person can get is $50,000.

What if three or four people are seriously injured, and each of the injured people has more than $50,000 in damages? There isn’t enough to go around, and the insurance company won’t take responsibility for deciding how much of the available funds to allot to each claimant.

It will be up to you and your attorney to convince the court your costs were reasonable and necessary, and why you deserve a bigger portion of the insurance money than anyone else.

Shared Liability

Like most states, Pennsylvania comparative negligence laws allow individuals who’ve been injured in an accident to recover compensation for damages – even when they are partly at fault for the accident

Under this law, each party in a negligence claim is assigned a percentage of fault. This percentage reflects how much their action (or inaction) contributed to the accident and injuries. Note, Pennsylvania follows a 51 percent comparative negligence rule, which means you can recover damages if you were less than 51 percent at fault. If you are found to carry more than 50 percent of the fault for the accident, you will be unable to seek compensation for damages.

Using this example, if you are deemed to hold 20 percent of the fault, you will be entitled to only 80 percent of the settlement award. If you are struck by a driver with $50,000 liability limits and you have $50,000 in damages, you would be able to recover $40,000.

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What to Include in a Car Accident Claim

Economic Expenses

Medical Costs

Seeking medical care to properly diagnose and treat your injuries can be challenging itself. As you watch the bills from the ambulance, emergency room, primary care physicians, and co-payments add up, you may struggle to afford the treatment you need. Costs for medical care are another expense that will be paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance company if you are in an accident.

Lost Wages

If your injuries prevent you from working, or working in the capacity you once did prior to your incident, you may be entitled to lost wages. In addition, if you suffered a permanent injury that prevents you from returning to your occupation, or earning as much as you did before the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for loss of earning capacity. This is another element of damages that will be paid by the at- fault driver’s insurance company.

Property Damage

As if facing the sometimes daunting thought of a long recovery which can impact your life financially, physically and emotionally, weren’t enough, you may find yourself without the use of your vehicle. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will be responsible for paying for damage to your vehicle.

Replacement Services and Rental Car Costs

If your injuries prevent you from performing household chores, such as shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, cooking, cleaning, or even taking care of your children, you may be forced to hire help. The personal injury lawyers at Muller Brazil will ensure you are reimbursed for these expenses. 

Emotional Damage

Pain and Suffering and Emotional Distress

While there is no amount that can truly make up for your pain, the personal injury lawyers are Muller Brazil will fight to be sure that you are fairly and adequately compensated for all physical pain, mental distress, discomfort, and inconvenience, you have experienced as a result of your injuries.

  • The following factors play a role in determining the award for pain and suffering: 
  • Age 
  • Severity of the injuries 
  • Whether the injuries are temporary or permanent 
  • The event to which the injuries affect your ability to perform basic actives of daily living and other activities  
  • The duration and nature of medical treatment 
  • The duration and extent of physical pain and mental anguish 
  • Health and physical condition prior to the injuries 

 

Physical pain is not the only burden suffered in the aftermath of a personal injury incident. Sleepless nights, frustrating, painful and time consuming treatment, struggles with activities of daily living, mobility limitations, work restrictions, and the inability to function as you once did can add additional stress and anxiety, and lead to depression or worse. The personal lawyers at Muller Brazil make it a point to get to know you and the struggles you face, and fight to make sure that you are compensated fairly. 

What is the Max You Can Get From a Car Accident Settlement?

The maximum amount you can recover from a car accident varies greatly and depends on many of the factors such as the at-fault driver’s insurance limits, your insurance policy, and the injuries and damages sustained. As an example, let’s say you are in an accident that is not your fault and the other driver has liability limits of $50,000/$100,000. You sustained $25,000 in pain and suffering damages and paid $10,000 for out of pocket medical expenses. You also had $10,000 in lost wages from missing work for treatment. In that example, you would be able to recover $45,000 for your auto accident.

As another example, you are hit by a commercial vehicle with $1,000,000 liability insurance limits. You suffer $500,000 in pain and suffering damages, $100,000 in medical expenses and lose $150,000 in wages. You would be entitled to recover $750,000 for your auto accident.

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