The Ultimate Guide to Car Accident Settlements

If you’ve been injured in a car crash due to the negligence of another driver then you’re entitled to compensation for your injuries through a car accident settlement. This settlement will be paid by either your insurance company or the other driver’s insurer. Negotiating and securing fair compensation can be challenging and confusing.  And insurance companies are known for taking advantage of claimants without attorneys.

As a personal injury law firm, we’ve helped our clients secure thousands of car accident settlements over the years. We’ve also obtained more than our fair share of knowledge about the process. So, we decided to create an ultimate guide to car accident settlements to help people dealing with insurance companies for the first time.

What is a car accident insurance settlement?

A car accident insurance settlement is a payment an insurance company gives you to settle your claim after a car accident. When you file an insurance claim, a claims adjuster reviews the facts, the law, the medical records, and other circumstances surrounding the accident and offers you an initial settlement to close the case. 

Here’s an insider tip: the first settlement offer is always a lowball bid. Insurance adjusters often approach victims right after their accidents with a low offer, hoping the stress of the situation will make them accept. Sometimes they will even make an offer while you’re still in the hospital. 

Not only is the first offer always the lowest, it’s impossible to immediately know the full extent of your damages. You could have injuries you haven’t even discovered yet! When you accept a settlement from an insurance claims adjuster, you waive your right to receive additional compensation. So, if you take an early offer that doesn’t cover all your medical bills, you’ll just have to pay the rest yourself. We always advise our clients to wait until you have completed treatment for your injuries before talking about a settlement.

What is an average car accident settlement amount?

Unfortunately, there isn’t really a concrete answer to this question. Personal injury cases involve unique sets of circumstances that impact the final settlement of the claim. The amount of your compensation will be directly tied to the cost of treating your injuries, lost wages, any long-term effects, and the damage to your vehicle.  However, in catastrophic injury cases we fight for past, present, and future pain and suffering and other damages as well.

While factors such as liability, property damage, and insurance coverage impact your ability to recover, the most significant determinant in your settlement value is the type and severity of the injuries you sustained. The more serious your injury, the higher your settlement is likely to be.

The insurance company may offer more or less compensation based on determinants such as:

  • The medical bills incurred
  • The intensity and length of treatment
  • The likelihood of future treatments
  • The need for rehabilitation
  • The duration of the recovery period
  • The amount of medical evidence available
  • The pain that the injury caused
  • The emotional impact of the injury
  • The severity and permanency of the effects 
  • The value of lost wages

Insurance adjusters will usually weigh each of these factors when calculating your settlement offer, so you should consider them when deciding whether to accept.

What is the average car accident settlement for a back or neck injury?

We get this question a lot. As with all auto accident settlements, the best answer we can give you is, “It depends.” Settlement amounts vary widely depending on the severity of your injuries, and not all neck and back injuries are the same. 

If you’ve only suffered a soft tissue injury, such as whiplash, your settlement will most likely be determined according to your medical bills. On the other hand, if the accident caused a spinal cord injury resulting in surgical repair, compensation can reach upwards of 1 million dollars. This depends on lots of factors.  An experienced personal injury legal emergency services lawyer can review your car accident case facts and provide a better estimate of what the settlement amounts for your specific injuries could be.

Should I expect to pay my medical bills with my settlement?

The answer to this question depends on the settlement offer you accept. If you take the insurance company’s initial lowball offer, probably not. If you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to negotiate a fair settlement, absolutely. The premise behind personal injury law is to make injured people whole again, and this includes paying them back for their medical expenses.

How long does a car accident settlement take?

I know you’re probably sick of hearing this, but once again, the answer is, “It depends.” If you accept an early offer from the insurance company, it won’t take long at all. If you hold out to receive the settlement you deserve, the process can take some time.

Suppose you’ve retained a personal injury lawyer to handle your car accident claim. Your attorney will investigate the facts, review your medical records, counsel you on your legal options, and then begin the negotiation process on your behalf.  The negotiation process will generally involve a detailed demand package followed up with phone calls and other communications between the insurance adjuster and your attorney. Since every situation differs, it’s impossible to accurately predict how long negotiating a settlement will take. Keep in mind that if you want to secure the highest offer you can, you’ll have to trust your personal injury lawyer is doing everything they can to maximize your claim.  Remember ya’ll are on the same team.  Your lawyer doesn’t get paid until you get paid.  

Here’s an example of how long the settlement process can take:

  • Medical treatment and healing — Depending on the severity of your injury, it can take months or even years to reach Maximum Medical Improvement.  MMI means that you are the best you are going to be.  No matter what other treatment you get there is nothing anyone can do to make you better than you are when you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement.  Trust me, there are lots of arguments over this.
  • Collecting medical and employment records — This process generally takes 1 to 4 months, and sometimes longer.   A lot of this process depends on how responsive the third parties are to your lawyer’s requests.
  • Negotiation — The back and forth between your attorney and the insurance company can sometimes take 45 days, but usually takes several months to fight for the top offer. 

How are car accident settlements paid out?

Your car accident settlement can be paid in either a single lump sum or through a structured settlement. If you opt for a lump sum, you’ll receive all of your money up-front in one payment. 

If you go with a structured settlement, your money will be distributed through a series of periodic installments. If you’re concerned that you might mismanage a lump sum or prefer the security of receiving smaller, long-term payments, you can choose a structured settlement.

Do I need a car accident lawyer to get my settlement?

While there’s no rule that you must hire a car accident lawyer to get your settlement, having an experienced personal injury lawyer in your corner will get you better results.  Think about this way – insurance companies are multi-million dollar companies with adjusters, lawyers, nurses, and doctors all trying to fight your case and minimize your claim.  You need to get your own team to fight back!

First, personal injury attorneys are experienced negotiators. We deal with insurance companies every day because that’s our job.  We know what their team is going to do and we know how to fight back.

It’s also our experience that insurance companies take our clients’ personal injury claims more seriously once they hire us. If you are represented by a skilled personal injury lawyer, insurance companies know they won’t get away with lowballing and generally offer higher settlements.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, we recommend reaching out to an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier an attorney is involved in the process, the better chance you have at fair compensation. While you don’t need a lawyer to get a settlement, you will almost always get a better one if you have experienced personal injury legal emergency lawyer services negotiating on your behalf.

Have questions? We protect victims like you every day.

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About Attorney911 
Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services

Attorney911 Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services is a Texas-based personal injury and criminal defense law firm with offices in Houston and Austin, though we are proud to serve Texans from all over the state and represent clients in federal court. We handle a wide variety of legal issues — from car accidents to worker’s compensation to DUI/DWI offenses. Our staff is bilingual, friendly, and genuinely passionate about helping our clients, whether it’s a million-dollar case or a thousand-dollar case. We also understand that cost can be a prohibitive factor in hiring a lawyer, and are willing to work with you on structuring payment in a way that is fair and feasible. We do accept credit cards for our hourly fees, and take some cases on contingency, which means you don’t pay us unless and until you get paid yourself. We know that you have a choice in your legal representation, and we believe that what makes us stand out from the competition is our real emotional investment in our clients. We see you as a person — not a paycheck. And we will fight hard for you, because we truly care.