Following a car accident, you likely have a lot of questions about the compensation you may deserve; most notably, what does a good settlement offer look like?
In many cases, a good settlement offer may not look like what you think. Multiple factors go into determining what a good settlement offer might look like following a serious car accident.
How Insurance Policies Affect Settlement Offers
Often, insurance policies will govern the compensation you can recover following a car accident. A driver that carries minimum liability insurance, for example, may have a policy that offers considerably less protection than a driver who carries a policy that offers other types of protection, including more protection from the driver himself.
Often, the limits of an insurance policy will determine how much compensation you can recover following your accident, including the compensation you can recover for property damage and the compensation you can recover for any serious injuries you suffered in the accident.
Usually, auto insurance policies break down into two key parts: compensation for injuries suffered in an accident and compensation for the damage done to your vehicle in an accident. You can maximize the compensation in one category without using all the compensation provided for another, and usually, insurance will not allow the amount allowed for one type of policy to impact the compensation you can recover in another area.
Furthermore, the auto insurance policy may limit how much compensation everyone injured in an accident can recover.
In Pennsylvania, for example, a driver that carries minimum bodily injury protection insurance may have a policy that provides a maximum of $15,000 in compensation for each individual injured in an accident, and a maximum of $30,000 in protection for everyone injured in an accident. If more than two people suffer injuries in the accident, those limits may decrease the compensation each party can recover.
Some insurance policies offer better coverage
Many drivers carry only minimum auto insurance. Some drivers, however, have much higher-value policies that may provide additional protection to both the driver and anyone injured by the negligent actions of that driver.
These might include:
- Truck drivers
- Delivery drivers
- Rideshare drivers
- Drivers who carry higher-value policies
If you get into an accident with a driver who carries better than minimum insurance on his vehicle, you may recover more compensation for your injuries than you can if you get into an accident with a driver who carries only minimum auto insurance.
Having a car accident attorney review the liable driver’s insurance plan and settlement offer can give you a better idea of whether you may have received a fair settlement offer.
Your PIP Insurance and Your Car Accident Claim
In many states, drivers must carry PIP insurance alongside their liability insurance in the event of an auto accident.
Those states include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
Many other states allow for MedPay coverage, which offers additional coverage added on to a policy and offers medical payment benefits after an accident.
For drivers who carry PIP insurance, also known as Personal Injury Protection Insurance, that coverage kicks in before you have the right to file a personal injury claim against a driver that causes an accident that results in your injuries.
PIP insurance offers compensation for your initial medical costs immediately after an accident. It may, in some cases, also provide some protection against lost wages in the event of an accident. With PIP coverage, it does not matter which driver caused the accident. You, as the injured party, will use your PIP insurance to cover your immediate medical costs. Many drivers carry minimum PIP protection, while others may look for ways to increase the compensation they will have in the event of a medical emergency following a car accident.
PIP coverage kicks in before the other driver’s bodily injury protection insurance.
If you suffer injuries in an auto accident, you will use your PIP coverage first. Your PIP coverage helps decrease the financial burden of the serious injuries you may have sustained in an accident and makes it easier for you to take care of your medical bills. Since PIP offers no-fault protection, you can also use PIP coverage if you cause a car accident.
However, if you have PIP coverage, you cannot claim injuries against the other driver’s liability insurance until your medical costs have exceeded your PIP benefits.
Suppose, for example, that you suffered a broken leg in your car accident. You find out that your broken leg requires surgery, which will cost, on average, between $17,000 and $35,000. At the hospital you choose, it costs $18,000 to recover from your broken leg. Your PIP coverage offers $10,000 in protection against serious injuries from a car accident, so you will need to pursue $8,000 in compensation for your injuries.
On the other hand, if your broken leg did not require surgical treatment, it might cost an estimated $2,500 to receive a cast, X-rays, and other treatment for your injuries. Your PIP coverage will completely cover those expenses, so you will not need to pursue compensation through the other driver’s insurance company.
What Does a Fair Settlement Offer Include?
Most of the time, when the insurance company issues a settlement offer after a car accident, you will not get a cost breakdown of everything the insurance company agrees to cover. Generally, you will get a blanket settlement offer based on a percentage of the insurance company’s estimate of your medical costs.
As your lawyer puts together a personal injury claim, on the other hand, he will take a look at the actual costs you have suffered after your car accident and put together a comprehensive claim that shows your actual financial losses.
While a lawyer cannot guarantee that you will recover that much in compensation, and you may have to accept a settlement that does not cover all of your actual losses, a lawyer can help you get a better look at how much compensation you may deserve and, therefore, what a fair settlement offer might look like.
Your Medical Costs
Your medical bills can grow extravagantly after a serious car accident. Even minor injuries can cost thousands of dollars as you recover. If you have suffered more severe injuries, you may have equally high medical costs to go along with them.
A fair settlement offer includes compensation for the medical bills you have faced following your accident:
- The cost of emergency medical treatment. An ambulance ride alone can cost hundreds of dollars. If you require air travel, you may find yourself facing even higher medical costs. Furthermore, you must then receive treatment in the emergency room, which may further increase your medical bills.
- The cost of hospitalization. Many serious injuries will require you to spend considerable time in the hospital, undergoing multiple procedures or receiving assistance with the tasks associated with daily living while you recover from your injuries. The more severe your injuries, the longer you may need to spend in the hospital. Every day spent there causes your medical costs to increase further.
- The cost of long-term care. Many injuries will require you to have ongoing care following your release from the hospital. You may choose to go to a long-term care facility, or you may prefer to have in-home medical care, depending on your immediate needs.
- Durable medical equipment. Often, durable medical equipment can make your life much easier following a serious accident, but it also carries a hefty price tag that you have to take into consideration.
- Physical, occupational, or psychological therapy. In many cases, therapy can serve to help you regain strength, flexibility, and mobility following your accident. Occupational therapy may help you learn how to cope with the limitations created by your injuries. Those therapy sessions can prove invaluable, but they may also cost a great deal more than you anticipate, especially if you exceed the protection offered by your medical insurance.
Talk to your lawyer about all the medical expenses you may have faced, including follow-up appointments and ongoing appointments, so your lawyer can add those costs to your car accident claim. Ideally, you should keep track of those bills as they come in so that you can more easily calculate the cost of your medical treatment.
Your Lost Income
As hard as it can prove to manage your medical bills after a car accident, it can prove even more difficult to lose your source of income as you recover. In many cases, people who suffer serious injuries struggle to deal with the loss of their jobs or the inability to work following those accidents.
Lost income can make it difficult to manage your regular bills at a time when you may have more bills coming in than ever. As a result, you may find yourself struggling. A lawyer can help you calculate the value of that lost income so that you can include it in your car accident claim.
Lost income can take many forms after an accident.
Talk to your lawyer about:
- Actual lost wages because of the accident. If you have to remain out of work long-term, you may not have a source of income coming in at all, which can cause financial challenges.
- Lost vacation hours and even sick time due to the accident.
- Lost income if you had to go on temporary disability through your employer.
- Lost time at work even once you could return to some of your job duties, including time lost while you dealt with follow-up appointments and therapy.
- Lost earning potential if your injuries permanently prevent you from taking on the job duties you handled before your accident.
Pain and Suffering
Many car accident claims also include compensation for the pain and suffering you faced as a result of the accident and your injuries. Pain and suffering may not have a tangible dollar value. Your injuries, however, likely impacted far more than your finances alone, and you deserve compensation for all the losses you faced after your accident. Your lawyer can help you calculate the value of that pain and suffering.
How Do You Know if You Received a Good Settlement Offer?
Sometimes, it can prove difficult to tell whether the insurance company has issued a good settlement offer after your accident. You may not know whether you have received an offer that includes reasonable compensation for the financial and non-financial challenges you may face, especially if you have not yet had a chance to recover from your injuries. As a result, you may find yourself questioning the offer provided and whether it offers adequate compensation for your needs.
If you have questions about a settlement offer, talk to an attorney before accepting. An attorney can take a look at the insurance policy, break down the financial losses you sustained due to the accident, and give you a better idea of what to expect.
What Should I Do if I Receive a Low Settlement Offer?
Most car accident victims with serious injuries will, at some point, receive a low settlement offer from the insurance company. If you have received a low settlement offer, you have the right to negotiate for the compensation you really deserve.
You can attempt to negotiate on your own, which may help you increase your compensation somewhat, or you can choose to work closely with a personal injury attorney who can evaluate the losses you sustained, build your case, and help fight for the compensation you really deserve after your accident.
Often, working with an attorney can give you a better look at how much compensation you really deserve and help you determine whether to accept a settlement offer.
Do you have questions about the settlement you deserve following your car accident? An experienced car accident lawyer can answer your questions and help you move forward with greater confidence following your accident.