How Car Accident Settlements Work


Getting into a car accident is stressful. Whether you only suffered a dent to your car or whether you now have injuries that require medical attention (or both), the episode brings with it a long list of questions: Who’s going to pay for my medical bills? What if I have to miss time from work and don’t have any paid time off left? How am I going to pay for a car rental if my car has to stay at the auto shop for a while?

All of these scenarios would influence your car accident settlement. However, rarely is it ever clear cut. When a person is involved in a crash, he or she has to prove that their injuries and property damage were a result of the accident.

How Much to Expect From Car Accident Settlement?

The answer to this question has many variables. Below is an overview of things that will influence how much money you can get from a car accident settlement. That said, this is a bare bones road map. Each case is different and may have additional factors that come into play.

What are Special Damages?

This is the monetary amount you can specifically quantify. For example, if you have $5,000 in medical bills, $5,000 in car repairs, and $2,000 in lost wages, you have a claim for $12,000. These can be recovered in different ways:

1. Personal Injury Protection. Commonly known as PIP. Regardless of fault, Florida law requires car insurance policies to provide 80% of the costs of medical bills to be paid to the following people:

  • The named insured
  • Relatives residing in the same household
  • Persons operating the insured motor vehicle
  • Passengers in the motor vehicle
  • Other persons struck by the motor vehicle

To receive these benefits, the insured has to file a claim with his or her own insurance company and seek medical attention within 14 days of the accident. If you file on day 15 or after, you’ll be denied.

PIP also covers 60% of gross lost wages, to be payable every two weeks. This coverage has a cap of $10,000 and does not apply if the accident happened while the driver was trying to hurt himself or herself intentionally or if the driver was committing a felony.

In the example given above, if your damages are $12,000, you’d be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party for the remaining $2,000. By the same token, you could include in your claim the percentage of medical bills and lost wages not covered by PIP.

That said, you could reduce your chances of having to go to litigation over the uncovered percentage of medical costs by including Medical Payment Coverage in your car insurance policy (see below).

2. Medical Payment Coverage. Since PIP only covers 80% of medical costs, adding Medical Payment Coverage into your policy would ensure that the remaining 20% is also covered. This type of coverage is commonly known as Med-Pay.

3. Costs of car repairs. The first thing to remember is that if nobody was visibly hurt during the car accident, Florida law requires that all parties involved in the accident move their cars out of traffic. Once that’s done, call the police to prepare a report. This way there will be a written record of the date, time, and location of the accident, as well as the names of everyone involved.

Take pictures of every angle of your car and every other car involved in the accident. If you need to get your car towed, keep the receipt to include it in the amount of damages to claim. Once the car is in the shop, keep copies of all estimates and receipts to also add to the tally of damages. If you have to rent a car to get to work and run your usual errands while the car is at the shop, keep receipts of those as well. Don’t go too crazy renting an expensive sports car, unless that was the type of car that was involved in the accident.

4. Medical bills. This is typically when things can get murky during litigation. The other party’s insurance attorney is going to conduct what’s called discovery. This means that they can ask for medical records relating to the accident and from past medical visits. For example, if you’ve been involved in previous accidents, or had a degenerative condition, or were otherwise ill or injured prior to the accident, this could be used to try to diminish the amount of damages you would receive. The insurance company will only offer to pay what they reasonably believe to have been a direct result of the accident.

5. Lost wages. This one would be simple to prove if you’re a salaried or hourly employee who usually works the same shifts. If your income varies, this is going to be another challenge when trying to prove how much money you’ve lost, while you recover from your injuries.

6. Loss of earning capacity. How much you can claim as a loss in earning capacity will depend on:

  • Your age
  • Your education level
  • Past work experience
  • The job you had at the time of the accident
  • Any potential job you may have been due to begin coming up (e.g. you were a promising college student who was being actively recruited by a professional sports team)

Once you’re able to calculate how much you’ve lost in each category, you’ll be able to claim that amount when attempting to settle the case. Also, keep in mind that you may be able to add more in general damages.

What are General Damages?

General damages are additional consequences of a catastrophic car accident that cannot be quantified with a number. For example, if you watched a loved one die, if you or a loved one went through the windshield, or rather, if you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, or other common psychological challenges in the aftermath of the accident.

While you can’t specify an amount, there are factors you can take into account when proposing a number, such as:

  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
  • Permanent injury with a reasonable degree of medical probability
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Death

You can also request what’s known as loss of consortium: When any of the factors above result in the loss of companionship typically associated with marriage, such as giving and receiving affection, or helping with child rearing and household chores.

What Else is Involved in Settlement Negotiations?

The more damages a person claims, the longer negotiations can take. While it isn’t impossible for a person to get what they request, it is extremely rare. Settlement offers are usually extended once litigation has been going back and forth for a while and the other party’s insurance company has had time to depose you (take your sworn statements in the presence of your attorney, if you have one), depose everyone else who might have been involved in the accident, and review the medical records.

This is why it’s crucial for individuals who’ve been involved in an accident to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Anything you say or agree to without being fully informed of what you could be entitled to could severely damage your chances of recovery.

Call Clark Hartpence Law if You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay

As you’ve read above, there are far too many nuances involved in a car accident case to proceed with settlement negotiations on your own. Contact us for an initial consult and see how we can help you.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.