Car Accident Settlement Amounts in California: An In-Depth Guide

car accident settlement amounts california

California car accidents are on the increase. Working with 2021 statistics, the Office of Traffic Safety revealed that traffic fatalities increased by about 7.6%, from 3,980 in 2020 to 4,285 in 2021. While more car accidents result in injury rather than death, these statistics nevertheless highlight the risk of driving on California streets.

In the aftermath of a car accident, California drivers expect insurance companies to help them repair the damage. However, insurers stay in business by aiming to minimize payout amounts. Being informed about the average settlement for a car accident enables you to protect your rights more effectively and avoid accepting lowball offers​. That said, how much to expect from car accident settlement California insurers offer makes sense?

Car Accident Settlement Basics

A car accident settlement is a financial agreement reached between the parties involved in a car accident. The injured party is the plaintiff, and the insurance company is the defendant. The settlement compensates the plaintiff for damages and losses caused by the accident without the need for a trial.

Settlements are common in California. They are faster than court trials, allowing the plaintiff to receive compensation sooner. Settlements also guarantee a certain dollar amount of compensation, which is not something a trial offers. Finally, settling the case is less expensive than going to trial for all parties involved.

Average Settlement Statistics for Car Accidents in California

There is no menu for financial compensation for losses associated with car accidents. Moreover, each case revolves around its own facts, meaning that a settlement depends on the details of your case. That said, there are some car accident settlement examples.

  • Death. $1,869,000
  • Disability. $162,000
  • Property damage. $6,100

However, when you are dealing with the average settlement for whiplash and other soft tissue injuries, there are few calculations. Your medical records will be of vital importance when it comes to determining this particular area of compensation.

Components of a Car Accident Settlement

What are the facts that will influence your particular case? As a general rule of thumb, there are four types of damages that add up to an average settlement for a car accident.

  1. Medical expenses. What does it cost to fix your injuries? Compensation for medical bills related to injuries sustained in the accident includes hospital stays, surgeries, medications, rehab, transportation to medical appointments, and ongoing medical care.
  2. Lost wages. How much work time did you lose because of the accident and medical treatment? Settlements reimburse you for income lost because injuries from the accident made it impossible to work. This can also include future lost earnings if you are permanently disabled.
  3. Property damage. What will it cost to fix your car? You may need to repair or replace the vehicle. Also, list what other property you had in the car that was damaged.
  4. Pain and suffering. You can request compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and a reduced quality of life.

Basic Formulas and Considerations When Calculating Car Accident Settlements

We want to make it clear from the onset that having legal representation in calculation and settlement talks is to your advantage. Calculating lost wages is relatively simple. The formula looks like this: Lost Wages=Daily Wage×Number of Workdays Missed

It gets more complicated when pain and suffering are involved. Here, you determine a multiplier for medical expenses. It ranges from 1.5 to 5, depending on various factors, such as the severity of injuries and how the accident is impacting your life. For example, a complicated arm fracture will affect a pianist differently than a teacher.

A Brief Overview of California Personal Injury Law as It Pertains to Car Accidents

According to the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1, you have two years to exercise your legal rights after a car accident. This is called the statute of limitations. If you do not file on time, you lose the ability to file a claim.

Moreover, California Civil Code Section 1714 spells out what negligence looks like and how it affects compensation. If the insurance agency claims that you contributed to the accident, your settlement amount decreases.

The car accident settlement process in California follows the Code of Regulations and the insurance company’s internal rules.

  • You file a claim with the insurance company. You provide the documentation they request.
  • The insurance company has 40 days to respond. They may deny the claim, approve it, or offer a settlement.
  • Nine times out of ten, the settlement offer is on the low side. It is now time to negotiate with the insurer to arrive at a fair settlement. If this is not possible, you go to trial to argue the case in court.

It is clear that this requires in-depth knowledge of existing case law and a can-do attitude. The average accident victim has neither the time nor energy to do the requested research and go head-to-head with an insurer and their legions of lawyers. In short, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer to handle this process.

A Word on Fault in California Car Accident Cases

California follows the legal principle of comparative fault. As the plaintiff, you may have contributed to the accident. The question is, what percentage of the accident is your fault? It is in the insurance company’s best interest to find you at fault to a considerable percentage because it reduces the amount of compensation they have to pay you.

They will look at the same police reports, photos, and documents that you have. However, they will interpret the information differently. An attorney will offer an interpretation – usually based on additional witness reports and expert opinions – that minimizes your fault. It is here that skillful negotiations make a significant difference in the overall compensation amount.

Personal Injury Attorneys Typically Offer Free Initial Consultations

Car accident lawyers understand the legal landscape. They help you navigate it and work to get you a top-dollar settlement. Because personal injury cases are typically taken on contingency, you have no out-of-pocket costs. The attorney does not get paid unless they win.

Choose a personal injury lawyer based on their experience settling vehicular accident cases. Moreover, select a law firm that is not afraid to go to trial. While there are plenty of self-help forums on the internet, none of them can replace a consultation with a lawyer.

Having a Great Initial Consultation

When you meet with an attorney for the first time, have detailed facts on hand. Bring along all documentation, photos, police reports, witness information, and anything else you have. Think through the ways that the accident has changed your life. You and your attorney will then discuss how to proceed.

While several online resources can help you estimate the average car accident settlement California plaintiffs may receive, remember that with legal advice, it will be much easier to determine the highs and lows of compensation in your case. Going through the calculations during your initial consultation provides valuable insights into how the facts of your injury affect the settlement negotiations.

Making the Decision to Get Legal Representation for a Car Accident Injury Claim

Navigating the aftermath of a car accident with confidence is challenging. Using online tools to determine what a fair settlement amount is tends to be subjective. Most importantly, it does not teach you how to assert your claims or how much to expect from car accident settlement California insurance companies might offer. Working with a personal injury lawyer is a better option. Even if you decide not to proceed with your case, it makes sense to determine your rights.

Connect with an experienced attorney today!

 

Sources:

https://www.ots.ca.gov/ots-and-traffic-safety/score-card/

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/how-pain-suffering-determined-car-accident-case.html

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/

https://govt.westlaw.com/calregs/

https://www.findlaw.com/injury/accident-injury-law/worksheet-damage-estimate.html

Guide to Calculating Costs – Data Details