For many, the thought of a settlement is the last thing drivers think about after getting involved in a car accident. Many may not even know what a settlement is and how it occurs. It is crucial to hire an experienced car accident attorney to negotiate settlements with other parties, and make sure you get the maximum compensation you deserve.
What Is a Settlement?
- After being involved in a car accident, you may want to seek reimbursement for all the costs for your injuries. Usually, a settlement occurs with the other parties car insurance provider. A settlement refers to negotiations and a final determined damages amount. If the parties fail to settle, then the parties would be required to then go to trial. Going to trial is a lengthy and costly process, therefore, both sides are more inclined to settle. By seeking advice from an experienced Los Angeles attorney, this legal process could be somewhat quicker.
- Once a claim is filed, an investigation then occurs. Both parties hire investigators to look into the accident and determine the fault. Items that could be investigated include:
- Police reports: reports created by a police officer at the time of the accident. A police report about the accident can be retrieved usually online through the police department’s website. To see how you can get a copy of your Los Angeles police report, please visit our blog
- Any photos that were taken immediately after the accident.
- Any witness information and their statements (if any were taken).
- Detailed information about the accident, such as time, date, model of cars involved
- Most recently, some accident lawyers also use social media accounts as evidence. For example, if defendant claims that they have no money, but have posted indications f their wealth on Instagram, it could possibly be used during settlement negotiations.
- Experts are then hired to look further into the accident and to assess the injuries, examples of experts include
- Doctors who were involved in treating the plaintiff
- An accident specialist to determine more information about the accident and condition of the cars if no photographic evidence exists.
- A settlement agreement is more likely to occur since both parties would not want to escalate this to trial.
How Is a Settlement Amount Determined?
When settling on an amount with the defendant, there are various damages that the plaintiff should take into account, which include, but are not limited to:
- Lost income: this is often overlooked upon. Lost income includes the past income lost as result of the injury, along with any future income lost as a result of the permanent injuries.
- Medical expenses: the amount of medical expenses could be quite high. In the recent years, the value of healthcare costs has been increasing faster than the average annual income. Medical expenses include:
- Long term care for permanent injuries
- Medical prescription drugs needed
- Cost of physical therapy
- Medical supplies such as crutches
Pain and suffering: this is the physical discomfort and emotional distress that usually accompanies an injury that is suffered, in this case, as the result of a car accident. For more information about pain and suffering, please visit our blog here.
Damage to the car: this is another overlooked cost. In severe accidents, the car could end up being totaled. To determine the amount, a repair estimate would be needed on the car.
Punitive damages: Punitive damages are exceptionally rare, and not awarded in California. Punitive damages are exemplary damages, meaning it is not meant to compensate you, but instead, to punish the other driver. The hope is that the other driver will not want to commit the same offense again due to the financial cost.
Calculating the Amount
There is no specific amount or calculator that has a specific amount of damages a plaintiff in a lawsuit could collect. This depends on each plaintiff, and the type of accident. The factors above play a strong role in determining the amount.
Beware: Insurance companies
During settlement negotiations, insurance companies may try to contact you and asking various questions. Sometimes, this can include the insurance company from the defendant’s side. The insurance company would want to decrease their own liability and end up not paying the defendant any amount. The company may offer a minimal amount to prevent you from going to trial. Many may decide to go forward with the quick minimal money from the insurance company. Before responding to the company at all, it is best to seek the advice of your experienced car accident attorney to best protect you and tour rights. Insurance adjusters may just want to pay a minimal amount that would not even cover your entire damages.
What Happens If Parties Do Not End Up Settling?
If parties do not come to an agreement, then they will have to go to court. The case will be filed in the respective court depending on the location. At court, both sides then call their respective witnesses to testify about the damages, and who is liable. If a jury is empaneled, the jury would then decide who is at fault, and determine the amount of liability.
Statute of Limitations on Car Accidents
The statute of limitations varies from state to state, so it is very important to know the statute of limitations for the state you live in or are visiting. There are exceptions with the statute of limitations, so it is crucial to determine when the “clock starts ticking.” Usually, it is as soon as the accident occurs. For more information on statute of limitations, you can visit our blog here.
The instances and examples listed above are only a couple situations of what can end up during a settlement negotiation. Various factors can affect the outcome, such as failure to come to an agreement between both parties, or settling for lower than you received. Each situation varies. To better determine your case and the possibility of a settlement, our attorneys advise to seek the help of legal counsel as soon as possible to avoid any late action. We have convenient offices located in major cities, including Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, Irvine, and Las Vegas. Call us today for a free consultation.
If you have been involved in a car accident (whether in California or Nevada), our experienced car accident lawyers at Heidari Law Group will be able to help you throughout the legal process, and ensure that you are equipped with all the tools that you need in order to receive fair compensation for your injuries. Our experienced attorneys are specialized in various types of car accidents, and can help get you the representation you deserve. For more information regarding our car accident attorneys, you can view our experience here.
***Disclaimer: This blog is created by Heidari Law Group for educational purposes. This article provides a general understanding of the law. It does not provide specific advice. By using this site and reading through this blog, there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and any member of Heidari Law. Further, due to the constant change of the law, some parts of the information above may no longer be good law.