How Much to Expect from a Car Accident Settlement

February 4, 2024 | Ed Bernstein
How Much to Expect from a Car Accident Settlement

If you suffered a severe injury in a car wreck that wasn't your fault, the first thing you probably thought about was how much money you can expect from your car accident settlement. Like most aspects of this personal injury case, the answer isn't cut-and-dried. Several factors will influence the settlement amount.

The following is a look at some of those factors and why you need a Las Vegas car accident attorney to get the maximum compensation you deserve.

When to Consult a Car Accident Attorney

How Much to Expect from a Car Accident Settlement

First, you must understand there's no overstating the importance of an attorney to get the highest car accident settlement possible. A lawyer will know precisely how much money you should receive and possess the tools and experience necessary to secure the rightful compensation.

You should always hire a car accident lawyer immediately. Your lawyer must investigate the accident to determine how it happened and who is to blame. Time is of the essence because crucial evidence can disappear, and with it, you have the best chance of having the strongest possible case.

How Your Injury Influences the Settlement Amount

The main factor determining the amount of your car accident settlement will be the severity of your injury. The worse the injury, the more expensive the treatment can be. A spinal cord injury, for example, can cost as much as $1 million in the first year alone. While a broken bone is painful and debilitating for a few weeks or months, treating it might cost much less.

Not only will your car accident attorney include your current medical expenses when demanding compensation, but they'll also look at the long-term impact of your injury. You might, for instance, need extensive rehabilitation, follow-up surgeries, and possibly home accommodations.

Understanding Different Types of Compensation

Understanding Different Types of Compensation

Your medical expenses and other financial losses associated with the accident are known as damages in legal terms. The following is a closer look at some of the damages you've likely incurred.

Economic Damages

These are the tangible losses directly linked to the accident. These measurable losses form a substantial part of the compensation you'll seek through your car accident settlement. They include medical expenses, lost income, and property damage.

As noted above, medical expenses play a pivotal role in determining the amount of your car accident settlement.

The following briefly examines some of the more common ones resulting from a car wreck.

  • Emergency room and hospital bills – The initial financial impact of a car accident typically involves emergency medical services and costs related to your hospital stay after leaving the ER. Expenses include ambulance fees, ER services, and hospital stays.
  • Diagnostic tests and imaging include CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, and other tests you underwent. Including these costs in your damages helps show the severity and extent of your injury. They help establish a clear link between the accident and the necessary medical interventions.
  • Medication costs – Your lawyer will also meticulously document prescription medications, pain relievers, and other ongoing medication costs. 
  • Rehabilitation and physical therapy – If you have a severe injury, you might need physical therapy or rehabilitation. Rehab for a traumatic brain injury can run as high as $1,600 per day, including room, board, and therapy. 
  • Surgical and other medical procedures – Your attorney will also include surgery costs. If, for example, the accident damaged your knee so severely you need a replacement, the surgery will likely cost approximately $40,000.

If your injury is so debilitating you can't work, it likely won't be long until you've exhausted your vacation and sick time. You'll eventually start losing paychecks.

But what if you can't return to your old job? You might have to take a position that doesn't pay as much. When negotiating your car accident settlement, an attorney will consider your lost income and future earning capacity.

Another factor determining the settlement amount will be property damage. Your vehicle may be severely damaged, requiring extensive repairs. It can be beyond repair, requiring replacement. Your car accident lawyer will use repair estimates and your vehicle's Kelley Blue Book value to calculate your damages for property loss.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages encompass your intangible losses. These subjective elements focus on the emotional and psychological toll the accident has taken on the individual. A skilled attorney will know how, even though they're challenging to quantify.

The following are a few examples.

  • Pain and suffering – Compensation for pain and suffering accounts for your physical and emotional pain resulting from the accident. 
  • Emotional distress – This is the emotional anguish you're experiencing due to the accident. Some people, for example, develop anxiety or depression. Others may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), constantly having flashbacks of the wreck. 
  • Lost quality of life – If you can't enjoy an active lifestyle due to your injury, you may also receive lost quality of life damages. You may, for instance, take long walks, go dancing, or play your favorite sport. You deserve compensation for those losses through your car accident settlement.

Verifying non-economic damages in a car accident settlement involves navigating the intricacies of intangible losses. Your attorney will document the validity of these damages. Doing so requires a multifaceted approach.

For example, documentation is essential. It encompasses therapy records, psychological evaluations, and medical professional opinions. These records substantiate the emotional toll you've experienced, providing tangible evidence of the impact on your mental well-being.

Witness testimonies also play a pivotal role in verifying non-economic damages. Statements from friends, family, or colleagues who have observed the changes in your behavior, mood, or overall quality of life can offer valuable perspectives. Their insights can significantly strengthen your case.

Maintaining personal journals or diaries can also strengthen your claim by providing a firsthand account of your emotional distress. This self-recorded documentation offers a unique and authentic perspective, reinforcing the subjective nature of non-economic damages.

Collaboration with mental health professionals or therapists is essential in establishing a direct link between the accident and subsequent emotional distress. Their professional opinions carry weight in verifying the need for therapeutic interventions and the ongoing impact on your mental well-being.

Determining Liability

This is another critical aspect of maximizing your car accident settlement. You must hire an attorney who can investigate to clearly show the other party's fault. As stated earlier, this investigation must begin immediately so your lawyer can collect crucial evidence before it disappears.

Collecting thorough evidence is the foundation of a favorable car accident settlement. Some of the most critical pieces of evidence include the following:

Accident Reports and Police Statements

Official accident reports and statements from law enforcement provide crucial documentation of the incident. These reports serve as key evidence when establishing liability and fault.

Medical Records and Bills

Accurate and detailed medical records and bills are essential for substantiating your injuries and medical expenses. A clear picture of your medical treatment and associated costs strengthens your negotiation claim, establishing a solid foundation for asserting your rights and comprehensively considering all relevant aspects of your healthcare, which is crucial in pursuing fair compensation.

Surveillance Video 

It's likely the wreck occurred somewhere near a surveillance camera. You can mount the camera in a nearby office building, a convenience store, or a restaurant parking lot.

The footage that the camera captured can show how the accident happened, providing valuable visual evidence that can be instrumental in determining liability and supporting your case during legal proceedings.

Accident Scene Evidence

The biggest reason to hire a car accident attorney quickly is that they might get investigators to the accident scene to gather evidence, such as pictures of skid marks and damage to guardrails and road signs.

Fresh skid marks can indicate the at-fault driver was going too fast and had to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision. The driver might have been impaired and ran off the road, hitting signs and guardrails.

The next storm can wash away skid marks, and repair crews can remove damage. Obtaining a fair car accident settlement can make it more difficult if you don't have an attorney to capture that evidence.

Negotiating the Car Accident Settlement

Negotiating the Car Accident Settlement

After the attorney finishes their investigation, they'll know who was responsible. They'll also calculate the value of their damages. Once they have this information, they can negotiate a car accident settlement with the insurance company covering the at-fault driver. Here are a few of the steps your lawyer will take.

Initial Demand and Counteroffers

When entering negotiations for a car accident settlement, the process begins with establishing your initial demand. This demand serves as the foundation for the subsequent discussions and sets the tone for the negotiation. Determining a fair starting point is crucial, considering the full extent of your damages.

Understanding the Full Extent of Damages

Before making the initial demand, your attorney will thoroughly assess and document all damages from the car accident. This includes medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Having a comprehensive understanding of your losses enables your lawyer to propose a figure that truly reflects the impact of the incident on your life.

Proposing a Reasonable Figure

Setting a reasonable and well-justified initial demand is essential for a successful negotiation. Your car accident attorney will aim to balance adequately covering your losses and presenting a justifiable figure based on their gathered evidence. This strengthens your position and demonstrates a thoughtful and well-prepared approach.

Responding to Counteroffers

As negotiations progress, it's common for the insurance company to respond with counteroffers. Your legal representative will carefully assess each counteroffer. They'll consider the offered amount, the strength of your case, and your priorities.

Responding strategically involves evaluating whether to accept, reject, or counter the counteroffer. This phase of car accident settlement negotiation requires a delicate balance between asserting your rights and maintaining open communication to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Pursuing a Car Accident Settlement

Car accident victims often make terrible mistakes when considering settlement offers. They're worried about their mounting medical expenses and lost income and don't know how long they can hold out. Insurers know this and make low-ball car accident settlement offers to prey on a victim's uncertainty.

Please don't make this mistake. Accepting an early car accident settlement offer can cost tens of thousands or possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars. It can also have long-term consequences you haven't considered.

If you accept an unfair settlement, that will end your case. You won't have any legal options remaining. That settlement won't come close to covering all your accident-related expenses. You'll be responsible for paying for them. It's not an overstatement to say it can be the worst mistake you'll ever make.

What if the Insurer Refuses to Settle?

There's an overwhelming probability your lawyer will convince the insurer to make a fair car accident settlement offer. More than 95 percent of personal injury cases settle without needing a trial.

But if your case is among the few that go to court, you'll want to know what to expect.

These are some of the steps involved:

  • Filing a lawsuit – Initiating legal action by filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This involves presenting a formal legal complaint outlining the details of your case.
  • Discovery phase – Both parties engage in the discovery process. They exchange evidence to gain insights into the other's case. 
  • Pre-trial motions – Either party can file legal motions to address specific issues before the trial, such as requesting the dismissal of specific claims or evidence.
  • Trial - The case proceeds to trial, where both sides present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses before a judge and jury.
  • Verdict – The judge or jury actively decides the case's outcome, including determining the amount of compensation to award. 

Let a Car Accident Attorney Work to Obtain the Fair Car Accident Settlement You Deserve

Insurance companies aren't above using questionable tactics to intimidate victims into dropping their cases or accepting low-ball car accident settlements. A skilled, experienced personal injury lawyer won't let that happen to you because they'll know how much you deserve and will fight to get it. Contact one as soon as you can.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.