What is my Automobile Accident Case Worth?

tytanium | 12.21.17

It is important to call an attorney right away when you have been involved in an automobile accident.  You should never assume that the person who hit you will “do the right thing” or that the settlement offered by the insurance company will be fair.  An attorney can advise you as to your rights and possible recovery.

The most common question asked by clients is “what is my automobile accident case worth?”  The answer to that question is – much to the dismay of most clients – “it depends.”  Assuming that the other party is at fault in the accident, it is fair to ask them to pay for the damage to your personal property (your vehicle, any clothes you were wearing during the incident, etc), for your medical expenses (to the extent they are found to be reasonable and warranted), and for some amount of punitive and/or pain and suffering damages.

This last category is the hardest to pin down.  Automobile cases typically settle before trial, meaning that there are few cases to look to as an example of the proper damages figure.  Most case law that does exist is uninformative regarding an appropriate settlement figure in an automobile accident case.  Many published cases do not provide the amount of awarded judgment at all.  Those that do are often lacking in detail that would allow a finder of fact to adequately compare the cases.

Certain trends in Fresno County are apparent, however.  The more egregious the cause of the accident and the more serious the injuries, the higher the dollar amount awarded.  The following Fresno County verdicts and settlements show the diversity in damages received in automobile cases:

In Cloud v. U.S. Postal Service (2008 Mealey’s CA Jury Verdicts & Settlements 194) the injured party sustained nothing more than “shock to the nervous system.”  The cause of the accident was mere negligence.  The judgment in that case – including medical expenses and property damage – was $24,000.

In Stone v. Staretta Smith (2007 Mealey’s CA Jury Verdicts & Settlements 2436), a woman was rear-ended while stopped at a red light.  She sustained unspecified lower back and leg injuries and was awarded just over $90,000 for her property damage and medical expenses.  She was not awarded any pain and suffering at all.

In Key v. United States (2000 Mealey’s CA Jury Verdicts & Settlements 211), a man suffered cervical and lumbar injuries as a result of an automobile accident.  The plaintiff received just over $152,000.  Pain and suffering was set at a value of around three times the plaintiff’s medical expenses.

In cases where medical expenses are relatively low, it is not uncommon for the value of pain and suffering to be set at only one or two thousand dollars.  Considerations such as insurance, policy limits, fault, Medicare, and more affect recovery.

LloydWinter, P.C. can meet with you an offer you a fair assessment of the range of damages your case may be worth.  We offer you a no-nonsense, honest appraisal of whether you should accept the insurance company’s initial settlement or retain counsel to negotiate on your behalf.

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