Most car accident cases are settled out of court without the need for trial. If you or a loved one expects a car accident settlement, it’s normal to wonder how car accident settlements are calculated and how much you might receive.
Read on and learn what to expect from your upcoming car accident settlement.
Who’s at Fault?
In South Carolina, the law follows the “at-fault” system for car accident settlements. That means if you expect to receive a monetary settlement, you must prove the other driver was at fault. You will need a police report to demonstrate fault, and you might need to work with an experienced attorney to represent your position.
A settlement may include the cost to repair your vehicle, medical costs related to injuries you or your passengers experienced, lost wages, etc.
In most cases, the other driver’s insurance policy will cover these costs.
Insurance Policies Are a Determining Factor
The average car accident settlement depends on many factors, but the other driver’s insurance policy is a major contributor. In South Carolina, drivers must carry vehicle insurance that covers bodily injury and property damage at a minimum.
Different states have different minimum requirements.
Every policy has limits associated with the amount an insurance company will pay in a settlement case.
The maximum payout for South Carolina insurance policies is $25,000 for one person’s injury or death in the accident or $50,000 for more than one person. Payments for damage to your vehicle are capped at $25,000.
Don’t Accept a Car Accident Settlement Without Speaking to an Attorney
Insurance companies are sometimes quick to offer a settlement immediately after an accident. This is usually an amount that fits within their internal accounting parameters, but it might not cover all your expenses. It’s essential to speak with an attorney about your legal rights.
Car accident injury settlement amounts don’t always take into account the long-term medical effects of an injury. If you accept the first offer from an insurance company, you won’t be entitled to additional damages if your injuries are more severe than you thought.
An attorney with experience dealing with car accident settlements can help you determine a fair settlement amount. This may include the cost of emergency room visits, medications, any surgeries or procedures, physical therapy, and other medical expenses.
The difference between the first settlement offer and your actual expenses could be thousands of dollars. Always work with an attorney.
Seek Medical Attention Immediately After a Car Accident
If you have or suspect you have injuries from a car accident, make sure to see a doctor immediately. If paramedics arrive at the scene, allow them to assess your condition. Go with them by ambulance to the hospital if they recommend it.
If your injuries don’t require emergency treatment, see your own primary care physician within 24 hours of your accident. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, visit an urgent care center for a physical exam. You must identify any injuries you sustained in the accident to protect your health and your case.
Visiting the emergency room or a doctor right after the accident also documents your injuries. This will be critical if you pursue a settlement to cover your medical expenses.
Other Factors That Affect Your Settlement Amount
Insurance policies must provide tens of thousands of dollars in coverage for car accidents, but they don’t always pay the full amount. It’s important to document all the costs related to a car accident to ensure you receive a fair settlement.
Typical car accident settlement amounts include many expenses, such as:
- Damage to your vehicle.
- Lost wages from missing work.
- Renting a car to replace yours.
There are other costs associated with an auto accident that are more difficult to quantify, but they are just as real. These are the costs an attorney can help you determine:
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of ability to enjoy your life.
Just because you can’t easily put a price on these aspects doesn’t mean they don’t have value. You’re entitled to financial compensation for these elements of a car accident, too.
What if My Expenses Exceed an Insurance Policy’s Limits?
In some cases, people experience property or bodily damage that exceeds the other party’s insurance policy’s limits. In that instance, you still have options. Your own insurance policy may have provisions for under-insured motorists.
This coverage pays the difference between your actual costs and the amount you receive from the other driver’s insurance company.
You also have the legal right to file a lawsuit against the other driver. In such a case, an attorney will help you prepare the case and pursue damages from the at-fault driver’s personal financial resources. Most of these cases are also settled out of court.
How Long Does a Settlement Take?
One of the reasons it’s important to work with a car accident attorney is settlements can take a long time. By enlisting a lawyer’s help, you can avoid the hassle and frustration of the negotiation process.
Lawyers for both sides will speak with one another by phone, email, or in-person to determine the settlement amount.
Once both sides agree on an amount, you will receive a document that specifies the amount of money you will receive and when you will receive it. Once you accept the settlement, the case is over. Read the settlement agreement carefully to ensure you understand all the conditions.
Settlements are almost always final. Once you accept it, you are not able to pursue additional financial compensation.
Protect Your Rights If You Are Injured in a Car Accident
If you experience a vehicle accident, a settlement might cover your expenses and damages. Many factors determine a car accident settlement amount, including the insurance coverage of the other driver.
Make sure you seek medical attention right away if you have an injury, and consult an attorney about protecting your legal rights.
If you have additional questions about settlements for car accidents, contact us for a free consultation.