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What is the Average Car Accident Settlement Amount?

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There are many factors and variables that go into determining how much compensation you could potentially expect after a car accident. Damages can include things like medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress. If you shared any amount of fault for the accident, it could reduce the amount you would be able to recover. Insurance companies will almost always try to pay as little as possible and will often argue that the case is not worth as much as it is. There is no way to know in the beginning exactly how much your case will settle for. But a personal injury attorney can help you understand the elements of your case and plot the best course of action towards getting you fair compensation.


What is the Average Car Accident Settlement in California?

Due to the myriad of variables involved in each individual accident, there is no real way to calculate any kind of general average settlement amount. The extent of your injuries, whether your ability to work was affected, and how the accident impacted you personally are all unique to each case. Even if your accident is similar to others in some regards, there is no way to know how much your individual case will settle for until the end. Things like policy limits, whether you have your own insurance, and the individual people working on the claim can greatly impact your potential compensation at the end.


What Damages are Car Accident Victims Entitled To?

Damages in a personal injury claim are generally split into three separate categories.

Economic Damages – The financial costs suffered by the plaintiff due to the incident, such as:

  • Medical Bills
  • Property Damage
  • Loss of Earnings
  • Lost Earning Potential
  • Future Expenses

Non-Economic Damages – The personal losses suffered by the plaintiff due to the incident, such as:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain & Suffering
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Reduced Quality of Life
  • Lost Opportunities

Punitive Damages – When the court determines that the defendant acted with gross negligence or willful intent on a level severe enough to warrant further punishment. This is also meant to deter them or others from taking similar actions in the future.

In the state of California, there is no cap on non-economic damages for a motor vehicle accident. However, if the plaintiff was an uninsured driver, they will not be able to recover for non-economic damages at all. Also, if the plaintiff is found to be partially liable for the accident, the percentage of their share of fault may be deducted from the total damages they could recover.


Average Car Accident Settlement Payouts by Injuries

The types and severity of the injuries themselves determine a great deal of the potential settlement amount. Minor injuries generally require less treatment, have a shorter recovery time, and often have less of an impact on the victim’s everyday life. However, some injuries that seem minor at first may be more severe than expected after the injuries have time to present themselves.



Whiplash is a neck injury that is caused by rapid forceful jarring of the head. Like many injuries, it can range in severity and the level of treatment required. Whiplash is often treated by chiropractic care and physical therapy. Sometimes, consultations with an orthopedic or pain management specialist may be necessary. It is also possible for severe cases of whiplash to result in lifelong damage which can even negatively impact the rest of the spine and other parts of the body.

Back and neck injuries

Any sort of spinal injury is potentially dangerous. Minor injuries can have lengthy recovery times and could result in additional issues. Major injuries, including the severing of the spinal cord can cause paralysis or even death. Cases involving permanent disability also have to account for future losses when calculating damages.

Soft tissue injuries

Injuries such as sprains and whiplash are caused by damage to the tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues. They are generally considered minor injuries, but if not treated properly, they can have debilitating consequences. Depending on the location and severity of the damage, recovery can be a long and difficult process that requires multiple types of treatments such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and pain management.

Joint injuries

Soft tissue injuries often occur in the joints where they are more vulnerable to damage from the jarring impact of a vehicle collision. Injuries to the joints can take a long time to heal and can prevent the victim from being able to work or go about their life. They may require long term treatment or even surgery.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Any blunt force impact to the brain is considered a traumatic brain injury and should be taken seriously until a medical professional advises otherwise. Symptoms are not always immediately obvious and can develop over time. Because the damage is internal, a minor injury can get worse without the victim knowing it was even there. There does not even need to be an external impact to the head for the brain to be injured. The same rapid jarring motion that causes whiplash can also cause the brain to shift and collide with the inside of the skull.

Herniated disc

A herniated disc is essentially a soft tissue injury to the joints of the spine. The tissues between the vertebrae protect the spinal cord as well as assisting in movement. Damage to these tissues can cause severe pain and reduced mobility. Recovery can be lengthy and expensive.


What to Do After a Car Accident to Maximize Your Car Accident Settlement

No one plans to get into a car accident, but it is good to be prepared and educate yourself on how to act in any potential situation. Every accident is different, but there are a few steps that are always important to remember and follow if possible.

  • Pull over if it is possible and safe to do so. Fleeing the scene of an accident is illegal. If you need to leave the immediate area for safety reasons, find the closest safe location.
  • If anyone has been injured, call 911 right away. They will send an ambulance if necessary and the police to write a report. If the dispatcher determines that it is not necessary to send anyone, they will direct you to fill out a report online.
  • Exchange information with the other driver. Get photos of their driver’s license, insurance card, and registration if possible. If the other driver flees the scene, try to get a photo of their license plate.
  • Take photos of the scene, the vehicles involved, and any relevant details such as street names, signage, and any nearby businesses that may have security footage that can be requested later.
  • If there are any bystanders, or other drivers who pull over and say they saw what happened, get their contact information. If the police are there, make sure any witnesses give them their statements.
  • Even if an ambulance is not sent, it is still important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you are experiencing any pain or hit your head.
  • The insurance companies and the DMV must be notified of the accident. If you are injured and intend to hire an attorney, they may handle this for you.
  • Speak to a car accident attorney right away if you have been injured in a vehicle accident.

Collect Evidence to Document Damages and Injuries

When asking for compensation for damages, you need to be able to prove the existence and value of those damages. The insurance company has a personal interest in reducing the amount of money they have to pay as much as possible. The more clear documentation you have, the harder it will be for them to argue against your claim. Some common examples of useful evidence in a personal injury claim for a car accident include but are not limited to:

  • Medical bills & records
  • Imaging scans and reports
  • Bodily injury photos
  • Video footage of the accident
  • Police reports
  • Witness statements
  • Property damage photos
  • Vehicle repair estimates
  • Psychiatric evaluations
  • Paystubs & bank statements
  • Personal accounts of impacted daily life
  • Spousal accounts of impacted marriage

Work With a Car Accident Attorney

Insurance adjusters rely on the fact that most people often do not know their rights or the potential value of their claims. They know how to downplay your injuries, misrepresent your options, and pressure you into accepting far less than you deserve right away. Do not allow them to take advantage of you. Car accident attorneys are familiar with the tricks that insurance companies use and know how to stand up to them. Having an attorney gives you someone in your corner who can advise you and can act in your best interests.


What Factors Can Impact Your Car Accident Settlement?

Many people get frustrated with the uncertainty involved in a car accident claim. It is impossible to estimate how much a case could settle for because there are simply too many variables that can have a tremendous impact in the end result. An experienced car accident attorney can help walk you through the factors of your situation and explain the potential outcomes of each one. The following are some examples of things that can greatly influence your settlement.


Circumstances of the Accident

If the other party was behaving in a manner that was especially egregious such as driving while intoxicated or going twice the speed limit in a residential area, it could strengthen your position. However, if your own actions contributed to the accident in any way, it could cause any settlement offer you receive to be reduced.

Accident Victims Actions After Getting into a Car Accident

The things you say and do after an accident are important. If you make statements to the police and the insurance company that you were not injured, it will greatly weaken any attempt to claim injuries later. Similarly, if you wait too long to seek medical treatment, the insurance company may be able to diminish the severity of your injuries. Anything you post on social media can also be used against you, such as assuring people that you are fine or talking about daily activities.

Signing a Settlement Agreement

When you sign a settlement agreement, you are releasing the other party from any responsibility to you for that accident. This includes any future complications or losses that were not considered or expected. If you sign a settlement agreement and then later discover an injury caused by the accident, you will not be able to seek compensation for any related losses. It is important to be certain that you have completed treatment for your injuries and have a clear understanding of any potential future expenses before entering settlement negotiations or signing an agreement.

Severity of Injuries

Minor injuries that require little treatment and a short recovery time generally result in lower settlement amounts than injuries that are more severe. However, the severity of an injury is not just about the extent of the physical damage alone, but also:

  • The location of the injury
  • The amount of treatment needed
  • The type of treatment needed
  • If medical equipment is need
  • Amount of physical pain and discomfort
  • Amount of emotional distress
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of earning potential
  • Length of recovery
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Permanent disability
  • Reduced of quality of life
  • Loss of consortium


Future Expenses

Some injuries may require long term treatment such as physical therapy or follow up surgeries. Permanent disabilities can result in lifelong recurring expenses such as assistive devices, medications, and household services. Some injuries can also result in damage to the rest of the body. For example, a spinal injury can change the way someone stands or walks, which could potentially cause hip and knee damage in the future. All of these long lasting impacts will increase the amount of damages recovered in a car accident claim.

Quality of Evidence

The insurance company is going to try to negotiate the settlement amount down as much as possible. Part of how they do this is by refuting the validity of your claims. The best way to fight against this is with hard proof of the facts of the accident and the extent of your damages. The better your evidence is, the stronger your claim will be.

Financial Burden of Car Accident Outcome

Medical expenses are not the only financial losses that can be caused by a car accident. Other costs can include but are not limited to:

  • Repair or replacement of property damage
  • Rental vehicle or alternate transportation
  • Vehicle storage at tow yard or body shop
  • Professional cooking and cleaning services
  • Loss of income or earning capacity

The emotional distress caused by excessive financial concerns can also increase the amount of non-economic damages that may be recovered.

Insurance Coverage

The amount of compensation you can recover also depends on the amount of coverage available. The insurance company cannot pay more than the applicable policy limit. If the other party was not insured or their policy was too small to cover your damages, you could see if they have any personal assets and file a civil claim against them directly, but if not, there is nothing to recover from them. If you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance coverage on your own policy, you can also utilize that if necessary. In the state of California, if you are driving without auto insurance and are injured in a car accident, you will not be able to recover for pain and suffering.

The Insurance Company

In addition to coverage limits, the specific insurance company and the adjuster dedicated to handling the claim can make all the difference in the final outcome of the case. Some companies hold to fair practices more than others and the adjuster involved may be more or less willing to be reasonable. If all parties involved have the same insurance provider, this can sometimes change things as well.


Contact Mesriani Law if You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident

In the state of California, you are not legally required to have attorney representation in order to file a car accident claim. However, unless you are a personal injury attorney or insurance adjuster yourself, it is most likely in your best interest to hire a lawyer to help build a robust car accident claim. Our firm has the knowledge and experience necessary to help you get the compensation you deserve. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Mesriani Law Group today for a free consultation.


Average Car Accident Settlement FAQs

How long do most auto accident settlements take?

Much like the final amount of a settlement, the length of time from the date of the accident to the date of payment is impossible to estimate. The initial demand is not calculated and sent until treatment is completed and all evidence has been collected and reviewed. Then it depends on how willing the insurance company is to come to an agreement.

What is pain and suffering worth?

There is no set standard for calculating pain and suffering damages. Financial costs such as therapy bills, medications, and other expenses incurred due to the pain or emotional distress may be taken into account. Your attorney can help you go over the details of your situation and your experience to find the right amount of fair compensation for you.

About the Author
Picture of Rodney Mesriani
Rodney Mesriani

Rodney Mesriani is the principal partner of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica based Mesriani Law Group. He specializes in personal injury and employment law while also being an accomplished litigator and trial attorney. Rodney is an aggressive negotiator and a well-known and respected attorney in the areas of practice he specializes in.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Northridge before attending Southwestern School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate. While being an accomplished personal injury and employment lawyer, Rodney Mesriani has made it a point to attend numerous State Sponsored MCLE events and seminars over the years as a law practitioner to be informed of the latest laws and litigation strategies.



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