With so many vehicles on the road each day, car accidents in California happen all the time. Additionally, Los Angeles has been consistently ranked as one of the most traffic-congested cities in the country. Regardless of when or where it happens, car accidents can be a very traumatizing experience.
After a traffic accident, injured victims are likely to wonder if they’re entitled to compensation for their injuries. Since each car accident is unique, the compensation a victim may be entitled to will also depend on the factors specific to that accident. For example, factors that can determine the amount of compensation you receive could include the severity of your injuries, the vehicle you were injured in, and whether you were the driver or passenger during the accident.
When you sustain injuries from a car accident in California, the law allows you to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. Below is a guide to understanding your rights to compensation that you may be owed after being injured in a car accident because of the negligence of another driver
Is the Window to File a Lawsuit for a Car Accident Still Open?
Car accident victims must file a lawsuit before the statute of limitation runs out. The statute of limitations is the deadline for bringing certain types of legal action. In California, the statute of limitations to file a car accident claim is generally two years. This means that victims must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident or they will no longer have the right to seek compensation for their injuries.
However, there are special circumstances that may qualify for an exception to the statute of limitations. If you don’t discover your injuries until days or weeks after your accident, it may be possible to extend the statute of limitation. Another exception involves car accidents with minors. For minors injured from the accident, the time limit begins at the age of 18 instead of the date of the injury.
If you were involved in a car accident in Los Angeles or anywhere in California, contact an experienced car accident attorney to find out more about your legal options before time runs out.
Party at Fault Helps Determines Car Accident Compensation in California
Except in rear-end car accident cases, identifying the party at fault may be challenging but important to determine compensation. Although you might feel that the other party caused the crash and should be responsible, California state law requires you to prove it before proceeding with a personal injury lawsuit. Our law firm has the knowledge and resources available to gather evidence to prove your claim. Some examples of evidence we present to the insurance adjusters or jury in a car accident case can include:
- Police reports
- Photos and videos from the accident scene
- Witness statements
- Cell phone records
- The other driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
- Reports from an accident reconstruction specialist (if necessary)
- Medical reports to prove the extent and severity of your injuries
If you were involved in a traffic accident, it’s important that you call the police immediately. A police officer arriving on the scene will take a police report which can also help establish that you didn’t do anything to cause the crash and that the other driver is at fault. The above list is only an example of some of the evidence that can help prove your case. Your personal injury attorney can work with you to determine the exact steps necessary to hold at-fault driver responsible for their negligence.
Were Your Injuries or Losses Caused by the Car Accident Significant?
The severity of injuries and losses caused by a car accident can range from minor cuts and bruises to serious, life-threatening injuries. Also, keep in mind that some injuries may not appear until days, weeks, or even months after an accident. If you were involved in a minor accident and the other driver’s insurance company offers you a settlement to cover your vehicle damage and any inconvenience you suffered, it might be worth accepting.
However, if you were involved in a major traffic accident and suffered serious injuries such as a head injury, broken bones, or any injury that may prevent you from returning to work, you might be entitled to economic damages for your losses. Economic damages are financial compensation awarded to personal injury victims to cover losses such as medical expenses and lost wages. Additionally, car accident victims who suffer from serious injuries may also be entitled to non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. A car accident attorney can review your case and determine the various types of compensation you may be entitled to receive based on your specific situation.
How Do I Know My Car Accident Injury Is Covered by Insurance?
If you suffered any physical injuries from the car crash, you may seek compensation from the at fault driver’s auto insurance. Even if the accident aggravated a pre-existing condition, you may still be entitled to compensation.
Claims for non-physical injuries such as emotional distress or pain and suffering may also be covered. However, these claims are typically more challenging to win unless they are accompanied by corresponding physical injuries.
Does the At Fault Party Have the Right Insurance for the Car Accident Claim?
One of the most important factors when accessing the viability of a car accident claim is whether there is an insurance policy that will cover your losses. For example, an accident attorney might review the other driver’s auto policy to see if there is enough coverage to pay for your medical expenses, vehicle damage, and any other losses related to the accident. If there is enough coverage, then you have a better chance of winning the case. However, if the other driver was at fault for the accident but is an uninsured or underinsured, then it might be very challenging to collect compensation. This is when it is critical to have underinsured motorist coverage to ensure you are compensated appropriately in a worst-case scenario.
How Do Insurance Policy Limits Affect a Settlement?
The maximum compensation you can obtain from a car accident claim depends on the pre-existing cap on the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. But if the at-fault party’s auto insurance isn’t enough to meet your needs or if the settlement offer is too low, an experienced personal injury lawyer has the skills and experience to advance your car accident case through court. Once a case goes to trial, the jury may award an amount that is more than the policy limit.
What if My Auto Insurance Claim is Denied?
Even if your auto insurance claim gets denied, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the end. The auto insurance company will provide you a reason for the denial. Sometimes, a claim could be missing certain documents or related evidence. Once submitted, the insurance adjust might reconsider your claim.
On the other hand, if the other party’s insurance company refuses to cooperate, you have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
If your own auto insurance company denies your claim, consider speaking with a car accident attorney. Often, an experienced and skilled personal injury attorney can pressure your insurance company to pay for coverage. An attorney can also help determine whether you have the legal grounds for a bad-faith lawsuit against your own insurance company.
How do Insurance Adjusters Determine the Value of a Claim or Settlement Offer?
The responsible party’s insurance company is required to pay for the following items:
- Medical bills and related expenses
- Lost wages and any other lost income
- Physical pain and suffering
- Disfigurement or permanent disability
- Emotional damages because of the accident
If the victim doesn’t claim damages for pain and suffering, the insurance adjuster will add up the various medical and repair costs. However, with cases that does include pain and suffering damages, the insurance adjuster will determine the amount of settlement by calculating the various medical bills, repair costs, lost wages, but also include additional compensation for pain and suffering.
Depending on the insurance company, various methods can be used to calculate the value of a personal injury claim. Adjusters rarely use whole numbers as to calculate the value of a claim but instead uses various forms of the multiplier method. This method uses complex computer algorithms to determine an amount. The equation insurance companies use to calculate pain and suffering is also referred to as the damage formula.
How to Calculate Car Accident Compensation?
It is typically a good idea to hire a car accident attorney after a crash. However, with minor collisions, you may want to save on attorney fees by handling the insurance claim yourself. If you choose to represent yourself, you’ll have to understand how to calculate a car accident compensation and the type of information you’ll need to do so.
What Information is Needed to Make a Car Accident Compensation Estimate?
To determine an estimate of how much compensation you might receive, you will need to know several types of information such as:
- The Extent of Car Accident Injuries – The severity of your bodily injury from a car accident plays a significant role in determining the amount you can expect from a settlement offer. When calculating compensation from car accident, an insurance adjuster will consider the seriousness of your injuries and how it will affect your ongoing quality of life. For example, victims who suffer from traumatic brain injury could have to deal with medical issues for the rest of their lives and a fair settlement should take this into consideration. However, the challenging part is for you and your personal injury lawyer to prove the extent of your car accident injuries.
- Lost Wages Caused by the Car Accident – If you had to take any time off from work to recover from the car accident, you are entitled to payment for lost wages. Even if you receive compensation through sick leave pay, you are still eligible for lost wages since you wouldn’t have had to use the benefit if the other driver didn’t cause the crash.
- Medical Bills and Expenses Caused by the Car Accident – Any accident-related medical bills and expenses are eligible for reimbursement through your car accident claim. Common examples include hospital or emergency room bills, physical bills, physical therapy, and medications. If you had to make modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate your injuries, the costs may also be included in the settlement.
- Property Damage Caused by Car Accident – This section of the car accident compensation covers the amount required to repair or replace your damaged vehicle. You might also receive property damage compensation for personal items that were in your vehicle which needed to be replaced such as a smartphone or laptop.
- Pain and Suffering Caused by Car Accident – In addition to the various economic damages listed above, car accident victims may also be entitled to non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate because it is subjective. However, there are several factors that the court will consider when determining the amount of damages paid for pain and suffering which includes:
- Seriousness of the injury
- Nature and location of disfigurement or scarring
- Amount of time needed for recovery
- Possible ongoing consequences
- Amount claimed in special damages
- Political or socio-economic factors
- Charisma and personality of the injured victim
- Charisma and personality of the attorney
- State damages cap
To successfully argue for a fair amount of non-economic damages, you will need the help of an experienced car accident attorney. Insurance companies will undoubtedly challenge the amount of pain and suffering you endure because they will want to pay you as little as possible. However, a car accident attorney is experienced with dealing with insurance companies and can help you obtain the maximum settlement for your injuries.
Different Methods Used to Calculate Car Accident Compensation
Insurance companies use various formulas to calculate compensation from a car accident. The most used ones include the multiplier method, the damage formula, and the per diem method. Here’s what you should know about each type of method:
What is the Multiplier Method and How Does it Determine Car Accident Compensation?
One of the main ways attorneys and insurance companies calculate pain and suffering damages is by using the multiplier method. This method calculates the compensation by applying a multiplier to the total of special damages. The multiplier method is based on the theory that injuries that result in more quantifiable damages, such as hospital bills, are generally more serious car accidents and need a multiplier to calculate the accident’s true cost.
For example, let’s say that your medical bills after a car accident totaled $10,000 and your injuries resulted in $2,000 in lost wages. In this scenario, lawyers will typically multiply the sum of the actual damages, $12,000, by a multiplier somewhere between one and five; three being the most common multiplier. Using the multiplier method, the total damages would be $36,000.
The multiplier will typically increase or decrease based on the severity of your injuries, possible aggravating circumstances, and the amount of time you’ll need to fully recover. For example, a serious car crash may receive a multiplier of three or four, but a minor collision may only receive a multiplier of one or two. On the other hand, an attorney or insurance adjuster can apply a multiplier of five or more if there are aggravating circumstances such as the at-fault driver being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. But if your negligence contributed to the accident, your attorney may use a lower multiplier to calculate your pain and suffering compensation.
What are Some of the Reasons the Multiplier Method is Often Criticized?
While often used, there are generally two reasons why the multiplier method gets criticized:
- Arbitrary multipliers – One of the main reasons this method gets criticizes is that each lawyer may use a different multiplier. For example, one lawyer may use two as a multiplier while another lawyer may use three. While neither multiplier is necessarily incorrect, the variation between the two calculations can lead to inconsistent results.
- Possibly misleading results – A software engineer who injured his leg in a car crash might have lower hospital bills compared to a model who suffered from severe injuries and was left disfigured. Because models primarily rely on their physical appearance for work, the disfigurement might cause more emotional and psychological distress.
Although the multiplier method isn’t perfect, it provides a starting point when determining pain and suffering damages for car accident victims.
What is the Damage Formula That is Used to Determine Car Accident Compensation?
When determining compensation, an insurance adjuster will calculate the total by adding all the medical expenses that resulted from the accident. This is also known as special damages or medical special damages.
To calculate the settlement amount for pain and suffering general damages (permanent disability), and emotional damages, the adjuster will multiply the amount of special damages by a multiplier. In cases with minor injuries, a multiplier between one and three might be used. With more serious injuries, the adjuster might use a multiplier of five or more. In most car accident claims, this total becomes the starting point for negotiations.
Once the starting amount for negotiations has been calculated, more facts about the accident and injuries results from it will be revealed. This can often change the settlement amount. Since the multiplier can range anywhere between one and five, the total amount can vary widely when using the damage formula.
What is the Per Diem Method That is Used to Determine Car Accident Compensation?
In addition to the multiplier method and damage formula, personal injury attorneys and insurance adjusters can also use the per diem method to calculate pain and suffering damages.
Per diem is a phrase that translates to per day. Essentially, the per diem method determines the amount of compensation a personal injury victim should receive daily. Attorneys and insurance companies will consider various factors such as the amount of time a victim has suffered from the injury and potential future pain and suffering.
To determine a reasonable amount of daily compensation, attorneys will generally consider the victim’s regular income or salary. The reasoning behind this method is this: at the very least, an injured victim living with pain is comparable to a day’s work. If it were not for the injury, the victim would have been able to work and receive compensation. Using the per diem method makes the most sense for victims with short-term, temporary injuries since it specifies the numbers of days for the injuries.
For example, there are approximately 260 traditional working days per year. If a car accident victim makes $50,000 per year, then the per diem compensation in this case would be about $192. If the victim suffered from the injury for 100 days, multiply that number by $192. In this case, using the per diem method, the settlement compensation would result in a $19,200 payout.
What Documents Do You Need to Collect to Calculate Car Accident Compensation?
To calculate car accident compensation, your car accident attorney will ask you for several documents including:
- Medical bills – After getting medical treatment, be sure to save all of your medical bills (even if your medical insurance company pays for it). Additionally, keep a record of the money you spend on transportation to your medical appointments including gas money, parking, or public transportation costs.
- Employment time records of lost pay – To calculate the lost pay portion of your car accident settlement, an insurance adjuster will need to know the amount of money you typically earn. If you don’t have a copy of your last few pay stubs, print them out through your company’s employee portal. If you still cannot locate them, ask your manager or supervisor to help you obtain copies.
- Police report – Any time you are involved in a car accident, make sure you call the police. Even if you don’t think you’re hurt, some injuries don’t appear right away but show up days, weeks, or months later. By calling 911, the police officer arriving on the scene will take down a police report. The officer will interview both drivers, any witnesses to the crash, and write a report. Make sure to write down important information such as the police report number, date of the accident, and location so you can obtain a copy later. You will need to submit a copy of this report when you file an insurance claim.
- Vehicle repair bills – If you want to request compensation for property damage, you will need to submit copies of invoices related to your vehicle repair. Make sure you also keep repair bills for any personal property that was damaged or destroyed while inside your vehicle. If the item isn’t repairable, request that your insurance company give you with a replacement cost.
How Accurate are Car Accident Settlement Calculators?
As mentioned above, any method used to calculate a car accident settlement payout can only provide an estimated amount. Calculating an accurate amount requires more information than a car accident settlement calculator can collect. Additionally, since there’s no common system in place, one calculator might generate a completely different settlement amount compared to another.
In the end, the accuracy of an auto accident settlement calculator depends multiple factors including the information provided to estimate various kinds of damages and its relative ability or lack of ability. Each car accident case is unique so it’s generally not a good idea to solely depend on car accident settlement calculators. However, even though it may not provide an accurate calculation, it does give victims a ballpark estimate regarding how much compensation they might receive.
What is the Average Car Accident Settlement?
Unfortunately, it is usually difficult to determine the amount of car accident compensation you might receive without knowing the other party’s insurance coverage or the severity of your injuries. However, there are several factors that can impact a car accident compensation.
5 Factors That Impact Car Accident Compensation
- Auto insurance policy limits – Unfortunately, most California drivers only carry the minimum auto coverage required by the state. If you sustained serious injuries after a car crash, the minimal insurance coverage might not be enough to cover your damages. Additionally, if several victims were injured in the crash, the other driver might not have enough coverage to cover everyone.
- Severity of your injuries – Minor injuries typically receive lower settlement offers. On the other hand, severe or potentially disabling injuries tend to receive higher settlements.
- Amount of economic damages – Compensation is based primarily on quantifiable costs such as medical bills or lost wages.
- State negligence laws – Depending on the state, if you’re equally or more at fault than the other driver, you would not be eligible for compensation from the other driver.
- Degree of shared fault – California uses the comparative negligence system to determine liability in a car accident. This means that in the event of a car accident, the fault or negligence of each party involved is based on their respective contribution to the crash. In other words, each person who is found to be at fault for the crash is responsible for that portion of the fault. Based on this law, your compensation would be reduced based on your percentage of fault.
Is the Car Accident Settlement from the Car Insurance Company Fair?
Typically, initial car accident settlement payouts from the other party’s insurance company are not fair. Since insurance companies want to make a profit, they will usually offer the lowest settlement amount possible to injured victims. Most of the time, the low offer isn’t enough to cover your accident-related expenses.
Our experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyers can review your settlement offer to determine if it is a fair amount. If the offer seems too low, we will attempt to negotiate with the insurance company to obtain a fair offer. However, if the other party’s insurance company refuses to negotiate, we have the option of taking your case to court and making sure you obtain the compensation you deserve.
What You Are Entitled to If You Are a Victim of a Car Accident
As a car accident victim, you are entitled to recover economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are calculated by verifiable costs that compensate the victim for expenses incurred because of the accident. Car accident compensation examples include:
- Property damage – Includes damages to your vehicle and personal property inside that was damaged.
- Medical treatment – Any medical bills related to your accident are compensable.
- Prescription medications – For any prescription needed for your accident-related injuries.
- Rehabilitation or therapy – Car accidents may leave victims who sustained serious injuries may require rehabilitation or physical therapy to regain their strength and mobility.
- Lost wages – If you were unable to work because of your injury, you are entitled to compensation for any time missed from work.
Non-economic damages are subjective and do not have a specific dollar value. These damages could include:
- Pain and suffering – This is compensation for the physical and emotional stress car accident victims have to endure that they would not have gone through if the accident never happened.
- Loss of enjoyment – If you are no longer able to enjoy the activities you used to before the injury, you are entitled to compensation for the loss.
- Loss of consortium – Consortium is the legal term for companionship of a wife or husband. You may be compensated for any loss of physical intimacy you suffered because of your accident-related injury.
- Anxiety or emotional distress – Car accident victims who suffer from psychological disorders may be entitled to compensation.
- Punitive damages – In special cases, victims may be awarded punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and prevent others from acting in a similarly reckless or intentionally negligent behavior in the future.
While the other party’s insurance company may present you a settlement offer, it is typically far less than you deserve. Our personal injury attorneys will negotiate on your behalf and make sure you get the maximum compensation for your injuries.
Why Hire a Car Accident Lawyer to Determine What a Car Accident is Worth?
If you only sustain minor injuries and the other party is offering a fair settlement, it is possible to handle the car accident claim yourself. However, if you sustained serious injuries, it might make more sense to discuss your situation with a car accident attorney. In addition to explaining your rights, your personal injury attorney can:
- Identify all sources of compensation
- Negotiate a higher settlement offer than you could on your own
- Obtain critical evidence that might be hard to obtain on your own
- Handle correspondence with the driver at fault’s insurance company
- Handle your personal injury claim so you can focus on recovering from your serious injuries
- File a lawsuit on your behalf if the other party does not offer a fair settlement
Personal injury attorneys have the knowledge and experience dealing with insurance companies. If you are a victim of a car crash and want to seek the maximum compensation for your claim, speak with a personal injury attorney about your situation as soon as possible.
When Should You Contact a Car Accident Lawyer?
Building a case against the other driver can take months so it’s important that you contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. In California, the statute of limitations, or deadline, or filing a personal injury claim is two years from the date of the accident. If you miss this deadline, you will not be able to pursue a claim for compensation including medical bills, lost wages, or any other financial losses regardless of the seriousness of your injuries.
After a car accident, your main priority is to seek medical treatment, exchanging contact information with the other driver, and obtaining a police report. Do not attempt to argue about fault at the scene of the accident. Leave that for your personal injury attorney to do later. After seeking medical care and getting home safely, contact our personal injury law firm as soon as possible to discuss your potential claim.
What Does it Cost to Enlist the Help of a Car Accident Lawyer to Maximize Car Accident Compensation?
Most California personal injury attorneys accept clients on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay anything unless your attorney successfully obtains a settlement or you win the case in court. Typical attorney fees are 33.3% for an out-of-court settlement and 40% if your case ends up going to trial. Expenses are also deducted from the total settlement amount.
How Long Does the Car Accident Claim Process Normally Take?
Each car accident is unique and so is the timeline for processing the car accident claim. However, from initial consultation to final settlement, the claims process can take anywhere from a couple months to several years. The timeline depends on various factors such as the length of time it takes your injuries to heal and the negotiation process with the other driver’s insurance company.
Each state has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims. In California, that deadline is two years. If you have not settled your claim or filed a lawsuit in court before the deadline, you will lose your right to seek compensation for your injuries.
Contact Mesriani Law Group Today for Your Car Accident Claim
Car accidents can be a terrifying experience. Additionally, serious accidents can leave victims with catastrophic physical injuries and emotional trauma. Whether it’s temporary or permanent injuries, injured accident victims are entitled to compensation for the ways that the accident changed their life.
When you contact Mesriani Law Group, you will find a highly qualified Los Angeles car accident lawyer ready to help you recover your losses. Our experienced and compassionate lawyers will review your car accident case, investigate the accident, collect evidence, and make sure the responsible party is held accountable. We accept clients on a contingency basis and that means if we don’t win your case, you don’t pay us anything. Call 866-500-7070 today to schedule a free consultation.
Car Accident Compensation FAQ
What is the average settlement for a car accident?
Since every car accident case is unique and there’s no universal method to calculate car settlement compensation, there’s no true average settlement amount. However, there are several factors that can impact the settlement including the other driver’s auto insurance policy limits, severity of the victim’s injuries, amount of economic damages, state negligence laws, and degree of shared fault. Since California is a comparative negligence state, each party who is found to be at fault for the accident is responsible for that portion of the fault. The settlement would be reduced based on your percentage of fault.
How long does it take to negotiate a car accident settlement?
Since each car accident is unique, the timeline for processing each car accident claim will vary. However, from initial consultation to final settlement, the claims process can take anywhere from a couple months to several years. The timeline depends on several factors including the length of time it takes your injuries to heal and the negotiation process with the other driver’s insurance company. Typically, a personal injury lawyer can help speed up the claims process because they have experience negotiating with insurance companies.
Should I accept first offer of car accident compensation?
Typically, the first offer of a car accident compensation is the lowest offer so you should not accept it. Insurance companies will hope that you want to settle quickly and just accept the minimum payout. However, if you sustained more than just minor injuries, it is a good idea to contact a personal injury attorney to determine the maximum compensation you are entitled to. California car accident victims can receive economic and non-economic damages for their injuries including medical bills, lost pay, and pain and suffering.
How do you respond to a low car accident settlement offer?
If you are presented with a low car accident settlement offer, remain calm. Never respond emotionally and take time to prepare your response. Next, ask the insurance adjuster to justify their offer amount. Present facts to prove you claim such as medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and any other documentation that can serve as evidence. With the help of your personal injury attorney, develop a counteroffer. It’s not uncommon for several offers to be made throughout the negotiation process. If the other party still refuses to offer a fair settlement, you have the option of taking the claim to court.