The value of a car accident claim depends on numerous factors, many of which are within your control. Understanding how these factors affect your claim can help you avoid errors and mistakes that could lower the value of the claim.
Ten Factors That Can Impact the Value of a Car Accident Claim
Issues that can affect how much you might receive for a car accident claim include:
1. Liability for Causing the Collision
To recover full compensation for damages caused by a car crash, the other driver or party must be entirely responsible for causing the car accident. If there is any doubt as to who caused the crash, the value of your claim decreases. Therefore, investigating the cause of the crash and gathering evidence to prove liability is crucial.
Allegations of comparative fault are used to reduce the value of your claim. The laws regarding comparative fault vary by state. In California, you could be 99 percent at fault for the cause of a car crash and recover up to one percent of the value of your damages.
However, in Nevada, if you are 51 percent or more at fault for the cause of the crash, you cannot recover any money for your damages. In both states, the amount of compensation you receive for your claim decreases by the percentage of fault assigned to you for causing the car wreck.
2. Statements About the Accident
Any statements you make at the accident scene can impact the value of your injury claim. For instance, if you say, “I’m sorry,” you could be accused of admitting you were at fault for the cause of the accident. Never apologize or admit fault at the accident scene.
Likewise, any statements you give to an insurance company or questions you answer for an insurance claims adjuster could hurt your claim. Insurance adjusters are trained to “get people to talk.” The more you talk about the accident, the better chance the adjuster has of obtaining information the company can use to deny or undervalue your claim.
In most cases, it is wise to talk to a car accident attorney as soon as possible, especially if the claims adjuster is pressuring you to make a formal statement.
3. Severity of Injuries
The severity and type of injuries a person sustains in a car crash impact the value of a claim. Traumatic and catastrophic injuries increase the value of a car accident claim. Minor injuries that do not require significant medical treatment lower the value of the claim.
Examples of injuries that can increase the value of a claim include, but are not limited to:
- Severe burns
- Amputations or loss of limbs
- Loss of vision or hearing
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Any permanent disability
Severe injuries generally result in more damages. Medical and personal care are more expensive for traumatic injuries. Also, traumatic injuries typically result in a higher amount of lost income because the duration of the recovery is longer.
4. Delays in Medical Treatment
Insurance companies search for ways to deny valid car accident claims. Delays in medical care give companies a reason to question your claim.
The insurance company may claim that the car crash did not cause your injuries. It may argue that if you had been injured in the car accident, you would have seen a doctor immediately. It is generally best for your health and a future injury claim to see a doctor as quickly as possible after a car accident.
5. Financial Damages
If another driver is entirely responsible for causing the car accident, all financial damages should be reimbursed in a car accident claim. Therefore, the higher your financial damages, the higher the value of your car accident claim.
Financial damages in a car accident claim can include:
- Loss of income and benefits
- Medical expenses
- Personal care costs
- Medications and medical equipment
- Therapies and counseling
- In-home health care
- Help with household chores
- Travel expenses
- Legal costs
Careful documentation is vital. You can only receive reimbursement for financial damages that you can prove you incurred.
6. Activities During Recovery
Remember, nothing you post online is private. A defense attorney may gain access to your social media posts and other information posted online. It is best to avoid using social media accounts until after your car accident claim has been settled.
If you were to post a picture of yourself at your niece’s pool party, a jury might believe you are lying about the extent of your damages. It would not matter that you were in chronic pain and left 10 minutes later. The perception would have already been created.
Failing to follow your doctor’s treatment plan can also hurt the value of your claim. An insurance company may argue that you caused your injuries to become worse by not following the treatment plan. Because you caused your injuries to worsen, you do not deserve full compensation.
To avoid problems with your car accident claim, follow your doctor’s orders, avoid activities that contradict your injury claim, and stay off social media.
7. Pre-Existing Conditions
Insurance companies often use pre-existing conditions as a way to undervalue car accident claims. The company claims your injuries are from a prior accident or medical condition instead of being caused by the car crash.
Having a pre-existing condition does not mean that you cannot recover compensation for a car accident claim. However, it can complicate the case. Always tell your attorney about any prior accidents and any medical conditions.
Most states require insurance companies and defendants to accept accident victims “as is.” In other words, you are entitled to compensation even if the accident caused a prior condition to become worse.
8. Available Insurance Coverage
California and Nevada require drivers to carry minimum liability insurance. Unfortunately, the minimum insurance coverage is very low. If you sustain a severe injury, your car accident claim is likely to exceed the minimum coverage amount.
However, the insurance company is only required to pay your claim up to the policy limits. Therefore, the amount of insurance the other driver carries could impact the value of your car accident claim.
You could be entitled to additional compensation from your insurance company if you carry underinsured motorist coverage.
9. Permanent Disabilities and Impairments
Accident victims who sustain disabilities and permanent impairments are entitled to compensation for future damages such as:
- Ongoing medical treatment
- Personal care
- Future loss of income and benefits
- Decreases in earning potential
- Future pain, suffering, and loss of quality of life
The amount of future damages may be significant. Lost wages over a person’s lifetime could total millions of dollars. Medical experts, financial experts, economists, and other experts can calculate the value of future damages based on numerous factors.
10. Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
The insurance company is not going to tell you how much your claim is actually worth. It wants to pay as little as possible to settle your claim. Without an attorney, you cannot be sure that the insurance company is offering a fair amount to settle your claim.
Also, most insurance companies are familiar with the record and reputation of lawyers who handle injury claims. Because the insurance company knows that you have someone on your side who is knowledgeable about injury claims, it may take the claim more seriously and offer a higher settlement amount to avoid litigation.
Therefore, hiring a personal injury lawyer may give you the best chance of recovering the maximum value for your car accident claim.