Clients in car accident cases often ask how much they should expect to recover from a personal injury claim. We cannot ever guarantee a specific amount, but we can promise to seek a fair settlement based on the facts of the injury case.
What is a fair settlement for a car accident case? It is one that makes you financially whole. If you have been seriously injured, it includes extra money for your pain and suffering. At Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., our car accident attorneys manage each case with hands-on care and personal attention to the needs of the client.
If you have been injured in a car accident in North Carolina that someone else caused, contact our law firm for a free consultation with a car accident attorney. Our state-of-the-art case tracking system and attention to detail allow us to fight aggressively for each client. We are ready to fight for justice for you.
Four Questions for Determining Whether a Car Accident Settlement Is Fair
Do You Know How Much You Are Entitled to Recover?
Many car accidents are fender benders and cause only minor injuries. However, some motor vehicle accidents involve more serious injuries — injuries that will disrupt the lives of the accident victims.
An experienced car accident lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of your accident and determine whether you have a car accident injury claim and the appropriate amount of compensation to seek. To determine the full extent of your losses the car accident caused, we must wait until you have reached maximum medical improvement so we have a clear understanding of your medical bills.
Medical costs are usually a significant part of an injury claim. Insurance companies often make settlement offers after car accidents based on previous cases they have settled. The insurer’s goal is to limit their pay out. But someone else’s case has little to do with what has happened to you. A quick settlement offer may not provide compensation for your future medical treatment costs related to a serious car accident. It’s hard enough to get an insurance company to fully compensate for past medical bills, but it’s much harder to get them to compensate for future medical bills.
In addition to medical expenses, you may seek to recover compensation for:
- Lost wages for time missed from work
- Diminished earning capacity if your injuries impair your ability to earn a living
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium your spouse has suffered because of your injuries
- Property damage
If an insurance company makes a settlement offer to resolve your car accident claim, we will discuss it with you and share our perspective on whether it represents a fair settlement offer based on the facts of your car accident case.
Does the Settlement Cover All Current and Future Medical Expenses?
A proper auto accident settlement covers your medical costs from emergency care at the accident scene through everything that follows, including diagnostic tests, surgery, hospitalization, rehabilitation, therapy and follow-up doctors’ visits. If you are unable to perform daily household tasks while you are recovering, your costs for personal assistance and assistive devices, such as a wheelchair, should be part of the settlement.
In 2011 the North Carolina General Assembly passed into law Rule of Evidence 414, which states:
“Evidence offered to prove past medical expenses shall be limited to evidence of the amounts actually paid to satisfy the bills that have been satisfied, regardless of the source of payment, and evidence of the amounts actually necessary to satisfy the bills that have been incurred but not yet satisfied. This rule does not impose upon any party an affirmative duty to seek a reduction in billed charges to which the party is not contractually entitled.”
In other words, evidence of past medical expenses that insurance companies consider can only include:
- The amount paid to satisfy bills that have been paid and
- The amount needed to satisfy bills that have been paid.
For example, if a client’s health insurance pays bills at a reduced amount due to contractual discounts with the medical provider, the amount actually paid to the medical providers could be as little as 10% of the amount charged. The insurance company only has to consider the amount the health insurance actually paid.
Rule 414 does not require any party to seek a reduction in billed charges to which they are not contractually entitled.
Some say that Rule 414 can heavily dilute the fairness of damages that jurors and judges use as evidence. Others say that the new rule may cause injured people to recover far less in economic losses, which could further reduce the amount calculated for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Rule 414 assumes that everyone with health insurance will file their accident-related medical bills on their health insurance. While it may not seem fair that your health insurance is paying a medical bill that the liability insurance is liable for, please remember that the health insurance is often able to subrogate, or seek reimbursement for, any medical bills they paid that the car insurance is liable for.
If you are permanently disabled, we can consult professional life care planners to project your lifetime medical needs and include those costs of those medical expenses in our settlement demand for you.
Does the Settlement Cover All of Your Lost Income?
An injury settlement should include lost wages and other income losses, including the value of employment benefits you didn’t receive; lost bonuses, commissions, paid time off; and unrealized raises. If you cannot return to work, lost income should be calculated up to your likely retirement age.
Does the Settlement Compensate You for Pain, Suffering, and Other Non-Economic Losses?
If your case goes to court, a jury will consider what specific financial compensation you deserve for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and your spouse’s loss of consortium.
Our lawyers will tell the jury about the pain and anguish you have endured through no fault of your own. Testimony from family and friends and your own account can contrast the life you led before the auto accident with what your injuries have cost you.
Please understand, however, that if you want us to allege emotional distress, or any other damage that relates to psychological injury, that allegation will open the door for the defense to have access to all sorts of psychiatric, psychological and/or therapy records for treatment both before and after your accident. The emotional costs of having other lawyers delving into and asking you questions about current and past psychological treatment must be taken into account before the lawsuit is filed.
Call Our Car Accident Lawyers for Help
If someone else caused the car crash that injured you, you deserve full compensation for your losses. Insurance companies have a bottom line to protect. A Raleigh car accident lawyer with Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. will calculate your losses and negotiate aggressively for maximum compensation for you. If we take your car accident claim to court, we will develop a strong case on your behalf.
Contact us online or phone 919-661-9000 for a free consultation with a car accident attorney. Our Raleigh law firm handles personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. We do not charge legal fees unless we recover compensation for you.