4 Factors Affecting Car Accident Settlements

Car accident settlements are calculated and offered based on numerous factors, not all of which are measured numerically.

Many variables can affect the value of a car accident settlement, but the following four factors are particularly important:

  • whether your explanations of how the accident happened are consistent
  • whether you have solid evidence of the defendant’s negligence
  • whether your doctors’ opinions support your medical complaints, and
  • whether your post-accident complaints are consistent with your post-accident actions and lifestyle.

Let's take a closer look at these factors in the context of a typical car accident settlement.

Consistency of Your Version of How the Accident Happened

In any type of personal injury case, you will probably give multiple explanations of how the accident happened. Let’s look at all of the different people you might end up discussing the accident with, in terms of how it happened and what you experienced:

  • the other driver, the passengers in your car, and maybe even the bystanders at the accident scene
  • first responders such as the police and EMTs
  • if you are taken to the hospital, physicians, nurses, and other hospital employees
  • your own physicians
  • your insurance company
  • your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles
  • the defendant’s insurer’s adjuster
  • the defendant’s insurer’s investigator
  • the defense attorney in a deposition, and
  • the jury at trial.

That’s a lot of different people who are going to hear some version of your story. In order to get the maximum settlement in a personal injury case, you must remain as consistent as possible. While no one can give the exact same explanation every time, if your story varies too much, an insurance adjuster or defense attorney will be able to poke holes in it, and the settlement value of your case will decrease.

Whether You Have Solid Evidence of the Defendant’s Negligence

The quality of your negligence case against the defendant plays a very important role in setting the settlement value of your case. Given the same injuries, a rear end collision is generally worth more than a collision at an intersection where there was no traffic light or stop sign. This is because a rear end collision is almost always the fault of the person behind, while a collision at an intersection with no traffic controls could be anyone’s fault. (Learn more about Proving Fault in a Car Accident Case.)

Whether Your Doctors’ Opinions Support Your Medical Complaints

Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys look very carefully at your medical records and compare them with your complaints. They want to see if your doctors’ opinions support what you're saying about your aches and pains and general discomfort. If the doctors’ opinions do not support your complaints, the defendant will likely accuse you of exaggerating your complaints and malingering.

Let’s look at an example of this. Let’s say that a person complains of months of excruciating low back from a rear end collision, but that his/her x-rays and MRIs show no vertebra or disc injury and his/her doctors have diagnosed the person with nothing more lumbar strain. The two most likely possibilities for this situation are that the doctors have misdiagnosed the person’s condition or that the person is exaggerating his/her symptoms. The insurer will undoubtedly argue that the person is exaggerating his/her symptoms and will only make a low settlement offer because of that. The only way that the person will be able to get a better settlement offer is to find a new doctor who can confirm a more serious diagnosis.

Whether Your Post-Accident Complaints are Consistent With Your Post-Accident Actions and Lifestyle

This is the second time that we’ve discussed consistency. It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is for a personal injury plaintiff to be consistent in all of his/her post-accident statements and actions. This factor usually comes into play because the insurer sent an investigator to follow the plaintiff around. An example might come in handy.

Let’s say that the plaintiff has a back injury and testified in his deposition that his doctor gave him a note saying that he shouldn’t lift more than 10 pounds and that in fact he can’t lift more than 10 pounds. But let’s say that the insurance investigator took a video of the plaintiff reshingling his roof and carrying 50 pound bags of shingles up a ladder onto his roof. That person now has a serious problem with his case and will be lucky to get anything more than a couple of thousand dollars.

This is of course an extreme example, but it illustrates how important it is to be consistent in all of your actions and statements if you're making a car accident injury claim.

Learn more about Auto Accident Settlement Formulas.

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