How much should I settle for my auto accident?

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How much should I settle for my auto accident?

A new truck went through a stop sign and I hit him. He has commercial auto insurance; they have accepted full responsibility and have deemed my vehicle a total loss. I still owe $10,000 on it. I was seen in the ER for my hand which was blasted by the air bag; X-rays show it’s just bruised. I don’t have have full use of it still and my laptop which I use for work, was in the car and busted. I have been working from home doing other parts of my job but not my job. I am a single working mom of a special needs 4 year old and this has been very difficult.

Asked on November 21, 2014 under Personal Injury, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no hard and fast answer: every case is different and given the amount you could possibly receive, you should retain any attorney to help you to maximize your recovery. That said, to give you a rough guide:

First, you figure out what you might win *if* you went to trial and won. Winning at trial is *never* a given--there's always a chance of losing, of or getting less than you think you deserve--but a judgment at trial will almost always be more than any settlement and therefore represent the maximum you might expect.

At trial, you could possibly recover the sum or total of:

1) Your to-date out-of-pocket (not paid by insurance) medical costs plus projected future medical (including physical or occupational therapy) costs;

2) Lost wages to date (if you're not getting paid your full amount) and any future loss in earning potential;

3) Property loss--car, laptop, etc.

4) "Pain and suffering" if the injury has imposed some significant life impairment lasting weeks or more. For partial loss of use of one hand, if it's lasted for weeks or more, you might get an amount equal to (for example) 1/4 to 1/2 your medical costs--but this is the most subjective element of damages, and sometimes you get nothing when you think you deserve compensation, sometimes you get at trial as much or even more than you hoped.

Add the above up: that's the most you'd likely get. When you settle, you generally get 1/3 to 1/2, maybe 60%, of the above. The reason you take less is to get the money paid now, not years later, without extensive legal costs, and without the chance of losing (the uncertainty of trial); you also accept less as an incentive to the other side to settle, and they settle to save money.

So for sake of illustration: say the greater of the value of your or what you still owe on it is $10k; say your laptop was not new and has a current value of $500; say because you can't do your full job, you've lost $4k of income; say your out-of-pocket medical is $1,000; and say you might get another $500 for the pain, etc. you've experienced. The total is $16k...a pretrial settlement might be $5k to around $9k.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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