An automobile accident settlement may occur when parties to an accident agree on a payment amount to cover the costs of injuries or property damage. A settlement can be agreed to without a trial, prior to a trial in a pre-trial settlement, or during a trial.
Automobile accident settlements are essentially a contract stating the liable party will pay the injured party a certain sum of money to compensate for the losses they caused.
Settlements can save all parties time and money. Instead of spending weeks or even months in court and spending large amounts of legal fees, the parties can agree to the terms of a settlement and move forward. The parties must, however, be willing to engage with one another in a cooperative manner in order to reach a settlement.
Settlements are also often offered by insurance companies. It is important to note, however, that a settlement offer does not have to be accepted. It is also important to remember an insurance company is more concerned with their bottom dollar than compensating a victim properly in most cases.
What are Some Car Accident Settlement Tips?
Automobile accidents can be simple or they may be complex, depending on the circumstances. Either way, an accident is an extremely stressful event that may disrupt normal life for some time.
Discussed below are some tips to help quickly resolve issues that arise from an automobile accident. If these tips are not followed, the case may become a dispute with little to no evidence for either side.
What is the Basic and Necessary Information Needed?
In an automobile accident, it is important to get the information of the other driver and their insurance but it is not necessary to contact the other driver directly. Instead, contact the insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company. Prior to contacting anyone, the following information should be obtained:
- The other driver’s full name;
- The other driver’s insurance company and the other driver’s insurance policy number;
- All license plate numbers from the cars involved;
- Photographs of the vehicles and accident scene;
- Full names and contact information of any witnesses who saw the accident; and
- A copy of the automobile accident police record, if the police were called.
Dealing with an insurance company when trying to obtain a settlement can be a frustrating process. The goal of the insurance company is to pay as little as possible for the settlement and prevent the filing of any lawsuits. The insurance company will only award damages if there is evidence of those damages and liability, or which driver was at fault, is established.
What Damages to the Car are Included?
There are two important categories of injuries and damages that an individual may collect from a car accident: damages to the vehicle and injuries to the driver. Generally, damage to the vehicle is easier to prove. Costs that may be included in the damage to the vehicle category include:
- Damage to the vehicle;
- Damage to any personal property inside the car at the time of the accident;
- Car rental costs for a replacement vehicle during the time the vehicle is being repaired; or
- Any out-of-pocket expenses pertaining to the vehicle, including a tow truck or a taxi to return home from the accident scene.
What Injuries to the Person are Included?
Injuries to the person are more difficult to settle, especially if those injuries are more serious and include future pain and suffering. In general, current medical expenses are more easily calculated as there are bills showing total amounts.
Damages for future issues, however, may be more difficult to determine and are more highly contested. These may include:
Because of this, negotiating a favorable settlement for physical injuries may require a lot more time and energy.
What are Pain and Suffering Damages?
Pain and suffering damages may be awarded in some automobile accident cases. Common examples of pain and suffering for which damages may be awarded include:
- A reduction in an individual’s quality of life;
- Physical pain or impairment, such as broken bones;
- Mental anguish or suffering;
- A loss of enjoyment of life;
- Injury causing disfigurement;
- Grief if the incident caused the death of a loved one; or
- Compensation if the harm potentially shortened the plaintiff’s life span.
What Information Should I Cover in Order to Obtain a Favorable Settlement?
It is important to understand the basic aim of a settlement. The main purpose of a settlement is to avoid a trial. This is accomplished by an agreement that the plaintiff will not exercise their right to a trial in exchange for a sum of money or performance of an action, such as agreeing to provide a mechanic, be the defendant.
Because of this, it is important for both parties to know exactly what they wish to obtain from the settlement before entering into the settlement negotiations. Settlements usually require the assistance of a lawyer or a mediator. Some discussion points for an attorney prior to a trial include:
- Chances of success at trial and whether a lawsuit is necessary;
- The amount that the case is worth in terms a dollar amount;
- The minimum acceptable amount to reach a settlement, which should be kept confidential until necessary;
- Examples of outcomes and settlement amounts from similar previous cases;
- The strengths and weaknesses of the evidence for both the opponent’s case and the individual’s own case;
- The amount of insurance coverage or monetary resources available to the opposing party;
- The effect any settlement payments will have on related matters such as attorney’s fees;
- Any tax consequences; and
- If remedies other than monetary payments are necessary.
What are Automobile Accident Settlement Payouts?
In general, automobile accident settlements are paid out in one of two ways. One way is a structured settlement. In a structured settlement, the payments are made in regular installments over time. This may help the recipient avoid tax consequences associated with receiving large amounts of income at once. Structured settlements are also known as annuity payment plans.
The second way a settlement may be paid out is when the party received a lump sum payment, or all of the compensation money at once time. This is also known as a settlement cash payout. It allows the recipient to receive all of their awarded monies without waiting. However, there may be serious tax implications to receiving a large sum of money at once.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Car Accident Settlement?
Yes, it is extremely important to have the assistance of a car accident lawyer with any car accident settlement. An attorney will be able to review the facts of the case and provide advice regarding the possibility of success at trial. An attorney can help calculate the amount of damages, help provide evidence of liability, and negotiate with insurance companies. They will have more experience in negotiation and be able to file a lawsuit if necessary.
Should a lawsuit be filed, an attorney can represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary. It is important to remember that a settlement can be reached at any time, even in the middle of a trial. Having an attorney on your side will expedite the process and most likely ensure a more favorable outcome for your case.