Make sure you get all the compensation you deserve for your injuries
You’re hurt in a car accident. It wasn’t your fault, and the insurance company soon admits liability and offers a settlement. It looks like a significant amount, and you have bills piling up. Should you take it?
The short answer is “not until you talk to a lawyer.” The first thing you need to know about settlements is that the insurance company rarely leads with their best offer. That initial amount that looks good is likely a “lowball” insurance settlement offer that won’t cover the full cost of the crash. You can ask them for more money, and you usually should.
The second thing you need to know is that you get one shot at compensation. Once your case settles, you can’t go back for more.
That’s why, ultimately, the only way to maximize your insurance claim for an injury is to get an experienced lawyer to negotiate on your behalf.
How are car accident settlements calculated in Indiana?
Your settlement needs to cover the full cost of your accident – not just the short-term expenses but the long-term costs that may result from a lingering or permanent injury. There are many types of damages (financial compensation) for a car accident, but most fall into two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are objectively verifiable losses that can be calculated and tied to a specific dollar amount. These include:
- Medical expenses: medication, hospital bills, ambulance fees, medical devices, medical procedures, surgery, physical therapy, and so on. Your settlement should also include the anticipated cost of future medical procedures that you may need due to the accident.
- Lost income, both during your recovery and in the future. If you have a permanent injury affecting your ability to work, your lost future income should be included in your settlement.
- Replacement services if you are unable to perform certain tasks due to your injury. For example, this part of your settlement could include the reasonable cost of childcare, yard work, home maintenance, cleaning, and so on.
- Modifications to your home or vehicle, if necessary, to accommodate a permanent disability.
- Property damage to your vehicle and any other personal property.
Non-economic damages are more subjective. They may include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of quality and enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium (intimacy in marriage or family relationships). While there are some benchmarks used to calculate these damages at various stages of the process, ultimately, it’s all about how strong a case your attorney can make for the effects the accident has had on your life.
Another practical factor is the amount of available insurance coverage. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to have uninsured and underinsured motorist protection on your own insurance policy. You don’t want to end up getting less than you deserve because the driver who hit you chose not to carry enough insurance.
Because of all these factors, there is no single average settlement for a car accident in Indiana. It all depends on how serious your injuries are and how they have affected your life. A minor injury that heals quickly will likely result in a smaller settlement than a more serious injury that requires an extensive recovery period and months of physical therapy, and a settlement for a permanent injury is usually larger still.
How long will a settlement take? Why is it taking so long?
Again, there is no single average length of time it takes to resolve a car accident case. In part, it depends on how your recovery goes. If your medical outlook is still unclear, it’s usually not in your interest to settle your case until your condition stabilizes and the long-term cost is known.
Another factor, put simply, is how difficult the insurance company decides to be. If they are willing to negotiate in good faith, your case may be resolved in a matter of months. But if they won’t make a fair offer, it may be a much longer process. However, an experienced car accident lawyer can guide you through this process, explain why it’s taking so long, and give you their professional opinion on what to expect.
Why you need a lawyer for a car accident insurance claim
There are several reasons you need an attorney to maximize your settlement. First, an attorney can investigate to determine the full extent of your damages. That may include gathering medical records and retaining experts, such as economists and doctors, who can explain the full long-term cost of your injuries. The insurance companies look at this evidence when determining what a claim is worth.
Just as importantly, hiring a trial attorney puts pressure on the insurance company to offer a fair settlement. To be clear, just because you hire a trial lawyer doesn’t mean your case will necessarily go to trial. Most cases settle out of court. You may not even need to file a lawsuit. However, when you have an attorney with trial experience and a winning track record, the insurance company knows that you could take them to court and will react accordingly. Ultimately, insurance companies only pay up when they believe it’s in their interest to do so, and the threat of trial is powerful motivation.
The insurance industry’s own data shows that people who hire lawyers get bigger settlements than those who don’t, even taking the attorney’s fee into account. In fact, just talking to a lawyer has been shown to increase your settlement compared to trying to get money without a lawyer on your side. So, if you were hurt in a car accident in Indiana, don’t take chances with your future. Contact an experienced attorney who knows how to get more from a car accident settlement.