How Much to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement in California?

Picture this: You were injured in a car accident and deserve financial compensation, but you have no clue how much your injuries are really worth. How do you know what’s fair and adequate to cover your losses?

At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we talk to many people who don’t know how to place a value on their personal injury claim. So let’s take a look at the amount of the average personal injury settlement and what you might be able to expect in terms of compensation.

Here’s Why the Valuation Varies

Personal injury case valuation and settlement amounts vary greatly and are based on the individual case. They can range anywhere from a few hundred bucks to millions of dollars!

So how much to expect in a car accident settlement in California and why is there such a wide range? Because these numbers reflect actual, real-world cases where people like you were injured in an enormous variety of unique situations. Average personal injury settlement amounts aren’t just pulled from a random chart or spreadsheet somewhere.

Some injuries are mild, and some are severe. Some cases are fairly straightforward, and others are quite complex. And some settlements arise quickly without much negotiation, while others require extensive evidence-gathering and expert testimony before the other side is the least bit motivated to make a settlement offer.

The injuries, damages, and expenses in each individual situation must be calculated distinctly for that particular case. Your medical bills will probably make up a large proportion of your damages, but your lost wages, emotional suffering, and other damages will be factors too.

There are also additional factors that the average person doesn’t realize. For example, past jury verdicts are often used to determine future settlement amounts. Lawyers, judges, and insurance negotiators may review previous cases and take them into consideration.

Considering all of the factors above, it’s important to have reasonable expectations when deciding what might be an acceptable personal injury settlement amount. This is something any truly experienced personal injury lawyer should tell you during your initial consultation.

The Average Personal Injury Case Is Settled out of Court

Most personal injury cases end in out-of-court settlements, not lawsuits with judges and juries. Only about 2% to 3% of all California personal injury cases end with a jury trial. This is something to keep in mind when you look at what other people may have received when they were injured in accidents.

Clear-cut cases, and those with plenty of evidence to back up one side, are easier to settle out of court. However, more complicated cases sometimes go to trial. These cases typically have various issues that simply cannot be worked about between the parties during California’s two-year statute of limitations before the opportunity for a court case ends.

Let’s look at two scenarios as examples.

Scenario One

You were in a motorcycle accident where a motorist ran a red light and hit you, causing a broken leg. This is a fairly straightforward situation because the motorist is at fault for running the red light, and you suffered a serious injury that was obviously caused by the accident.

Like the vast majority of California personal injury cases, this case is most likely to be handled through an out-of-court settlement that involves negotiation between the two sides. The motorist’s insurance company will make an offer, the motorcyclist and their lawyer will evaluate it, and there will be a back-and-forth before coming to a monetary award.

Scenario Two

In this scenario, let’s say you were in a car accident while driving your car on the freeway at 75 miles per hour. You were weaving in and out of traffic in a hurry and clipped a car that changed lanes without looking. As a result, you suffered a neck injury that aggravated a pre-existing neck problem you’ve had all your life.

This car accident case is complicated. You were driving aggressively but the other driver also changed lanes without looking. Perhaps both of you were injured, and you’re blaming each other. Liability is questionable, and the causation and extent of your injuries will probably be dissected by the insurance companies.

As you can see, this second scenario is much more likely to end up going to trial due to the complexity of the issues involved. It’s a good illustration of why every accident is unique and doesn’t always fit the mold of the “average” case.

The Impact of Previous Defense Verdicts on Your Case

As we discussed earlier, prior jury verdicts aren’t always the best way to calculate the average settlement for a personal injury case. If you do decide to review previous cases that are similar to yours, make sure you look at the defense verdicts.

Defense verdicts are those where the plaintiff fails to prove their case and receives nothing. Zero! Zilch! Nada! Sadly, a large number of personal injury trials in California end in defense verdicts with no monetary awards.

This is because jury trials often involve complicated situations where liability is unclear, and it’s hard to tell whether the person’s injuries were a direct result of the accident. Before you insist on going to court, think long and hard about the possibility of a zero-dollar defense verdict.

In a way, trying to determine the value of your personal injury case by looking at the average injury settlement or court case verdict may be a futile task. No previous situation is just like yours. There are dozens of factors that can increase or decrease the value of your case.

Factors That Impact the Value of Your Case

Certain factors will minimize or maximize your settlement amount, so it’s important to watch out for things that could diminish the value of your case. Some of these factors are within your control, and others are simply the facts of your case.

It’s also important to understand that no respectable personal injury lawyer will guarantee a specific valuation of your case. Those who would are simply not being honest with you — including websites that give wildly inaccurate and deceptive case values. Make sure to ask a lot of questions when interviewing personal injury lawyers to ensure you’re getting a straight-shooter and quality legal advice. ​

Here are the main factors that impact your settlement value:

Medical Bills

Insurance companies will generally offer injured parties a settlement that includes their medical bills, but make sure you’re asking for the full value of your medical care. You may have ongoing and future costs that you deserve to have fully covered, including psychological treatment and continuing physical therapy.

Lost Wages

If you missed time from work due to the accident, you can seek compensation for your lost earnings. You can also ask to be compensated for losses associated with a diminished ability to perform your job during your physical recovery and/or in the future.

Pain and Suffering

You are entitled to compensation due to your pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. This includes all the ways the accident and your injuries have negatively affected any aspect of your life, such as your work, family, social life, sports, hobbies, activities, and so forth.

Loss of Consortium

A California loss of consortium claim arises from the damage or toll the accident and your injuries have taken on your marriage and intimate relationship with your spouse.

Inability to Do Household Tasks

Your inability to do household chores also holds value. You may have to incur costs due to hiring someone else to handle daily chores and familial duties that you used to handle. You can even be compensated when tasks are left undone because nobody was hired to replace you.

Home Caregivers

You may also need hired help and caregivers to assist you with your ongoing recovery and daily life. In-home caregivers are often very expensive in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the cost of living is very high, so this element of your damages can be significant.

Property Damage

The cost of repairing/replacing any damaged personal property should also be included in your settlement. This includes automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, and even items like phones, computers, clothing, and other things that were damaged in the crash.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

These are costs directly related to the crash, such as tow truck fees, cab fare, Uber rides, prescription costs, and any other expenses you incur as a direct result of your personal injury.

Factors That Bring Down the Value of a Settlement

Unfortunately, many factors can drain away from the value of your case and diminish the amount of your settlement. Let’s review these factors and how they could impact your case.

Shared Liability

Determining who caused your accident is a key factor in determining the value of your settlement. Even if you were partially at fault, you could make a claim, but your claim will be discounted. California is a comparative negligence state, meaning your settlement will be reduced by whatever percentage you are found to have contributed to the cause of your accident. How much to expect from a car accident in California?

As an example, if your personal injury case would be worth $200,000 if you played no part in causing the accident, but it’s determined that you contributed 20% of the blame, you would receive 80% of the value of the case or $160,000.

Insurance Policy Limits

Every insurance policy has a limit to the amount it will pay, which is a fixed factor you can’t control. Keep this in mind because only a very large organization will have a multi-million-dollar policy limit.

In most California traffic accident cases, unless you are looking at a claim against Uber, MUNI, a trucking company, or someone driving for their company at the time of the accident, you are filing an insurance claim against another individual. You don’t go after them personally, but you pursue compensation through their insurance coverage.

When insurance coverage limits are low, the policy will barely cover your ambulance ride and x-rays. California only requires $15,000 in liability coverage, which isn’t much.

Uninsured Motorists

If the other driver is an uninsured motorist, this creates another problem. You can look into your own underinsured motorist coverage to help blunt the impact, but your settlement amount may be much lower than you deserve simply because there is no insurance coverage to pay for your damages.

The Final Factor: The Quality of Your Lawyer

One other crucial factor that can determine the value of your case is the quality of your lawyer. Make sure you find the best personal injury lawyer to ensure no expense is overlooked and the insurance company is held firmly responsible for paying these damages.

Here at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we have decades of experience handling cases that are similar to yours. Here are some examples of settlements we obtained in various traffic accident cases in California:

The right attorney can significantly impact the value of your settlement due to their experience and the amount of interest they have in your case. Having the best personal injury attorney advocating on your behalf will ensure that the insurance company doesn’t just stall negotiations after offering you a lower settlement than you deserve.

We Help You Increase the Value of Your Settlement

If you’ve suffered injuries in a serious traffic accident and want to find out more about what to do next, check out our resources below. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we focus all of our efforts on certain types of serious personal injury cases:

If you’re thinking about hiring an injury lawyer to get more than the average personal injury settlement amount, you’re already on the right track. Learn more here about whether we’re the best attorneys for you and see how the process works when you choose us.

You may be entitled to substantially higher compensation than the insurer or other party initially wants to provide. Make sure you negotiate your settlement skillfully with the help of an experienced attorney. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we offer a free consultation with a caring and qualified attorney who knows how to get the job done right.

We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life

After a personal injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers law firm. We handle many areas of the law, including many kinds of personal injuries. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details. We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.