It can be a little tricky to predict early on exactly what a car accident settlement will be. How is one supposed to know if a settlement offer is appropriate or if you are being low-balled by the insurance company? The process to determine the amount of a settlement can be complex and only by going through the process step-by-step can an accurate number be determined. Every case is unique, with different facts and parties. There are, however, several well-known aspects which go into this process and by looking at carefully we can draw some conclusions.
First off, ask yourself if you need a car accident attorney. Not every settlement requires retaining personal legal counsel. If you can unequivocally answer ‘yes’ to these six questions you could consider foregoing a lawyer.
- Were you physically injured in the accident?
- Did you miss any work due to accident?
- Was there damage to your vehicle?
- Was the other driver at fault?
- Do you need help evaluating the total damage done to your life?
- Is it difficult for you to negotiate a fair settlement with a claims adjuster?
If you can answer in the affirmative for all those questions, then you could entertain the notion of at least seeing their offer of settlement before deciding on whether to retain counsel. Remember that you can always get a free consultation before deciding how to proceed. Too speedy an offer should be looked at skeptically as sometimes a soft tissue injury like whiplash can be slow to develop and painful once fully manifested. If you hesitate to say yes or must answer no to any of these questions, then it is probably time to start thinking about retaining counsel.
What is the Average Montana Settlement for a Car Accident?
The main categories of damages awarded for car accident settlements are economic damages and non-economic damages. Punitive damages are rarely are awarded in a personal injury case and are limited to those cases where there is clear and convincing evidence of malice. Even without an exact dollar amount in hand, it is important to have an approximate idea before you begin negotiating a settlement amount. Having a local experienced attorney whose specialty is car accidents at this stage can be instrumental.
Economic Car Accident Damages
Of the two, economic damages are usually easier to calculate with more accuracy. These tend to be damages that are representative of actual dollar amounts owed, or foreseeable future expenses relating to the damage suffered by way of the accident.
Medical bills for all past treatment and any future procedures or expenses related to recovery would be included. Keeping a thorough record of any medical bills or related costs is particularly important. Equally important will be determining any future medical bills related to your recovery. Depending on the severity of the injuries this can be a significant portion of the final settlement. A precise determination of future medical costs requires a certain amount of speculation. Work closely with your doctors and attorney to ensure you are not being left holding the bag down the road. The more detailed and complete your records are, the better position your attorney will be in to negotiate your settlement or take it to trial if needed.
Certain types of injuries are more serious and have a much more significant impact on your life in the long term. Even a mild traumatic brain injury can have a pervasive effect with many lingering side effects. Neck and spine injuries are difficult to treat can result in permanent reduction of mobility or even paralysis. Shoulder and knee injuries are slow to recover from and frequently are never 100% ever again. Hand injuries are important as they are inherently tied to quality of life issues, even more so in the modern world. Any loss of a limb is an obviously a very serious injury that will have a drastic impact on your life. All these factors must be taken into consideration and accounted for in your final award.
Property damage is also important to document. Pictures of the damage taken at time of accident can help validate estimates to repair the damage or to support replacing the whole car. Lost wages from being unable to work fall under this category as well. Documentation establishing that your doctor advises you not to work for a specified amount of time will be important.
Non-economic Car Crash Damages
This large category includes many damages that usually cannot easily be expressed as a monetary amount. Things like pain and suffering, emotional distress or loss of consortium. A challenge for everyone involved in the case will be to assess these more nebulous types of damage and arrive at a suitable amount for recompense. This amount needs to include any long term or permanent disabilities as well as items of a more temporary but nonetheless serious nature.
How all these factors have affected your day-to-day life and will continue to impact it in the future are important considerations. Pain, suffering, and emotional distress can be life changing events by themselves, and you deserve to be fully compensated.
Practical Examples of Malice and Punitive Damages
Malice has occurred if the defendant had knowledge of facts that created a high probability of injury to the plaintiff, and intentionally proceeds to act anyways. In these situations, punitive damages may be in order. For example, if the plaintiff becomes intoxicated and then drives off in a car this could be actual malice. They knew driving drunk could likely lead to an accident and drove anyways. Punitive damage awards consider the financial situation of the offending party to create an award that serves as a deterrent for the future conduct.
Comparative Negligence in Montana Auto Accidents
Determining fault regarding an accident is not always easy and clear cut. Many factors could have culminated in the accident taking place with some blame on various parties. Egregious conduct makes it easy to point the finger, but in practice it is not always so black and white. Montana uses a system where each party to a car accident is assigned a numerical representation of their proportional amount of fault. Any award is then reduced by that percentage. Should your percentage of fault be found to be greater than that of the other party, or combined fault of defendant and non-parties, then you will not be entitled to recover damages. In short, this system of assigning of proportional fault is the comparative negligence doctrine.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding assigning fault proportions for parties. Negotiating with the claims adjuster to reach an agreed upon number is a common way to make the determination. Always be mindful that the claims adjuster’s position is to try and minimize the insurance company’s payout. Should the case go to trial then each party will present evidence regarding fault and the judge or jury will make a final determination. The application of comparative negligence is a complex legal process whose outcome can have a drastic effect on the final award amount. Having a skilled and experienced attorney here is vital as even a moderate swing in points can equate to a substantially larger award.
Contact The Advocates to Win the Best Compensation
The Advocates are a leading personal injury firm in Montana. We have four offices in the state so you can be assured that your car accident attorney will be someone with local boots-on-the-ground experience. As part of a national firm we have the resources to fight the large insurance companies a smaller firm simply cannot match. Our professionalism and dedication to our clients is what sets us apart from other firms. Call us today at (406) 272-6986 for a free consultation. You can also chat with us confidentially at the bottom of your screen or fill out a form for a prompt case evaluation below. You deserve an Advocate!