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July 10, 2024
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What to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement

Anatomy of a Car Accident

A significant number of car accidents are being handled through the courts.  This is what is as known as a tort-based system, in which litigation is used to determine compensation for damages, based on who is at fault, the injuries or property damage involved, as well as duty of care taken by the parties involved in the accident to decide on how awards are distributed through insurance or personal liability.

Most car accident cases are settled out of court, and depending on how minor the injuries or damages are in the accident, this allows parties involved to have significant control over the process.  Once a car accident lawsuit reaches a courtroom, the landscape of the process changes and becomes very costly, time-consuming, and stressful.  Though a settlement is ideal, depending on the severity of the accident and the details of the case, having your case seen before a judge is an option that is on the table.


Having car insurance is compulsory in most states, which means that all motor vehicles must be insured.  As we may have experienced, this isn’t always going to be the case.  And there are some instances that someone else driving your vehicle might mean you are liable for damages or injury caused by the accident.  It is always advisable to consult a car accident lawyer in these cases to see how the law affects you.

Typically, insurance will cover the repairs and even injuries of the other driver if you are liable and at fault.  Comprehensive coverage can also cover your own injuries and damages if the other driver isn’t insured.  It is best to check with your insurance agent to see what is being covered on any future claims.

Important steps to take at the scene

Don’t assume responsibility for the accident: After an accident, your adrenaline will be rushing through your system and your fight or flight survival mechanisms will be in full-force.  These are large-scale reactions, and oftentimes we might find ourselves talking excessively or just panicking.  It is important to remain calm.  Remain at the scene of the accident (or else you might be susceptible for criminal charges for leaving the scene of an accident).  Until information is gathered, you should never admit to being at fault for the accident.

Call for Help: Even if you feel like you weren’t injured, some injuries, such as Traumatic Brain Injuries, bruising, and blood clots can emerge later on as a result of the trauma you’ve been through.  It is always best to be checked out by medical professionals, and this will be important later on in the settlement process.

Gather information: It is crucial you gather as much information as possible at the scene of the car accident.  Most of us have access to a smartphone and this is an excellent tool to use in the event of an accident.  You can take pictures of the scene of the accident, take pictures of insurance cards, take video of witness statements and collect contact information from them as well.  Be sure to get the contact info of the responding police officer as well.

Car Accident Settlement

There are a lot of factors a settlement will depend on in the wake of a car accident.  First of all, after the accident, the investigating police officer usually views the scene, takes statements from the parties involved, as well as any witnesses to the accident and makes the determination of who was at fault for the accident.

  • Who is at fault?: Sometimes the responding police officer gets this wrong, and it can be determined in settlement and court by an attorney who was at fault for the accident and how liability is determined. This can be used as leverage in the settlement process.
  • Property damage: Either to the vehicles involved in the accident, or property such as buildings, fences, or other objects, a settlement needs to be based on the total of what was damaged in the accident in order to cover losses.
  • Medical expenses: Not just from the time of the accident but any subsequent rehabilitation, surgery, or chronic injuries resulting from the accident must be taken into consideration.  A good settlement factors in these variables and allows for greater compensation to cover these expenses.  Some of which might be life-altering.
  • Death or dismemberment: Not only are you entitled to compensation for the loss of life or limb due to an accident, you also need compensation for a split second decision which may have completely changed your life in unimaginable ways.
  • Missed work: The time taken off from work due to injuries, loss of your vehicle, and even just trying to recover emotionally from an accident need to be considered in a settlement.
  • Emotional trauma: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real thing which people can struggle with for years. A settlement should get you the compensation for pain and suffering you need to recover from emotional stress.
  • Duty of Care: Many factors can be considered for settlement, such as whether or not a driver was capable enough to be driving at the time of the accident or if they used any training to try to avoid or lessen the severity of the accident. This is especially important with professional drivers such as truck drivers, taxi drivers, or even delivery drivers.  If you cut into their profits by driving recklessly, you need to be compensated for their negligence.

Car Accident Settlement Timeline

From the time of the accident to an actual court hearing, a settlement is somewhere in the middle.  Once the accident happens, you should seek treatment for any injuries.  Contact the police immediately, and gather as much information as you can.  Your insurance card should contain the proper steps of navigating the process.  Consult an attorney.  They will be able to help you understand other parts of the process such as Demand Letters, Releases, and getting an insurance company to pay what is owed.  Depending on the accident, the injuries, and property damage, it could take months to years to settle.

A Car Accident Attorney Can Help

The court system is a very complicated and nuanced system of handling car accidents.  Rather than miss a step and endanger your claim or not be properly compensated for your loss or injury, a good car accident attorney will work with you to get the highest pay-out for your accident.  An attorney will reduce the stress of the process and help you meet tricky deadlines that you might miss without that kind of experience.  They can also significantly shorten the time it will take to get your settlement.

Have you been injured? Find an injury lawyer near you.

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