How Much Should You Ask for in a South Carolina Car Accident Settlement

If someone else caused your car accident, one of the most important questions you may have is: “How much compensation should you get in a settlement”.

The answer depends on the specific circumstances of your case, a car accident lawyer in Columbia can help you understand the key factors and can help you estimate an appropriate settlement amount.

FREE CASE EVALUATION

Factors That Impact Your Car Accident Settlement Amount

Several variables can influence the value of your car accident settlement, including:

  1. Severity of injuries: More severe and permanent injuries generally result in higher settlements.
  2. Medical expenses: The cost of treating your injuries, including future medical needs, is a key component of your damages.
  3. Lost wages: You can recover compensation for the income you lost while missing work due to your injuries.
  4. Future lost earnings: If your injuries impact your ability to work going forward, you can seek compensation for the projected loss of future income.
  5. Pain and suffering: This category compensates you for the physical pain and discomfort you experienced, as well as the psychological impact of the accident and your injuries.
  6. Loss of enjoyment: Compensation for how your injuries have diminished your ability to participate in activities you previously enjoyed.
  7. Property damage: The cost of repairing or replacing your damaged vehicle and other personal property.
  8. Clarity of liability: If fault is clear, you may have more leverage in settlement negotiations. Disputed or shared liability can complicate your claim.
  9. Available insurance coverage: The at-fault party’s insurance limits can cap your recovery, but other sources, like your own policy, may be available.
  10. Application of punitive damages: These are intended to both punish the at-fault driver’s bad behavior and to prevent it from happening again in the future. Punitive damages can be awarded to accident victims if the other driver intended to cause harm, committed a felony, or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the wreck.

The unique facts of your case will determine which factors are most impactful in your claim. An experienced car accident attorney can evaluate your case, gather evidence of your full damages, and fight for the maximum compensation available.

Collecting Evidence to Support Your Settlement Demand

Gathering strong evidence is crucial to justifying your car accident settlement demand.

Some key evidence to collect includes:

  1. Medical records: These document your injuries, treatment, and prognosis. Gather ER records, hospital reports, doctor’s notes, imaging results, surgery reports, and physical therapy notes.
  2. Medical bills: Collect all bills related to your accident treatment to prove your medical expenses.
  3. Lost wage documentation: Get a letter from your employer verifying missed work and lost pay. Assess any future lost earning capacity as well.
  4. Photos: Take pictures of your injuries and the accident scene to illustrate the extent of the damage.
  5. Police report: The official accident report can contain crucial details about the crash and the determination of fault.
  6. Witness statements: Testimony from independent eyewitnesses can help corroborate your version of events.
  7. Pain journal: Record how your injuries have impacted your daily life and well-being.

Organize this evidence clearly to make it easy to reference in settlement negotiations. An experienced South Carolina car crash attorney can collect additional evidence and present it compellingly to the insurance company.

The quality of your evidence directly impacts the strength of your claim. By carefully collecting documentation of your damages, you improve your chances of getting fair compensation for your injuries and losses.

Calculating Economic Damages

The first step in determining an appropriate settlement figure is to add up your economic damages, which are your direct financial losses from the accident.Economic Damages

These concrete losses are fairly easy to quantify and include:

  • Medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Out-of-pocket costs (transportation to medical appointments)

Your attorney will help you get copies of all your medical bills arising from the accident. This includes hospital bills, doctor visits, physical therapy, prescription drug receipts, assistive device costs, and any other healthcare expenses. You’ll also want to get a medical professional’s opinion on your prognosis. They should also include any future medical needs so your attorney can include those projected costs in your demand as well.

For lost wages, provide proof of your missed work and calculate the amount of money you lost as a result. If you have long-term or permanent injuries that will negatively impact your future earning potential, experts can estimate your future income loss.

Property damage to your vehicle is another economic loss to include. Collect repair records or, if your car was totaled, get documentation of its pre-accident value. You should also include the repair or replacement costs of any other personal property damaged in the wreck.

Accounting for these economic damages is the first benchmark for your settlement. You’ll want to recover at least enough to cover these hard costs. However, your attorney will work to negotiate a comprehensive settlement to compensate you for non-economic damages as well.

Valuing Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more subjective losses that don’t have a clear dollar value, such as:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

Putting a dollar amount on these damages can be challenging, but it’s a critical component of your claim. One common method is to use a multiplier. Once you’ve calculated your economic damages, you multiply that figure by a number.

The multiplier method is an estimate, not a precise calculation. The exact multiplier used can vary significantly depending on the details of your case.

Factors that might justify a higher multiplier include:

  • Hard injuries like broken bones rather than soft tissue damage
  • Need for surgery
  • Permanent injuries or disfigurement
  • Prolonged recovery time
  • Significant disruption to daily life

An alternative approach is the “per diem” method. You assign a dollar value to each day from the accident until you reach maximum medical improvement. For instance, if your daily rate is $200 and your recovery takes 100 days, your non-economic damages would equal $20,000.

These calculations can give you a ballpark for your non-economic damages. Your attorney will add this to your economic losses to get a starting point for your settlement demand.

However, it’s important to note that there is no universal formula for arriving at a settlement amount. A personal injury lawyer experienced with your type of accident can evaluate the unique facts of your case to determine an appropriate figure.

Factors That Can Influence Settlement Negotiations

In addition to the damages you’ve documented, other variables can affect your settlement amount, such as:

  • Shared fault: Partial blame for the accident can reduce your compensation. Under comparative negligence laws, the amount you receive in a trial verdict would decrease by your percentage of fault.
  • Lack of hard evidence: Limited proof connecting your injuries to the accident or failing to show that the other party was at fault can weaken your claim.
  • Pre-existing conditions: If you had medical issues before the accident, the insurance company may unfairly argue your injuries were pre-existing and not caused by the crash. If you don’t have a knowledgeable attorney on your side, it may be hard to counteract those claims.
  • Gaps in treatment: If there are significant time gaps between the accident and when you sought medical care or between treatment sessions, insurers may contend your injuries weren’t that serious.
  • Low policy limits: If the at-fault driver lacks enough insurance coverage to fully compensate you, it can limit your recovery. However, your own underinsured motorist coverage or a personal injury lawsuit against the driver’s assets may provide additional options.

An attorney can anticipate these potential hurdles and work to minimize their impact on your claim. Your lawyer can also advise you on strategic choices like whether to try your case in court or accept a settlement offer.

The Role of Attorneys in Improving Settlement Outcomes

Experience matters in personal injury law. Choosing the right personal injury attorney can significantly improve your odds of recovering the money you’re owed. Insurance companies are in business to make money, and they will try to minimize payouts whenever possible. They may offer a lowball settlement, dispute the extent of your injuries, or look for reasons to deny your claim altogether.

With over 300 years of combined experience, an attorney from Joye Law Firm can level the playing field and advocate for your interests.

Your lawyer can:

  • Thoroughly investigate your accident to gather evidence of liability
  • Collect medical documentation linking your injuries to the crash
  • Consult with experts to properly value your claim
  • Handle all communications and negotiations with insurers
  • Litigate your case to fight for a fair recovery

Our South Carolina attorneys understand the tactics insurers use to diminish claims and know how to counter them. We have the experience to know how much your case is worth and can push back if the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer.

A personal injury attorney can analyze your unique situation and give you a personalized assessment of a fair settlement.

Deciding Whether to Accept a Settlement Offer

Once settlement negotiations begin, the insurance company may make you an initial offer.

In deciding whether to accept the offer, consider:

  • Does it fully cover your current and future medical expenses?
  • Does it compensate you for all lost wages?
  • Does it provide sufficient non-economic damages for your pain and suffering?
  • Is it in line with what your attorney believes your case is worth?

If the offer falls short, your lawyer can make a counteroffer and continue negotiations until you receive an offer you’re satisfied with. If the insurer won’t budge, you may need to file a lawsuit to force their hand. Your attorney can advise you on the best path forward.

If you do settle, you’ll typically be required to sign a release waiving your right to pursue further compensation, even if new injuries or expenses arise later. That’s why you may need to wait until you have a clear picture of your injuries, damages, and future needs before settling. Don’t let an insurance adjuster pressure you into settling prematurely.

Protect Your Rights After a Car Accident in South Carolina

After a car accident, the insurance company wants to pay out as little as possible.Scenes from Joye Law Firm's Columbia office in May of 2024.

To protect your right to a fair recovery, follow these steps:

 

  • Seek prompt medical attention for your injuries and follow all treatment recommendations.
  • Gather as much evidence as possible from the accident scene, including photos, videos, and witness contact information.
  • Keep detailed records of your injuries, medical treatment, and how the accident has impacted your life.
  • Avoid giving a recorded statement to the insurance company without consulting an attorney first.
  • Call a car accident lawyer from Joye Law Firm to discuss your rights and options for compensation.

The sooner you have a Columbia personal injury attorney fighting for you, the better your odds of recovering the settlement you deserve. With personal injury lawyers in Charleston, Columbia, Clinton, Summerville, and Myrtle Beach; we accept cases from across South Carolina.

Most reputable lawyers offer free consultations and work on contingency, so it costs you nothing upfront to get the legal representation you need. At Joye Law Firm, our clients receive the “No Fee Guarantee,” which means you will never pay us a legal fee unless we recover money for you. Plus, we promise to never make more money on your case than you do.

While no settlement can erase the trauma of a serious car accident, a fair recovery can ease the financial burden so you can heal and focus on rebuilding your life. If you’ve been injured in a crash, please contact us at Joye Law Firm at (888) 324-3100.

About the Author

Since 1968, the South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been committed to securing compensation for accident and injury victims. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers have over 300 years of combined litigation experience, and many of them have been recognized as South Carolina Super Lawyers. For many years, our South Carolina personal injury law firm has been listed with an AV rating in the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.

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