07 Jun How Much Can Someone Sue For A Car Accident?
Wondering how much someone can sue for a car accident in California? Car accidents are unfortunately all too common.
How much you can sue for depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the accident, the extent of your injuries, and the state in which the accident occurred. In this blog post, we’ll explore these factors in more detail and give you some guidance on how to proceed.
But first, it’s important to understand the different types of damages that you can potentially receive compensation for.
Understanding the types of car accident damages
Car accident damages can be divided into two main categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those that have a specific monetary value, such as:
Medical expenses –These include the expenses related to emergency or immediate health care received following a car accident. It also includes the ensuing expenses involved in treating severe injuries in the long term.
You can recover the expenses incurred related to ambulance fees and hospital bills apart from any physical therapy and rehabilitation you need in the long term.
Vehicle/property damage –The minimum amount you can recover if your car gets damaged in an accident is $5000.
Lost income – If you are unable to work as a result of the injuries you suffered as a result of the car accident, you can add the lost wages to your claim. You can also claim the lost earning capacity in the future if you are unable to work for an extended period of time.
Non economic damages, on the other hand, are more subjective and harder to quantify. These include:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Psychological trauma
- loss of enjoyment or quality of life
Both economic and non-economic damages can be significant, and it is important to understand the difference between the two when you are pursuing a car accident claim.
What are the average payouts in car accidents?
In California, the minimum insurance drivers are required to carry include:
- $15,000 for death or injury to one person
- $30,000 when more than one person is injured or killed
- $5,000 for vehicle/property damage.
While this is the minimum, it is not indicative of how much you can actually recover.
Knowing the average payouts when it comes to car accident settlements or awards will help you get a fair idea as to how much can someone sue for a car accident.
The payouts for auto collision claims involving property damage averaged $3,588 in 2020, according to Statista.
According to another 2020 survey, the average payout is $8,200. While 35 percent of survey respondents got a payout of $5,000 or less, 23 percent of them received equal to or more than $20,000. About 8 percent received a payout of more than $75,000.
When it comes to physical injury claims, the payouts tend to be higher. The average, according to a survey, was $29,700 for physical injury claims in car accidents. According to an estimate, the average amount recovered for rear-end collisions ranges between $20,000 and $30,000.
There are also instances where the jury has awarded amounts ranging from $1,011,800 to $4,300,000 for serious bodily injuries. In these cases, claimants had suffered from serious injuries such as traumatic brain injury, internal hemorrhages, disc protrusion, and multiple fractures.
However, of the multiple factors involved in determining the extent of damages, it is difficult to predict the exact amount you can recover.
Are there any caps on damages?
Understanding if there are any limits to damages you can claim is an important part of knowing how much can someone sue for a car accident in California.
California, unlike other states, does not limit the damages you can claim in car accidents or personal injury cases.
Some factors, however, can limit the compensation you can get for the damages you suffer in a car accident.
Statute of limitations: The most important of these factors is the time limit you have for filing a lawsuit. As per California’s statute of limitations, you have two years to file a personal injury claim and three years to file a lawsuit for property damage.
If there is an involvement of a government party or a government organization, you may only have six months for filing the claim.
California Proposition 213: The second factor to be aware of when it comes to knowing how much can someone sue for a car accident is the limits placed by California Proposition 213. This law was designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and to save the state money on litigation costs.
The proposition limited the non-economic damages related to pain, emotional distress, or suffering that could be recovered in certain car accident cases even if you are not at fault. The damages you can claim are also limited if you lack car insurance.
The limit for non-economic damages is $15,000 regardless of the number of people involved in the accident, the extent of the damage, or the severity of the injuries.
This means that if you are involved in an accident with a driver who does not have insurance, you may only be able to recover up to $15,000 from their insurance company.
However, you can still claim economic damages related to property damage and lost wages if you can show that the other driver was at fault.
Comparative negligence – If you want to know how much can someone sue for a car accident, one of the first things you will need to do is determine who is at fault.
In California, the law of comparative negligence applies. This means that each driver is responsible for the damages they cause, and their liability is proportional to their degree of fault.
This means that if you are involved in an accident and you are found to be partially at fault, you may still be able to recover damages from the other party.
For example, let’s say you are involved in a car accident where the other driver is found to be 80 percent at fault and you are found to be 20 percent at fault. If you suffer $100,000 in damages, you would be able to recover $80,000 from the other driver.
However, if you are found to be 100 percent at fault for the accident, you will not be able to recover any damages from the other driver.
Will insurance cover your damages?
All drivers in California must carry liability insurance, and drivers who cause accidents must pay for the damages they cause.
The minimum amount of liability insurance required in California is $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $5,000 for property damage. However, it is advisable to carry more than the minimum amount of insurance. If you cause an accident with damages that exceed your insurance coverage, you will be responsible for paying the difference.
While buying underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage is not mandatory, doing so can help you recover some damages in case the other driver is not insured. As per California law, the car insurance provider has to offer underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage.
The factors that influence the payout
While many car accident claims are settled out of court, there are plenty of times these cases go to trial.
When cases are settled out of court, the settlement amount can depend on what the other driver’s insurance company is willing to pay. Insurance companies estimate the amount based on various factors including policy limits, the extent of property damage or physical injuries, and comparative negligence, among others.
In many cases, the amount they arrive at will also depend on the strength of the legal representation you have as a claimant.
- Policy limits: Generally, the insurer will not offer an amount that exceeds the policy limits. If the driver responsible for the accident is underinsured and you do not have an underinsured motorist policy, the amount you receive can end up being grossly insufficient. If the at-fault driver was completely uninsured, you may not receive any compensation if you did not purchase uninsured motorist coverage. This is not as uncommon as you might think. Insurance Research Council found that one out of eight drivers was without insurance in 2019.
- The severity of injuries: While policy limits play a role, the severity and nature of physical injuries typically influence the amount you can collect significantly for a car accident. Serious injuries, as mentioned earlier, often result in higher awards and settlements. This is because car accident attorneys and insurance companies apply a multiplier to economic damages to compensate for emotional trauma, pain, and suffering.
- Legal representation: It is well-known that having legal representation can increase the amount of compensation you receive in a car accident case. An experienced car accident lawyer will also help ensure that you get the medical treatment you require following a car accident. They are skilled at negotiating with insurance companies to reach a fair settlement amount.
While your car accident attorney can help you get fair compensation, they can do so when there is evidence that you were not at fault. This is why knowing what steps to take if you or your loved ones are involved in a car accident that was not your fault is vital.
Steps to take to prove you are not at fault
In order to prove you were not at fault in a car accident, you will need to provide evidence that the other party was liable.
The first step to take in case you are involved in a car accident is to call 911 if you or someone in the car is injured. You also need to move to a safe spot to avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic.
Once you inform the police and call for medical assistance, it is important for you to not leave the scene of the accident. While you wait for the police to arrive, take pictures of the accident scene, tire marks, traffic signs, vehicle damage, and so on.
If possible, you can also talk to bystanders at the scene of the accident and ask for their contact details. Witness statements, security footage, and the pictures you take can help your attorney prove that you were not breaking any traffic laws at the time of the accident. These can also help prove that the other driver was at fault.
Other evidence to gather to get the compensation you deserve
To maximize your chances of receiving a higher compensation, you need to meticulously record and save the following:
- The date and time of the accident
- The exact accident spot
- Speeds of the cars involved in the accident
- Unfavorable road conditions, if any, such as bumps, road diversions, or potholes
- Medical records of your injuries, treatment, and prognosis
- Medical expenses related to ambulance fees, diagnostics, and emergency room visits.
- The copy of the police report on the accident
- Expenses related to any therapies, rehabilitation, and counseling
- Reports and bills from all your care providers
- Keep a journal and make a note of the emotional distress, pain, PTSD, insomnia, or any form of mental suffering you experience due to the collision.
- Maintain a record of the number of days you were absent from work and the wages lost
Consult a car accident attorney
If you’ve been in a car accident, you may be wondering when is the right time to consult a car accident attorney.
In general, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney as soon as possible following a car accident. Your attorney will advise you on what you should and should not do in order to optimize the compensation you receive.
You should also get in touch with your attorney immediately if
- the accident was serious,
- the insurance company is not cooperating, or
- the compensation offered to you was unfair
An experienced car attorney in Yuba City such as the Law Offices of Steve Gimblin can help you navigate the legal process, negotiate with the insurance company, and protect your rights.