If you are involved in a car accident and settle a claim, various parties will still be owed once the claim has been settled.
While your settlement check will show a total amount paid for the bodily injury claim, auto accident settlements do not typically categorize how much was awarded for lost wages, medical bills, or pain and suffering.
You will need to pay everyone owed money from the settlement proceeds.
What Funds Are Available to Compensate Victims?
In the event of a car accident, you should contact your car insurance provider. If you were injured in the accident, your health insurance policy should cover the costs.
As a last resort after insurance, donations, or restitution, consider a CVC (crime victim compensation) program. Most states provide financial assistance to auto accident victims in the case of reckless driving or dangerous driving.
In most cases, though, you will pursue a claim against an insurance company.
Before any settlement funds are distributed, you must sign a form releasing the at-fault party from further claims for this same accident. Your attorney might also need to sign documentation dismissing court action if this process was already underway pre-settlement.
When all the documents have been signed, submitted, and distributed, your settlement will be released to the trust account of your attorney. No funds will be released to you, though, until all case-related expenses are met.
What Compensation Can An Auto Accident Victim Hope to Recover?
If you sustain injuries in a car accident that was not your fault, you are legally entitled to receive compensation for the damages you have suffered.
These damages can be divided into three categories:
1. Economic damages
2. Non-economic damages
3. Punitive damages
1) Economic damages
Economic damages amount to any loss or expense related to the auto accident that can be readily quantified and proven using documentation like bills or receipts. These damages can extend to ER bills and time off work for recuperation or medical treatment.
Economic damages in a settlement include all of the following:
- Lost income: If you are badly injured in a car accident, you will likely need time off work. Timesheets, pay stubs, and letters from an employer can all be used to verify how much time you have missed at work due to your accident.
- Future lost income and lost future earning potential: You may need to change your role at work or modify your responsibilities, depending on the extent of your injuries. If so, you are entitled to compensation for lost income potential. Economists and other experts can be used to accurately estimate your projected loss because of your car accident.
- Medical bills (current): Medical bills quickly mount in the aftermath of an auto accident, from emergency care and ambulance rides through to therapy, medication, hospitalization, and surgeries. By immediately retaining a car accident attorney, you can get all the medical care you need without paying out of pocket. Ask your lawyer for a letter of protection. This guarantees medical providers payment once settlement is reached. Alternatively, include bills you have paid out of pocket and get reimbursed in your settlement.
- Medical bills (future): Include in your claim any estimates for future in-home care, therapy, or surgeries you will need on account of your car accident-related injuries.
- Property damage (to vehicle or personal belongings): You have the right to select your preferred auto repair shop. Do not allow claims adjusters to pick one on your behalf. If your car was totaled, you will get compensation of the present market value of the vehicle. If personal items like cameras or cell phones are damaged in the accident, you can claim for their replacement.
2) Non-economic damages
The damages listed above are easily provable through a paper trail of proof. This is not the case with pain and suffering, but this is still a valid component of your settlement.
Non-economic damages are intended to cover the emotional consequences of an accident and injuries, but these damages only come into play if you can prove you were injured.
This form of damages includes reimbursement for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of affection from partner
- Reduced enjoyment of life
3) Punitive damages
Sometimes, punitive damages can apply in cases of obscene carelessness. You are more likely to receive punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, if the party at-fault was committing a crime when the accident happened.
How Are Settlement Funds Divided Then Distributed?
After paying for legal services, medical bills, and any other legitimate claims on the settlement proceeds, the remainder of the settlement is yours in compensation for lost income and pain and suffering.
Your lawyer will forward you these funds.
Remember, if you have suffered the ordeal of a car accident, there is no reason not to pursue and obtain the compensation you deserve. Do not accept insultingly low initial offers and retain an experienced personal injury attorney. With the right representation, you should resolve your case and get a fair settlement.