Automobile accidents can be horrendous and costly, but how should you go about seeking fair compensation for your damages, such as lost work time and medical/surgical bills? Should you sue the liable party or strive to negotiate a settlement? Let’s take a look at several underlying dynamics.
California follows a pure comparative negligence law, so even if you partially contributed to the incident, you may still be entitled to compensation. Many factors determine how much compensation you can receive, including:
- Injuries sustained in the accident and the cost of resulting medical treatment
- Property damaged, including vehicles and possessions inside your car (e.g. a laptop computer burned or cracked in a collision)
- Pain and suffering, such as the physical, psychological and emotional consequences of the accident
- Missed time from work, including lost wages and reduced ability to work in the future
The factors named above and others help determine how much money you can seek in damages. “Fault percentage” also comes into play, if you partially caused or contributed to the accident.
Settling a Claim
Settling can be attractive because the process happens relatively rapidly and reduces everyone’s legal fees and time invested. The vast majority of claims settle out of court, although negotiating and enforcing the terms of a settlement can be complicated.
When to Sue for a Car Accident
Injuries suffered from a car accident can have long-term effects that may not manifest immediately, so settling your claim too quickly could be dangerous, in the sense that you might not get paid a fair amount for the expenses you incur. For instance, let’s say a truck crash leaves you with a chronic neck injury that requires that you get a weekly massage to feel strong enough to go to work and do your job. The massage costs $100. Every year, you’re therefore spending over $5,000 on this therapy. If your injury lasts for 10 years, your costs increase tenfold to $50,000. If you settle too soon, before getting a sense of these types of longer term damages, you may not get enough compensation to make you whole.
The insurance company also may not offer enough compensation, or the negotiations may break down, for whatever reason. Whether to sue or not ultimately becomes a judgment call. Do you take a settlement offer that’s only 40% of what you want, just to end the process and relieve the stress? Or do you push forward and litigate in the hope that you’ll be able to get 100% or more, given the possibility that the process could drag on for a while and maybe lead to an unfavorable outcome?
Rely on Sound Legal Counsel to Make a Strategic Decision
At this early stage in the process, it’s probably too early to decide whether to settle or sue for your accident claim. A qualified, experienced personal injury attorney can help you evaluate your options. Contact us today to set up a free consultation about your next steps.