Though car accidents in Iowa have been on the decline in the last few years, data collected by the Iowa Department of Transportation show that motor vehicle crashes are still a serious problem.
In 2017, there were 330 fatalities and 18,705 people hurt in such collisions.
The lives of these victims and their families are changed forever, with implications that affect them even beyond the physical pain.
If you were hurt or lost a loved one in an auto crash, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. One of your first questions will probably be how much you can recover, based upon what other victims in your position received as a settlement amount.
While an Iowa car accident attorney can provide more detail on your potential compensation amount, you may find it helpful to review how settlement works and the factors that affect it.
Injury Claims in Vehicle Collisions
Iowa motorists are required by law to carry a minimum amount of car insurance to cover losses if they’re involved in an accident. For bodily injury liability, drivers must have at least $20,000 in coverage, however, most drivers choose to have more coverage.
Therefore, the first step in seeking compensation is to file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurer. Your matter is assigned to a claims adjuster, who reviews the information and proposes a dollar value to resolve your claim.
Through negotiations, you and your lawyer may be able to reach a fair, reasonable settlement amount with the insurance company. If you cannot come to an agreement, you have the option to file a lawsuit in court.
In the majority of car accident claims, insurance companies and victims usually settle instead of going to court. It’s not possible to calculate the average amount of settlement, since the circumstances surrounding auto collisions and victims’ injuries vary widely. However, you should note the factors that impact your compensation.
Who is Responsible for the Crash
Generally, auto accident liability is based upon negligence, which requires you to prove that:
- The other motorist owed you a duty of care to drive safely;
- That person breached this legal duty;
- The breach caused the accident in which you were hurt; and,
- You sustained losses because of your injuries.
However, car accident claims can be tricky because fault isn’t always clear-cut. The insurance company may try to pin blame for the crash on you, which could affect your settlement amount. Iowa follows the rule of comparative negligence, a legal concept that focuses on the conduct of an accident victim.
If your own actions contributed to the collision, your compensation is reduced by the amount of fault attributed to you. Where you were 51 percent or more blameworthy, you can recover nothing for your losses. For example:
- You’re speeding over the posted limit, but you’re struck by a driver who runs through a stop sign. Comparative negligence may slightly reduce your compensation amount.
- You’re turning left, but don’t have your turn indicator on to let oncoming traffic know of your planned maneuver. Even if the driver was speeding when he or she hits you, comparative negligence may prevent you from recovering compensation.
The Nature and Severity of Your Injuries
Auto accident settlements typically include damages for your injuries, but there are two types of compensation involved:
- Economic Damages: These are the amounts that you incur because of medical treatment, including emergency care, surgery, physical therapy, pain medications, and related costs. Proving your economic damages typically requires you to submit receipts or invoices to the insurance company showing what you paid for medical care.
- Non-Economic Damages: Your injuries also affect aspects of your life besides your direct, out-of-pocket expenses. You may not have a receipt to show the consequences, but you more certainly endure hardship. Your settlement may include such son-economic damages as:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Scarring and disfigurement;
- Diminished quality of life and enjoyment;
- Losses based upon how your injuries affect your relationships with loved ones; and,
- Many others.
From this description, you can see that there can be challenges in proving non-economic damages when you don’t have definite amounts. If your case was going to court, you would typically prove these losses through your medical records and testimony of medical experts.
In a car accident settlement, insurance companies usually use a multiplier to assess your non-economic damages. The formula usually involves summing up your economic damages, and then multiplying that amount by a factor of 1.5 to 5. The exact multiplier depends upon the severity of your injuries.
How Your Injuries Affect Your Job
In a serious auto accident, you could be out of work for some time to recover from your injuries. Your settlement amount will usually cover the wages you lose during the time away from your job, whether you’re paid hourly or earn a salary.
However, you could be entitled to recover future wages as part of your settlement as well. For example, if your injuries result in permanent disability, you may not ever be able to work in your chosen occupation.
This is often the case for car accident victims who previously worked in construction, warehousing, shipping, transportation, and other industries where the job requires a certain level of physical fitness.
As a result, you lose the income you would have otherwise made. You may even need to retrain, go back to school, or learn new skills to earn a living. Under the circumstances, your car accident settlement may also include future lost wages.
Contact an Iowa Car Accident Lawyer to Learn More About Settlement
As you can see, there are so many factors that affect what would be considered an average car accident settlement amount. Every case is different and, as a victim, you experience losses that are unique to your situation.
To learn more about how auto collision claims work, please contact VanDerGinst Law, PC to set up a free consultation. After reviewing the details of your case, our attorneys can explain your rights and what to expect during settlement negotiations with an insurance company.