If you are in a car accident, you will likely want to know how a car accident settlement amount is determined. As you might expect, each case is different. However, there are some factors which remain constant in the evaluation of any car accident case. In any car accident in New York, you must consider the no-fault threshold law, the seriousness of the injuries, and any economic loss from the accident.
The New York threshold law has significant effects on how we determine a car accident settlement amount. In New York, your injury must rise to the level of a “serious injury” under the law. This means that you must fall into certain categories before you can recover for pain and suffering. While you can read about the categories here, the important thing is that you qualify.
Once you do, then you can recover pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is essentially an evaluation of the non-economic difficulty you have as a result of your injuries. This will include the pain that you feel daily. It will also include how you felt initially after the accident and after any treatment your have. Finally, pain and suffering will include an element of loss of enjoyment of life. This element focuses on things that you can no longer do or things that you can do but have pain when you do them. Serious injuries affect every aspect of your post-accident life. Because of that, pain and suffering is a huge element in how a car accident settlement amount is determined.
The next step after considering the law in how a car accident settlement amount is determined is your injuries themselves. There is no set amount of recovery for any particular body part. I will often get questions like “how much is a broken ankle worth” or “what is the settlement amount for back pain”. These questions, while worthy inquiries, miss the point. You must evaluate each injury differently. This is true even if they seem similar. The value of your injury will generally go up consistently if you have significant medical treatment.
For example, consider the scenario of the broken ankle. In one instance, a person breaks her ankle. She receives a cast and the ankle heals with no further treatment. In the second instance, the same woman breaks her ankle but this time the ankle needs surgery as well as significant physical therapy to recover after the surgery. While both injuries have value, the value in the second scenario is significantly higher. You must consider a number of factors including the cost of the medical care, the pain and suffering associated with surgery and the perceived seriousness of a break which required surgery, as opposed to one that did not. Whenever you have any injury, the best advice is to follow your doctor’s orders. It is your attorney’s job to evaluate that treatment in terms of dollars and cents.
Your economic loss plays a huge role in how a car accident settlement amount is determined. Your attorney should make sure to consider both your past economic loss and future economic losses. Past economic loss is generally easy to calculate. You basically look at the money spent on care, as well as the wages and benefits that you may have lost as a result of the accident. Those benefits include lost wages, health coverage, retirement contributions and any promotions you missed out on.
Your future expenses can be a bit more complicated, but are just as, if not more important. Here your attorney must hire experts capable of knowing what medical care you will need in the future and the cost of that care. These experts will also evaluate your ability to earn a living in the future, as well as any benefits you will not receive if you cannot work. Finally, they must take this amount and account for inflation of costs and expenses in the future. After all, a dollar now is not worth the same as it will be in 2050. To really understand what your case is worth, after these aspects must be fully evaluated.
Like we said before, every case is different. However, any guide to how a car accident settlement amount is determined must consider these basics. If your conversations with your lawyer about value do not center around these topics, you need to contact a better one.