What Is the Settlement Amount for a Minor Car Accident?
Minor car accident settlement amounts can range from a few thousand dollars to over $20,000, depending on the extent of the injuries and the medical bills. But a car accident claim that appears “minor” at first can look very different as time goes by.
First, Make Sure Your Injuries Are as “Minor” as They Seem
One of the most frustrating types of calls we get goes something like this. “Hi, I was in finder-bender, and I settled the claim with the insurance company a few days after the crash. It seemed like I was fine. Now it turns out that my injuries more serious than they first thought. Can you get me out of this?”
Unfortunately, the answer is almost always, “I’m very sorry, but there’s nothing we can do. You signed a release, and you no longer have a claim.”
If you are in a car accident, you will probably start hearing from the opposing insurance company on a regular basis. Insurance companies have several reasons for wanting you to settle your claims as quickly as possible:
- If you settle your claim before you have an attorney, the insurance company is likely to pay less money;
- Insurance companies like certainty, and once they close a claim, they know the amount of their exposure; and most importantly
- Once the claim is settled, the risk of your injuries being worse than you anticipated falls on you, not on them.
Think about it this way. Let’s assume that, in one out of every 20 car accident claims concerning apparently minor injuries, the victim ends up being far more hurt than she anticipates. Perhaps what she thought was a minor back injury is in fact a herniated disc that ultimately requires surgery, or perhaps her shoulder pain—which seems minor at first—ends up worsening to the point where she needs surgery. A week after the crash, all 20 of these claims may look like they’re worth $5,000. But insurance companies know that one of these claims may in reality be worth well over $100,000. If they can settle all 20 claims for $100,000 now, they can save over $100,000 compared to what they would have to pay if the claimants waited to see how their injuries played out.
In most cases, there is no reason to settle your claim in the first few weeks after your crash. Remember that, as a general rule, you have six years from the date of the crash to resolve your case. (In certain cases, you may have less time, but you will always have more than a few weeks, or even a few months.) Does that mean you should wait six years to resolve your claim? Of course not. But you also shouldn’t feel rushed into resolving it.
If the opposing insurance adjuster keeps calling you and pressuring you to settle, tell him or her that you will call back when you are at a medical endpoint and you can speak then. If you don’t feel comfortable putting your foot down, call a lawyer and ask for help.
As a general rule, we tell clients that they should not settle their claims until their treatment is complete, or at least until we are able to determine what their medical endpoint will be. In other words, the goal is the keep the risk on the insurance company, rather than having it fall on the victim. Perhaps six months out from the crash, that minor car accident case will still look like a minor car accident case. But perhaps not. Usually, it isn’t a risk worth taking.