How much should I settle for a car accident in which I suffered injuries?

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How much should I settle for a car accident in which I suffered injuries?

I was in a car accident 18 months ago and the damage to the car was about $800. The doctor did work on my neck for almost a year and then referred me to get MRI which showed I had cervical disc bulge. The insurance company said it was pre-existing but the doctor said it was not. The insurance company wants to settle for $2500


but that does not come close to the costs I have left to pay. However my insurance has paid for everything so far and has a lien against the insurance company and any money from settlement will go to them. I also used my primary insurance company to pay the first $1000 and they want their money back as well. How do I know what to settlement to consider? Should I speak with a personal injury attorney? I’m in Placer County, CA.

Asked on November 26, 2011 under Personal Injury, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

It's always a good idea to speak with a personal injury attorney in a situation like this. To give you some guidelines:

1) You can recover an amount equal to your out-of-pocket medical costs to date (so, nothing for that part of the costs paid by insurance), and also for projected furture costs (again, only your out-of-pocket or unreimbursed expenses).

2) You can recover lost wages to date and projeced future lost or diminished earning potential.

3) You can recover other provable, unreimbursed out-of-pocket costs, such as if you had to hire a housekeeper or aide.

4) If you suffered significant pain or disabilty which materially interfered with quality of life, you may be able to recover some amount for pain and suffering. Very roughly, this is often equal to 1 - 3 times gross medical costs.

5) You can recover for unreimbursed or uncompensated property damage.

Total the above, then discount by 10 - 50% depending on how strong you case: factors that weaken a case are evidence of a pre-existing condition, weak evidence of the other driver's fault, or evidence that you were at fault, too. This reflects the fact that winning is far from certain (and exactly how much you'd win is impossible to exactly predict), even when you have enough of a case that the insurer is willing to offer something. 10% would be if you have few issues with your case--it's prudent to always discount somewhat--while 50% would be if there are significant problems. Be honest in your evaluation.

Finally, either take another $5k - $10k out from the discounted amount for legal fees (it costs money to go to trial), or reduce the gross amount by an extra 20% (so by 30% to 70%) if you'd have paid the lawyer by contingency, to reflect legal fees.

This will give a rough idea of what might be a good settlement if you can get it early, to avoid the time and expense of litigation.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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