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How to Determine Your Car Accident Claim Value

UPDATED: July 10, 2020

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We strive to help you make confident law decisions. Finding trusted and reliable legal advice should be easy. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

The least you should know...

  • Car accident claims are based on bodily injury and property damage.
  • Pain and suffering compensation is usually not available through an insurance claim.
  • To seek pain and suffering compensation, you will have to sue.
  • Some claims may not reach your deductible or may otherwise be too low to be worth filing.
  • Other claims may exceed the coverage amounts so much that filing suit may be the only way to be fully compensated for your damages, injuries, and suffering.

How to determine your car accident claim value doesn't need to be complicated. If you have been involved in a car accident, you may be wondering just how much you’ll get for your car accident claims process and settlement payout. Your car accident claim value depends on the type of injury, the cost of repair or medical treatment, the extent and severity of the damage, and the cause of the accident. Know how to calculate the value of your car accident claim, and get a settlement that adequately recoups your losses.

Once you know your expected settlement, you can begin negotiating your car accident settlement from a strong position. Should you feel the need to consult an auto accident attorney, you can begin your search by entering your ZIP code in our search tool.

How are accident settlements calculated?

Accident settlements are based on the claim made, whether it’s to an insurance provider or in a civil lawsuit. The amount of the claim is usually calculated based on:

  • medical expenses,
  • property damage, and
  • pain and suffering.

Calculating Medical Expenses

When you prepare to file a bodily injury claim you will need to know how much you are owed. Things such as the severity of the injury, the total amount of your medical bills, the degree of negligence in causing the accident, and any lasting or permanent effects (disability) caused by the accident all play a role in the auto insurance claim's value. 

To calculate your claim, keep track of any and all medical expenses, ongoing treatments, costs to get to and from doctors’ appointments, and any lost income due to missed work or business opportunities. Calculate any cost associated with your injury and factor it into your claim.

If you have been seriously injured, consult an attorney. An experienced car accident attorney can negotiate all aspects of your auto insurance claim and help determine the claim's value and the best car accident injury settlement amount.

Property Damage Accident Claims

If you have sustained any property damage due to an auto accident, make sure you get the reimbursement you are owed. 

As you prepare your property damage claim, provide the value of the property, the extent of the damage, the cost of the repairs, and the cause of the accident. In the case of damage to your auto, the insurance company of the negligent party will pay for either the repairs or the value of the car in the event it is totaled.

An insurance company will pay for the market value of the car at the time of the accident as determined by sources such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds. These sources provide a good starting point, but there are factors that can increase your claim's value such as:

  1. Condition of your auto: Is it in excellent condition, clean interior with little wear, no prior damage and paint job in excellent condition?
  2. Your auto's features (CD changer, Air condition, MP3 player, Alarm, etc) could increase its value. Point out any you think the insurance adjuster may have missed.
  3. Recent maintenance on your car (tune-up, oil change or transmission service) may not net you more money. The items above are considered maintenance items that are necessary and really do not increase the value of the car. However, make any mention of any special improvements to your auto such as painting the exterior or wheel rims.
  4. Make sure the year, make and model (EX, LS, XE, etc) with or without 4WD are all correct. Not accounting for the correct model could get you less money.

Provide documentation of all the items that were damaged and any features that would enhance the value of your car. You may have to present repair estimates to the insurance company, so make sure you have a qualified mechanic look at the vehicle and give you a fair estimate to help you file the claim.

Pain and Suffering Claims

How much you will get for pain and suffering from a car accident depends on a variety of factors. Typically you can't ask for compensation for pain and suffering without filing a lawsuit, but many insurance companies may offer to include some payment to avoid costly litigation.

The way that pain and suffering is calculated is explained in the video below.

As you can see, a lot of pain and suffering claims are difficult to quantify. They can, however, multiply the award received many times over. Other methods used to estimate pain and suffering.

Extremely High or Low Auto Insurance Claim Value

If your claim value is below or only slightly above your deductible payment then you should take care of the repairs without involving the insurance company. Reporting a claim to your insurance company will tarnish your claim history and is not worth it for small dollar events. Even if the insurance does not pay out anything on the auto insurance claim, it could cost you in a premium hike by losing claim-free discounts and other benefits. 

Calculate the claim value and check your deductible before you file a car accident claim. 

Do you always get a settlement from a car accident? In some cases, you actually may not want one.

If you think the damages are below your deductible, get an estimate to be sure before you submit a claim. A minor car accident settlement amount may not be high enough to even be worth pursuing.

If you find out that the cost to repair is less than your deductible, it may be best to self insure and pay the damages out of your pocket before reporting your claim in order to preserve your claim-free history.

If the damages are extremely high (bodily injury and/or property damage) and exceed the negligent party's limits of liability on their auto insurance policy, contact an auto accident attorney right away. This is the best way to reserve your rights and to collect what is owed in damages. The auto accident attorney will be able to determine your claim's value and if necessary, file the appropriate lawsuits against the negligent party.

What is the average settlement amount for a car accident?

Because car accidents can vary quite a bit, there isn’t really a typical car accident settlement amount. The averages for 2018 by the Insurance Information Insitute are $3,841 for liability claims and $15,785 for bodily injury.

Pain and suffering is not covered by insurance claims but is only available in a lawsuit. For this reason, the Insurance Information Institute does not track averages for these claims.

Some car accident settlement stories seem to further muddy the waters, with seemingly minor accidents settling for outrageous amounts and extremely severe accidents getting almost nothing. Needless to say, the average settlement for a car accident with back and neck injuries will be much more than the average settlement for accidents with no injuries and minor damage.

Anecdotes abound, and the truth is that every accident has to be considered individually. Although there are lots of statistics that companies collect, there is no auto accident settlement formula.

What is the average payout for a rear-end collision? Is it higher or lower than the overall average? While these numbers might be interesting, the truth is that all the circumstances of each accident will dictate the amount you should claim and may be able to get. 

A tap that scratches a bumper is a rear-end collision just as much as a car going 70 miles per hour hitting a car stopped at a light. If both were awarded the average amount for an accident, the first would be wildly over-compensated and the second could be left with tens of thousands of dollars of unpaid medical bills.

Bringing it All Together

Valuing a car accident claim does not require great expertise, but is a critical step in getting the settlement you deserve. Make sure you take the time to properly value your car accident claim before contacting the insurance company. Going into the process with a firm starting point will make you more likely to get the claim value that you deserve.

Did we answer all your questions about the value of car accident claims? Naturally, if you have had a recent vehicle accident, this can only be a starting point. To have your specific questions answered, you should consult a trusted mechanic and medical professionals following the steps laid out above.

If you feel like you may have trouble negotiating with an insurance company or that you might need to file a personal injury lawsuit, consulting a personal injury attorney promptly is an essential step. 

You can begin your search for an experienced car accident attorney by entering your ZIP code in our search tool below.

References:

  1. https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-auto-insurance

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