How Much Is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Pennsylvania?
If you have suffered a personal injury in an auto accident, you are entitled to compensation for your economic and general damages. The amount of a settlement or award varies based on many factors, including the amount of medical treatment needed and the pain and suffering endured.
You may have heard stories in the media about large verdicts after tragic vehicle accidents. Mattiacci Law has handled cases of this magnitude, and these large settlements or awards drive up the mean average of compensation, making the average higher than the typical case.
To understand an average car accident settlement figure, it’s best to consider the range from small settlements to medium settlements to large to very large. These categories represent the size of settlements based on the severity of the injuries and impacts on the plaintiff’s life. They are not representations of whether the settlement is high or low in comparison to the damages.
All Mattiacci Law car accident cases settle for a high amount compared to the damages and circumstances, representing a win for our clients. We never accept less than our clients are due by law. Usually, this entails negotiating from strength and working hard through settlement conferences until the defendants see reason. Occasionally, we must go all the way to trial.
The upward bound of a case’s potential settlement is what we pursue.
Most settlements fall in the low- and medium-range based on the severity of the injuries and the impact on the plaintiff’s life. Then, a small minority settle for large figures, and a very small minority of settlements are very large.
Small and Medium Sized Settlements
Small settlements often range between $10,000 and $15,000. The injuries involved are treatable without extraordinary expense, time, and pain on the part of the plaintiff. For instance, a case involving soft tissue injuries requiring a few months of physical therapy often falls into this category.
To win a large settlement, you need a serious injury requiring extensive treatment. These types of conditions usually cause intense pain and impact the person’s daily life. For instance, a person whose car accident injuries require surgery for disc herniations likely has a six-figure claim.
Very Large Settlements
These occur when the results of an accident are tragic, forever altering the plaintiff’s life. Examples include some traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, and other severe and permanent issues. The expenses involved with these conditions are astronomical, and the impacts on victims and families never cease. For these reasons, multimillion-dollar settlements are appropriate.
Why is there such a variance in settlement amounts? To understand this, we need to look at the categories of damages available to plaintiffs.
Mattiacci Law handles claims ranging from small to eight-figure recoveries. The settlement amount is case specific. Contact Mattiacci Law for a free consultation to find out the compensation available in your case.
What Damages Pertain to Auto Accident Claims?
Pennsylvania law establishes three categories of damages: economic, general, and punitive. Each tranche contains a variety of damages. Most cases settle based on the damages pertinent to the case. A minority of cases qualify for all types of damages, resulting in much higher settlements or verdicts.
Economic damages are the easiest to calculate because the expenses and costs of an auto accident are easily calculable. For instance, medical bills demonstrate exactly what treatment costs and lost time at work correspond to a specific amount of economic damages.
Personal injury cases result in a wide variety of medical costs, ranging from emergency room treatment to long-term rehabilitative care. Common medical expenses include the below treatments:
- Ambulance Charges
Chances are good that an injured party arrives at the hospital by ambulance. Ambulance rides are typically not free, and insurance only covers part of the cost.
- Emergency Room Treatment
The ER is the first stop for injured car accident victims. Charges add up quickly, including x-rays, scans, painkillers, and other necessities. Any serious injury results in thousands of dollars in ER bills.
- Intensive Care
For the severely injured, a long stay in intensive care may be needed. As the name implies, intensive care requires extensive around-the-clock treatment and is one of the most expensive aspects of car accident medical care.
- Hospital Stays
Once out of the ER or intensive care, many car accident victims must remain in the hospital for extended periods. A typical hospital stay results in bills of thousands of dollars per day.
- Doctor Visits
Serious car accident injuries result in many doctor visits. Typically, treatment is needed from primary care physicians, orthopedists, and other specialists. Some cases require dental work, and PTSD requires mental health care.
Surgeries may be needed immediately to save the victim’s life. Additionally, some injuries require multiple surgeries.
Most injuries require some form of painkillers, and severe injuries may result in long-term medication therapy.
- Physical Therapy
Rehabilitation may be needed to heal an injury fully, and surgeries often require physical therapy aftercare.
- Occupational Therapy
Many car accident victims suffer from debilitating wounds that require them to retrain their bodies for certain movements. For instance, a hand injury can cause pain while typing, and occupational therapy addresses this problem with interventions that restore normal function.
When auto accidents knock victims out of commission for long periods, economic damages can go far beyond medical bills. They can leave a person unable to earn a living. When an auto accident prevents you from earning income, you are entitled to full reimbursement for your losses.
Plaintiffs can claim any type of lost income as damages, such as the following:
- Lost Wages
Hourly workers lose money as soon as they are unable to perform their jobs. The amount of loss is established by totaling the wage rate and hours theoretically lost.
For instance, if a plaintiff earns $25 dollars an hour, averages 40 hours a week, and is prevented from working for ten weeks, he is entitled to $10,000 in lost wages. Also, many claimants can establish that they miss out on regular overtime opportunities at a higher rate, increasing their damages.
- Lost Salary
Salaries stop as soon as you are forced to quit your job or fired because of your injury. As with lost wages, damages from lost salary are easily calculable.
- Lost Commissions
For salespeople and others paid on commission, the damages calculation is more complex. Because commissions vary, you need to use a long-term average as a starting point in estimating damages, but the average fails to take into account the lost opportunity to increase commission income over time.
For instance, a salesperson may average $75,000 a year in commission and be forced out of work for one year. However, his or her damages from lost commissions can exceed $75,000 because of the opportunity cost.
Imagine if the salesperson was working on closing a deal that would provide a theoretical increase in commissions to $100,000 per year. His attorney would argue that damages should then be raised to $100,000 to compensate for the difference that the lost deal would make.
- Lost Benefits
Fringe benefits are key components of many workers’ financial security. Health insurance, 401(k) plans, vehicle allowances, and other parts of a benefits package have tremendous value. When calculating the damages from lost benefits, attorneys must take a holistic approach.
For example, the loss of a health insurance policy may force an accident victim to purchase a private policy at a higher premium with fewer benefits. The result is higher monthly outgo and potentially higher co-pays and out-of-pocket costs for medical care unrelated to the accident. These values must be considered in a damages formulation.
Similarly, a lost 401(k) plan raises the theoretical taxable income for the plaintiff and lost gains in the stock and bond markets. The larger tax bite and opportunity cost must also be factored into the calculation.
- Lost Self-Employment Income
Often, self-employed people are hit the hardest when it comes to lost income. When working for oneself, there is no team to back you up and help you remain productive when recovering from an auto accident injury. The loss of income is immediate and often devastating.
As with commission income, the calculation is more complex than those for lost salaries and wages. Because of the variability of self-employment income, it’s important to define an average that serves as a baseline. On top of the immediate loss of the average income, self-employed people also pay an opportunity cost, leading to higher damages that result from the inability to increase revenue over time.
Also, building a business takes many months or years. When able to work again, self-employed people likely suffer from a diminished income until they can reestablish their client lists. A settlement must account for an expected period of reduced income.
- Lost Business Income
Businessowners may or may not suffer lost business income. Theoretically, they can rely on employees or hire additional help to fulfill their role in the company. However, the inability of the owner to manage the business likely harms the company, reducing the owner’s income.
Businessowners make crucial strategic decisions that materially impact the bottom line. When they are absent, the company can become rudderless, leading to lost customers, mismanaged expenses, and missed opportunities. The damage from the leader’s convalescence or departure can even lead to the business’s demise.
They also provide critical supervision. When unable to monitor what goes on at the company, business owners may suffer from lost income due to a lack of motivation by employees, miscalculations that diminish revenue or increase costs, and even employee theft or embezzlement.
In addition, business owners define the vision for the company’s future. When the company is leaderless, it’s all too easy for the remaining employees to lose sight of their objectives or depart entirely from a productive business model, leading to lost income and profits.
To obtain an equitable settlement, lawyers must quantify the damage done to the business by the owner’s absence.
Not all damages are economic. Many non-pecuniary impacts do tremendous harm to the plaintiff. Pain and suffering is the most prevalent example. In addition to the acute physical pain experienced directly after the accident, many injury victims suffer from chronic pain that cannot be eliminated through medical intervention. In the worst cases, the pain becomes a lifelong condition.
Mental anguish also results. Long recovery periods lead to isolation and depression. Terrible accidents cause PTSD in many people. Some victims must take powerful painkillers, leading to disturbing side effects and addictions. All of these factors increase a person’s pain and suffering.
General damages include the below:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Courts rarely award punitive damages to car accident victims. Most vehicle collisions occur because of an honest mistake on the part of the defendant, such as misjudging distance or accidentally following too closely. These types of accidents can be caused by the safest of drivers.
On the other hand, some crashes result from bad behavior on the part of the defendant. In those cases, courts may award punitive damages to set an example and deter others from engaging in reckless or intentional conduct that harms other people.
For example, a case involving drunk driving, road rage, and fleeing an accident scene is a candidate for punitive damages.
Car accident settlements vary considerably because the extent of injuries from vehicle collisions ranges from minor to life-altering to fatal. The specific medical treatments needed, the level of pain and suffering endured, and the overall impact on the life of the plaintiff are key factors in calculating damages.
Mattiacci Law specializes in car accident cases and maximizing settlements by gathering compelling evidence, negotiating from strength, and fighting as long as needed to obtain justice for its clients. Contact Mattiacci Law for a free consultation.
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