A car accident constitutes one of the most common ways Americans can suffer a concussion, which is a form of traumatic brain injury that can leave people with lasting cognitive, physical, and emotional impairments. Victims of car accidents caused by someone else’s careless or reckless conduct may have legal rights to recover compensation for their injuries.
In seeking the help of an experienced car accident lawyer injury lawyer, they often ask: What is the average settlement I can expect for my car accident concussion?
Here is the short answer: There is no accurate estimate. Car accidents and concussions are unique, individualized events. Everyone is different; for that reason, the amount of money victims might hope to recover can vary widely from case to case and injury to injury.
To explain why that is the case, we would need to take a deeper dive into the factors and considerations that go into legal actions surrounding car accident concussions, and how lawyers help car accident concussion victims make the most of their legal rights. For answers to more detailed questions about a car accident that left you or a loved one struggling with a concussion, contact an experienced car accident lawyer today for a free case consultation.
The Toll of Concussions from Car Accidents
Concussions have an unwarranted reputation as “minor” or “mild” injuries. In fact, doctors sometimes refer to a concussion as a mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI, which can mislead some people into thinking a concussion is no big deal. But, concussions can be a very big deal.
A traumatic brain injury occurs when brain tissue sustains damage in connection with a violent blow or jolt to a victim’s head or body, which can often happen in a car accident. The brain essentially floats inside the skull, surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid. In a violent trauma, the brain can twist on its axis, deform, and collide with the interior of the skull. This can tear or bruise brain tissue and sever blood vessels and nerves. The bruising and bleeding can also lead to inflammation, which puts pressure on brain tissue and can cause further damage.
In assessing a traumatic brain injury, doctors rate the severity of the injury according to several objective factors, such as how long the victim lost consciousness, the duration of acute symptoms such as loss of memory, and the scope of damage visible in diagnostic imaging like CAT scans and MRIs. They deem those injuries with the least severe characteristics to be concussions or mTBI.
Symptoms of Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury
Still, that does not mean that there is anything necessarily mild or minor about symptoms for the victim of a concussion. Victims will often suffer from an assortment of persistent, debilitating symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, dizziness, light and sound sensitivity, confusion, and irritability.
Additionally, some victims’ concussion symptoms will go on to present as post-concussion syndrome, in which the symptoms last for much longer than the anticipated recovery time. Post-concussion syndrome can appear despite a relatively mild traumatic brain injury and does not necessarily require the sufferer to lose consciousness during the accident. Frequent symptoms of post-concussion syndrome include problems with memory or concentration as well as the initial symptoms following the concussion injuries.
These symptoms can last months or more and interrupt virtually every aspect of a victim’s life. Victims will often need to take time off of work or school, may need ongoing medical treatment and therapy, and frequently see their lives, relationships, and finances suffer.
More Serious Consequences of Concussion Injuries
A personal injury case involving concussion will also sometimes involve more serious injuries. Traumatic brain injuries can occasionally lead to secondary damage to the brain in a condition known as secondary impact syndrome (SIS). This may occur if someone in a car accident had previously sustained a head injury from another source, such as playing sports, and had not yet fully recovered at the time of the auto accident. Other severe injuries that could affect your claim for compensation include:
- Coup-contrecoup brain injury
- Brain contusions
- Diffuse axonal injury
- Penetrating injury
These conditions require immediate medical attention and can result in serious brain injury, pain and suffering, and even fatality. In the event of any of these head injuries, you should speak to an experienced car accident attorney to learn how your degree of serious injury could affect your personal injury case and your right to compensation.
Car Accident Concussion Victims’ Legal Rights
Like any victim of a car accident, a crash victim who suffered a concussion will often have the right to take legal action for damages against anyone whose unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions caused the crash. Those legally-liable parties can include other drivers, businesses whose vehicles were involved in an accident, automotive manufacturers, and government agencies and contractors, to name just a few.
Typically, victims hire a car accident injury lawyer to file a lawsuit against those parties on their behalf.
Every lawsuit has its own unique features, but in general, the lawsuit may seek recovery of damages from the legally liable parties and their insurance companies for:
These expenses are related to the treatment of the victim’s car accident concussion, including emergency care, hospitalizations, long-term therapy, doctor visits, medication, medical bills, and medical equipment.
These are the damages the car accident concussion victim incurred as a result of the concussion, such as the cost of hiring someone to help out around the house or with transportation while the victim recovers.
These losses include both past, and future lost wages that the victim did not or will not earn because of the concussion, such as when the victim has to miss work or reduce work hours because of concussion symptoms.
Lost Earning Potential
If the victim’s concussion symptoms or injuries are severe to the degree that they prevent return to previous employment, this lost potential income will also be calculated into a settlement offer.
In preparing to take legal action on a car accident concussion victim’s behalf, an experienced car accident attorney could explore the many and varied ways the concussion has impacted the victim’s life. The more severe and debilitating the concussion symptoms and their effect on the victim’s day-to-day life, the more money the attorney may seek as compensation for the victim’s injuries and losses.
Overview of Car Accident Concussion Lawsuit Settlements
After filing a personal injury lawsuit or taking some other legal action on a car accident concussion victim’s behalf to seek damages, the victim’s attorney will often engage in negotiations to seek a settlement of the victim’s claims.
A settlement is an agreement between the car accident concussion victim and the party with legal liability for the victim’s injuries and losses. In a typical car accident settlement agreement, the victim will agree to release the party from liability in exchange for the party paying the victim an agreed amount of money in a lump sum or over time.
Lawyers for car accident concussion victims usually negotiate settlements with defense lawyers who represent the legally-liable parties. Often, representatives of an insurance company that issued a liability insurance policy to the legally-liable parties will also participate in those negotiations. That is because a liability insurance policy often pays the bulk of any settlement amount to the car accident concussion victim. Although, this is not always the case.
How Long Does it Take for a Car Accident Claim to Settle?
Settlement negotiations happen in a variety of ways and over varied time frames. Sometimes, insurance companies and defense lawyers will reach out right away to offer a settlement of a claim, when they believe their clients’ liability is obvious and see no point in spending money to fight an inevitable payment.
Other times, negotiations will happen only because a court orders the parties to engage in negotiations, such as when parties attend mandatory mediation sessions where a neutral third-party mediator acts as a go-between, trying to convince the parties to find common ground on the terms and amount of a settlement.
Virtually all car accident concussion cases feature settlement negotiations, but it is often difficult to predict when and how those negotiations will occur, much less how they will turn out.
Experienced car accident injury lawyers recognize that not all cases settle. Some must instead go to a trial, where a judge or jury decides how much money the victim should receive. Still, it usually benefits the parties to at least try to resolve the case through a settlement agreement, if at all possible.
The job of the attorney for the car accident concussion victim is to negotiate from a position of strength, try to convince the other side to agree to pay as much money as possible, and then advise the concussion victim whether the amount of money that has been offered represents a fair and reasonable settlement.
Factors Affecting Car Accident Settlement for Concussion
The lawyer’s assessment of what constitutes a fair and reasonable settlement will depend on numerous factors and considerations. These factors can influence a lawyer to recommend accepting a settlement offer of, say, $100,000 in one case while recommending rejecting an offer for $1 million in another.
Obviously, the specific factors that influence the lawyer’s recommendation will vary from case to case and client to client, but they often include:
The strength of the client’s case.
Some car accident injury cases are slam-dunks. Everyone agrees on who caused the accident, how much money the victim deserves as damages, and where the money will come from to pay the victim. However, most cases present at least some challenges that have the potential to weaken a claim if not addressed and dealt with effectively by a skilled attorney. Those challenges often include a lack of evidence to prove liability or damages and disagreement between the two sides about whose actions or decisions caused the accident or injuries. Lawyers for car accident concussion victims constantly assess, and re-assess, the strength of their clients’ cases in connection with evaluating what constitutes a fair and reasonable settlement amount.
The severity of the victim’s concussion symptoms and the prognosis for recovery.
The more severe and long-lasting the concussion symptoms, and the more profound their impact on the victim’s life, the more money a victim ought to receive as compensation. Concussions, however, can be tricky to evaluate and predict. Symptoms can come-and-go, or can evolve. Lawyers for car accident concussion victims will often rely on expert assessments of a client’s progress to determine when and whether to recommend settling a case for a given amount of money.
The legally-liable party’s financial resources.
The amount of money a car accident concussion victim has the right to receive under the law, and the amount the victim can realistically expect to receive from the party with liability, can differ. A car accident concussion might cause a victim $1 million in damages, but a realistic settlement amount might max out at $500,000, because that is the limit of the legally-liable party’s liability insurance coverage, and the legally liable party does not have any other assets with which to pay a judgment. For that reason, in every case, experienced lawyers for car accident concussion victims pay close attention to the financial resources of the parties who may have legal liability and do their best to identify as many parties with legal liability as possible. Why? Because, in general, the more potentially liable parties that the lawyer can identify and pursue for payment, the better the client’s chances of receiving full compensation for an injury.
As you may see from the factors listed above, calculating an average settlement amount for car accident concussion injury cases would not do lawyers or injured clients much good. Every case has distinct characteristics that affect both the amount of money the injured car accident concussion victim should receive and how much the victim can realistically hope to receive.
The most surefire way to get a handle on those two amounts is to work with an experienced car accident injury lawyer who has the skill to negotiate a top-dollar settlement if possible and to take a case to a judge and jury if necessary.
A Note on Unsolicited, Quick-Money Settlements
Victims of car accident concussions should never attempt to reach a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company without the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. Car accident lawyers are well-versed in the legal prose of insurance companies and have a wealth of first-hand successes negotiating higher settlement offers for clients than they could ever hope to achieve independently. You’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the best possible settlement offer for your personal injury claim by consulting with a trusted personal injury law firm first.
Beware of Quick Settlement Offers From the Insurance Company
Sometimes, car accident concussion victims may receive a call or letter from an insurance company or defense lawyer out of the blue, offering them money to settle their claims right away. The thrust of the call or letter will often be that a party recognizes its potential liability, and wants to get this matter concluded as soon as possible. The tone may seem friendly and even apologetic.
However, an unsolicited offer of a fast-money settlement may leave you with less than you need to pay the bills from your accident. This settlement offer may also include the insurance company’s claim expenses, meaning that you’ll be left with much less money than you originally thought.
Defense lawyers and insurance companies often make these offers in hopes of catching a car accident concussion victim in an emotionally, physically, and financially vulnerable moment when the idea of some quick cash sounds appealing. These offers are commonly designed to entice victims to jump at the payment before realizing just how much money they should receive for their injuries and losses.
Why You Need an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Do not assume that an insurance company that offers you quick money in the settlement of a car accident injury wants to help you. They may be making the offer because they want to get out from under their financial liability to you for as little money as possible.
Speak to a car accident attorney near you before accepting any offers. Contact an experienced car accident injury lawyer to help you ensure that you receive every dollar you need and deserve for your car accident concussion.