How Much to Expect from a Car Accident Settlement

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Written By Rocky Horton

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After being injured in a car crash, you may be wondering how much to expect from a car accident settlement. The timeline for filing a claim can be strict so it’s important to know the order of events, the evidence that needs to be filed, and the statute of limitations to file a winning case.

This guide can help you gather the right information to validate your case and estimate the compensation you can expect to receive for your injuries. Remember that while self-representation is always an option, history shows that those with an experienced car accident attorney behind them earn more in their settlements than those without one.

How Many Car Accidents Per Year?

The statistics for car accidents in the United States alone are harrowing. Each year, 37,000 people die from car accidents. Around 2.35 million are injured, which includes serious injuries that disable some drivers and passengers for life. With over 200 million active drivers on the road, the opportunities for car wrecks are more frequent than ever, with over 6 million car crashes occurring every year.

Of the 37,000 people who die each year in car accidents, around 1,600 are children under 15 years old. The annual crashes involving drunk drivers have risen in number to over 10,000, though they have been down a few hundred since a high point in 2016.

The resulting car accident settlements from all these crashes add up to over $55 billion in medical costs and lost wages. If you have found yourself becoming one of these statistics, looking for a way to make the most of your car wreck settlement, continue reading for information about what to expect from your situation post-accident (and what you should do about it).

What to Expect Physically After a Car Accident?

Immediately after your car wreck, you may not feel injured. However, delayed injuries from even minor wrecks can come on within hours or even days after the accident. If left unattended, these injuries can result in chronic pain conditions, which is one reason to always accept a paramedic’s care when offered.

Common symptoms experienced after a car accident include soreness in the neck and shoulders as well as the parts of your body that were touching your seatbelt. You may feel fatigued, experience headaches, and have trouble sleeping well.

These are the least serious injuries you could experience. In more serious car accidents, you could sustain fractures, lacerations, or burns. The whiplash to your neck may cause serious neurological issues.

Learn more about what to expect physically after a car accident.

Car Accident Not My Fault, What To Do?

The steps following a car crash are crucial to making a successful car accident settlement. Both what you say and do could change the compensation you are eligible to earn.

  1. Call 911 – This is the first thing you should do following a car crash. Paramedics and police need to arrive on the scene as soon as possible to assess injuries and begin filing reports.
  2. Accept medical help – It’s crucial to your car wreck settlement to always accept a paramedic’s help. If you refuse help, you run the risk of the insurance adjuster claiming later that you weren’t injured by the accident. You could also deny yourself the medical attention you need, even if you don’t feel symptoms right away.
  3. Gather evidence – Gathering evidence is an important step to any successful car crash settlement. You should start by taking photos of anything relevant at the scene, including car damage, skid marks, property damage, or even your injuries. Next, collect contact and insurance information from the other driver including their name, address, car information, and insurance ID.
  4. Collect witness statements – A crucial and often overlooked piece of evidence is the contact information of relevant witnesses. Your attorney may want to corroborate aspects of your car crash settlement with them later.

How to Calculate a Car Accident Settlement?

It’s useful to know how to calculate a car accident settlement before you begin the compensation process. Settlements are calculated based on a combination of your medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and a multiplier for your pain and suffering. This multiplier includes your depression and relationship problems resulting from your injuries.

The severity of your injuries is a major contributing factor to your car crash settlement. The average injury settlement in 2021 was around $30,000, but it can be much more depending on the strength of your case and the physical and emotional distress caused by your injuries.

One of the most common injuries is whiplash, which has an average settlement amount of $10,000 to $20,000.

Car accidents involving a semi-truck are often substantially higher.

What Types of Car Accident Injuries have the Largest Settlements?

The injuries resulting from severe crashes are the most well-compensated in the average car wreck settlement. Traumatic head injuries and spinal paralysis are possible in serious accidents, and these can have the most lasting impact on your life and result in the highest compensation.

Internal injuries are also possible, including organ damage not only from car debris but also from the force of the seatbelt on the victim’s body. Remember that a car accident settlement includes not only your current injuries but predicted future medical costs as well. A chronic back or spine injury from a car crash is among the costliest injuries to settle in the long term.

What Types of Car Accidents Have the Largest Settlements?

Different types of car accidents cause different injuries and result in different car wreck settlements. Head-on collisions are the most damaging and costly type of accidents because they are the most severe, though rear-end and T-bone collisions can be costly as well.

Drunk-driving accidents often result in large settlements for several reasons. The first is the fact that the other driver’s negligence of the law puts them at the mercy of your insurance policy. The second is that drivers under the influence are more likely to crash at higher speeds due to their sensory impairment.

Proving a drunk driver’s impairment will be crucial to your car accident settlement, if applicable.

How to Negotiate a Better Car Insurance Settlement After a Car Accident?

To negotiate a better car wreck settlement, certain documents are crucial. This is why accepting medical care and communicating with authorities is so important. For your case, you will need to collect a copy of the official police report as well as medical documentation.

Obtaining doctor’s notes that detail the need for future medical care is crucial. So are the slips that demonstrate the wages you have lost due to your injuries. Your car wreck settlement relies on validating your claims of injuries (both physical and mental) with the necessary documentation.

What Happens When My Car Accident Settlement Exceeds the Limit?

Your insurance policy will only pay out so much in your car crash settlement. If you believe that your injuries and suffering exceed the limit set by your policy, you have to seek other forms of compensation.

In these cases, the at-fault driver may pay the deficit through their policy. You may be able to open a lawsuit against the driver to sue for additional damages not covered by car crash insurance, resulting in payments or even property seizures by the at-fault driver. This is especially possible in cases involving a drunk driver in an at-fault state, where the compensation amount depends on how much fault can be proven.

How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?

A car accident settlement can take a long time. The timeline for retrieving and presenting evidence and receiving compensation for injuries takes an average of 2-6 months. However, the timeline depends heavily on the severity of your injuries and the availability of the evidence needed to make a compelling case.

The statute of limitations is a major factor to consider in car wreck settlements. This is the amount of time after the accident that victims have to file a case to be compensated for their injuries. It differs by state, so it’s important to understand the statute for your area. It can be as low as 1 year and as high as 6 years.

Is Car Accident Settlement Taxable?

To answer this question, we should clarify that different types of compensation are taxed differently. So whether your car accident settlement is taxable or not depends on itemizing the total amount into separate parts.

For instance, compensation that repays you for your injuries, pain, suffering, and car repair is not taxable. This includes medical bills, medication costs, doctor’s visits, physical and mental therapy, property damage, surgeries, and more.

Taxable compensation includes payment for lost wages since this money involves social security and other taxes involved with employment. Punitive damages such as those made in addition to an insurance policy’s statutes are also taxable. These play a large role in car wreck settlements involving a drunk driver.

When to Get a Car Accident Lawyer?

A car accident lawyer can help you in any car crash settlement. They have the experience to tackle the compensation process as well as the connections needed to get the right evidence to validate your case.

Self-representation is possible, but history shows that those who represent themselves do not get compensated as highly. An experienced lawyer can get you the maximum settlement for your case as well as share the load of post-accident stress while you recover from your injuries.

Especially if you sustain severe injuries, an experienced car accident attorney is a necessity to get the settlement you deserve.


Car accidents can be life-altering. The process of filing for compensation involves a lot of competing timelines under the all-important statute of limitations. Different types of evidence, including doctor’s reports, medical records, bills, receipts for lost work, and witness testimonies all come into play in your case. They can be difficult to organize without the help of an experienced car accident attorney.

If you take the right steps after the accident as detailed above, you can expect a car accident settlement of around the average of $30,000. However, depending on the severity of your injuries and the strength of your case, it could be much more.

An experienced car accident attorney can help you collect the needed evidence and make a winning case. Self-representation is always an option, but you can’t expect to win as high a settlement if you go that route. An attorney can use their experience and knowledge to help you gather evidence, say and do the right things, and stay on schedule throughout the whole process of your car accident settlement.

Settlements for semi-truck accidents and tow truck accidents are often more. Be sure to consult an attorney if you or a loved one is involved in a trucking accident.

Rocky Horton

Rocky Horton


Rocky Horton is a health and safety expert from Chapel Hill, NC. He is the founder of AccidentAdvisor and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, and other publications. Learn more.