car accident settlement in California

How Much To Expect From A Car Accident Settlement in California

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 7 minutes

How Much To Expect From A Car Accident Settlement in California

If you’ve been injured, then you could be entitled to sue and potentially obtain a recovery through a car accident settlement in California. Settlements are extremely common, but are not well understood by the public. Let’s take a look at how settlements work, and what you can expect to encounter as you explore the possibility of a settlement to resolve your car accident dispute.

Interested in speaking to experienced car accident attorneys about your case? Contact us at 1-800-THE-LAW2 to get connected to an attorney in our network who can offer you a free consultation. During this consultation, they’ll evaluate your case and give you an idea of what you can do to move forward with your car accident settlement in California.

Why are settlements so common?

Popular entertainment (books, TV, movies) has created a public perception that most cases are litigated all the way through to trial. But that’s not true to reality. The vast majority of disputes are resolved through a negotiated settlement, and these settled disputes never actually advance to trial.

Industry observers estimate that more than 95 percent of legal disputes result in a settlement outcome. So why are settlements so common?

Settlements are considered to be a solution to the inherent uncertainty that is associated with a legal dispute. Yes, even strong cases can lead to unfavorable outcomes at trial. For example, you could win your case, but the court might find that your damages claim is excessive. They might award you a much lower damages amount than expected. That is still an unfavorable outcome, and the risk may be more than you’re willing to deal with.

The risk and uncertainty of trial is particularly troublesome given that trial requires additional time, resources, and energy. It is also very public, and could lead to negative publicity.

Parties often decide to negotiate a settlement. This accounts for “likely” trial outcomes, and minimizes the risk, uncertainty, and cost of trial. For example, if you can convince the defendant that you have a 100 percent likelihood of proving liability at trial, but only a 50 percent likelihood of establishing damages of $100,000, then a settlement of $50,000 would be reasonable — and it would avoid the hassle of continuing with litigation.

Factors influencing the settlement amount

Settlement offers will increase if you can persuade the defendant(s) that liability is certain, and that the damages are accurate. Factors that influence the settlement amount include:

  • Strength of evidence in support of claims
  • Hostility of the defendants
  • Obviousness of liability
  • Severity of injury
  • Negative publicity associated with the dispute
  • Financial resources available to the defendants
  • And more

How long does it take to settle a personal injury case in California?

Settlements vary in terms of how quickly they resolve. Some can take as little as a few days, and others can take a few years. There is no default timeline for a case settlement. That being said, a number of factors can influence the settlement timeline:

  • Hostility of the defendants
  • Obviousness of liability
  • Severity of injury
  • Negative publicity associated with the dispute
  • Financial resources available to the defendants
  • And more

For example, a hostile defendant may drag a case all the way to trial. They’ll do this to avoid giving you an “easy win” through a settlement. By contrast, a small business defendant who wants to avoid the negative publicity of a lawsuit might offer an early settlement so that the situation doesn’t get widely reported and affect their business.

How much do accident lawyers charge in California?

Most plaintiffs’ accident lawyers work on a contingency basis. Contingency fees don’t have to be paid out in every case. These fees only have to be paid out if (and when) you receive compensation for your claims. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve secured compensation through a settlement, insurance payout, trial award, etc.

Contingency fees are charged as a percentage “cut” of the total payout you receive. This percentage cut can vary from attorney to attorney. For example, if you receive a $100,000 settlement, your attorney might take a 30 percent cut of that as a contingency fee. By contrast, you’d pay zero if a settlement was not reached. There’s no risk of “losing money” for pursuing a case.

Contingency fees create a win-win dynamic. Attorneys are incentivized to not only obtain compensation on your behalf, but also to do so efficiently. They also have a reason to maximize the amount they are able to secure, as this helps them get a larger payout for themselves. Improving the outcome of your car accident settlement in California is critical to securing the compensation you deserve.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit after a car accident in California?

The statute of limitations deadline for negligence-based injury claims (typical of a standard car accident dispute) in California is two years from the date-of-injury. Of course, unique circumstances can make for different types of claims that have different deadline periods.

If you do not file a lawsuit within the applicable deadline period, then California courts will automatically dismiss the claims and you will be unable to secure a legal recovery. These consequences are severe, so pursue your claims in a timely manner, and seek the assistance of a qualified attorney as soon as possible after a car accident.

Can I claim for personal injury if the accident was my fault in California?

Yes, you can. California imposes a doctrine known as pure comparative fault. Under this doctrine, the injured plaintiff can make a claim for damages, even if you are partially at-fault. In fact, you are entitled to do so even if you are 99 percent at-fault! However, do bear in mind that your compensation will be reduced by the percentage fault that you have contributed in the accident. So, for example, if you have a total damages claim of $100,000, but you are 60 percent at-fault, you’d only be able to recover a maximum of $40,000.

How do you calculate damages?

Damages vary from case-to-case. They are measured by tallying up all the relevant losses that you suffered due to the car accident. Losses include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Medical expenses
  • Property loss
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • And more

Let’s use an example to clarify how it all works.

Suppose that you suffer a serious back injury in a car accident. This causes you to miss a year of work. Your salary is $50,000 annually. The wage loss claim alone is $50,000, and this doesn’t account for thousands of dollars that would be attributable to medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses. By contrast, an unemployed person would not have a wage loss claim at all, resulting in a lower damages claim.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in California, then you could be entitled to sue for compensation under the law. Pursuing a legal recovery can be rather complex, however, as there are many strategic challenges that can develop over the course of the lawsuit and settlement process. We encourage you to work with experienced car accident attorneys who can help you navigate these issues and potentially secure compensation on your behalf.

Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 today to get connected to a qualified local attorney in our legal network. They’ll be able to provide you a free initial consultation, during which you can have your case evaluated. The attorney will also provide guidance on next steps so that you know what your options are.

There’s no obligation to continue if you decide against it, so don’t delay! Get in touch as soon as possible to get started with securing a car accident settlement in California.

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we can assist you no matter when your accident occurs.

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