If you are physically injured in a car accident you are legally entitled to financial compensation for your injuries. A good auto accident lawyer can help you get the maximum amount of compensation for your accident. The car accident lawyers at Miller & Zois have a long track record of success in auto tort cases. Over the years, we have recovered millions on behalf of clients injured in car accidents or truck accidents.
At Miller & Zois, we focus on getting top dollar for each auto accident case we take in, even if that means going to court. Our willingness to litigate auto tort cases is well-known to the major auto insurance carriers and their claims adjusters. This reputation gives us tremendous leverage that we can use to negotiate a full-value settlement of your case.
Auto Accident Law
In Every state, auto accident cases are governed by two separate bodies of law: (1) traffic and motor vehicle laws and (2) the law of negligence (tort law). The application of these two related sets of law is how we determine who was “at fault” for an auto accident and how much compensation they should be required to pay. There is also a 3rd body of law that regulates things like insurance coverage, vehicle registration, and things of that nature.
- Traffic Law: traffic laws are the “rules of the road,” which set forth detailed rules regarding turning, stopping, yielding, signaling, etc. These rules are applied to determine who is “at fault” when an auto accident occurs. In every state, traffic laws are codified in a statute and the specific rules regarding yielding and right of way are virtually identical in every state, with very small differences.
- Tort Law: tort law is a collection of civil laws that hold people financially responsible when their actions cause injuries to others. In the context of auto accidents, tort law governs financial liability for an accident. When a driver is found to be “at fault” in an auto accident, they have committed the tort of negligence, and they can be legally forced to pay for the damages caused by their negligent driving. In some states, tort law is statutory, while in other states, tort law is not codified and is established in case law (common law), or a mix of both statutory law and common law.
Car Accident Claims and Lawsuits
Anyone physically injured in an auto accident is entitled to obtain financial compensation (money) from the driver who is at-fault for the accident. If the at-fault driver has auto insurance, then their insurance company is the one that actually pays any financial compensation. The process of getting paid for injuries suffered in a car accident begins with the submission of a “claim” to the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
A “claim” in an auto accident case is a formal demand for voluntary payment of compensation. The claim essentially notifies the insurance company that you were injured by their insured driver and asks that insurer to accept responsibility and agree to pay compensation without going to court. Once a claim is received, the insurance company will conduct an initial accident investigation to determine if their insured was at-fault. This typically consists of taking a formal statement from their insured and reviewing any additional evidence such as witness statements, pictures, skid marks, and vehicle damage.
If the initial investigation concludes that their insured driver was in fact responsible for the accident, the insurance company will then attempt to settle your claim out of court. The insurance company will make a settlement offer based on their evaluation of your alleged injuries. Insurance companies ALWAYS seek to settle claims for less than the amount that you would be legally entitled to in court.
If the settlement offer from the insurance carrier is too low, you can reject it and elect to sue the at-fault driver for negligence in civil court. If the case goes all the way to trial it means that a judge or jury will end up deciding how much financial compensation you should receive.
Damages in Auto Tort Cases
When another driver is “at-fault” for a car accident, they have committed the tort of negligence and their financial responsibility for the accident is governed by tort law. Under the general law of torts (which is basically the same or very similar in all states) tortfeasors can be held liable for all “reasonably foreseeable” damages caused by the accident. Allowable damages in an auto accident injury case include:
- Property Damage: property damages in an auto accident case include the cost of repairing or replacing any physical property damage to the plaintiff’s vehicle.
- Lost Income: plaintiffs in auto accident cases are entitled to receive compensation for any lost wages or lost income that they suffered as a direct and proximate result of the injuries sustained in the car accident. This includes both past and future lost income.
- Medical Expenses: auto accident plaintiffs are legally entitled to full compensation for any past or future medical expenses related to injuries suffered in the accident. Medical expenses are often one of biggest components of a damage award in an auto tort case. Most states follow the “collateral source” rule, which means plaintiff can get compensation for medical expenses even if their insurance company was the one who really paid for them.
- Pain & Suffering: auto tort plaintiffs can be awarded money to compensate them for any mental pain, suffering and humiliation caused by the physical injuries they sustain in the auto accident. The amount of pain and suffering damages depends on the nature and circumstances of the injuries.
Common Injuries in Car Accidents
The impact force of car accident can result in just about any type of physical injury to the driver or occupants of the car. Car accident injuries can range from minor bruises to fatal head trauma and almost anything in between. That being said, there are certain areas of the body (e.g., the back, neck and shoulders) that are particularly vulnerable to injury in an auto accident. As a result, there are certain injuries that are commonly associated with car accidents.
- Back & Neck Injuries: the spine (which includes both the back and neck) is the part of the body that is most commonly injured in a car accident. The spine is composed of individual vertebrae bones connected by soft tissue and separated by discs that function like cushions between the bones. The sitting position of drivers and occupants in a car makes the spine very susceptible to injury from an auto collision. Common spine injuries in car accidents include herniated discs, whiplash, and spinal fractures.
- Shoulder Injuries: injuries to the shoulder are the second most common type of car accident injury. The shoulder is a complex part of the body where the arm bone fits into the shoulder socket and is held in place by a dense collection of ligaments, muscles, and nerves. The sitting position of drivers and passengers in a car makes the shoulder very vulnerable to injury in an auto collision. The most common types of shoulder injuries in car accidents include torn rotator cuff and seat belt injuries.
- Head Injuries: head and/or brain injuries are the most serious type of common car accident injuries. Injury to the head or brain can occur in a car accident even when the head itself is not impacted. The sudden forceful whipping motion of the head in a car accident can cause major internal damage as the brain bounces around inside the head and slams into the cranium. This type of damage is called a coup-contrecoup
Settlement Value of Car Accident Cases
The most important factor that drives the settlement amounts of car accident injury lawsuits is the nature and severity of the plaintiff’s physical injuries. More serious injuries requiring extensive treatment have a higher settlement value. Also, certain types of injuries are worth much more than others. Serious or permanent injuries will make a case much more valuable.
Another less obvious factor that affects case value is the amount of insurance coverage available. The limits of applicable insurance coverage will often cap the potential settlement value of auto cases.
Auto Accident Verdicts and Settlements
Below are summaries of recent verdicts and publicly reported settlements in auto accident cases from across the country.
- $167,442 Verdict (Georgia 2023): The plaintiff, a 49-year-old female, said she was a seat-belted front seat passenger of a vehicle when the defendant, traveling in the opposite direction, executed a left turn across her host driver’s lane of travel. The plaintiff reported injuries including cervical and lumbar disc herniation and bulging leading to spinal radiculopathy at both levels and multiple thoracic herniations, for which surgery and/or pain management therapy was recommended. The verdict included $150,000 for pain and suffering and $17,442 for past medical expenses. More on Georgia Auto Accident Lawsuits and Settlements.
- $42,500 Settlement (Pennsylvania 2023): The plaintiff was parked on the street near an intersection when the defendant allegedly failed to make a proper left turn and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff reportedly suffered injuries to the neck and cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. More on Philadelphia Car Accident Lawsuits and Settlements
- $178,457 Verdict (Georgia 2023): The plaintiff was driving a pickup truck north on an interstate entry ramp when his vehicle was rear-ended by a semi-tractor trailer driven by the defendant. The collision caused a pile-up accident with multiple vehicles. The plaintiff claimed to have suffered a spinal nerve injury with disc damage and sought over $2 million in damages, but the jury only awarded $178,000.
- $70,638 Verdict (Maryland 2023): The plaintiff was rear-ended on I-95 by a US Postal Service tractor-trailer truck. The plaintiff suffered injuries including a concussion and laceration to his scalp, requiring staples, along with neck and lumbar sprains, post-traumatic headaches, and injuries to his neck, back, and left ankle. The verdict included $40,000 for pain and suffering and the rest for medical expenses and property loss. Maryland Auto Accident Lawyers
- $100,000 Verdict (Missouri 2023): The plaintiff was driving west on an interstate when the defendant motorist struck the vehicle directly behind him, pushing the struck vehicle into the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff reportedly suffered injuries to his neck, back, and right shoulder.
- $105,000 Verdict (Florida 2023): The plaintiff was driving north at or near an intersection when his vehicle was struck by a northbound postal truck owned by defendant United States of America. The plaintiff said he was attempting to pass the postal truck when the defendant driver attempted a left turn and collided with his vehicle. The plaintiff said he suffered head, neck, and back injuries as a result of the collision.
- $50,000 Verdict (Pennsylvania 2023): The plaintiff’s vehicle was struck on the side by the defendant. The plaintiff reportedly suffered injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, a concussion, a cervical and lumbar spine strain/sprain, and a disc protrusion at L4-L5.
- $40,000 Settlement (Pennsylvania 2023): The plaintiff reported injuries of cervical and lumbar radiculopathy affecting her left upper and lower extremities, as well as straightening of her normal cervical lordosis when the defendant struck her vehicle on the driver’s side.
- $109,783 Verdict (Florida 2023): The plaintiff was driving through an intersection in St. Petersberg when she was struck on the passenger side by the defendant’s vehicle after he failed to yield. The plaintiff alleged that she suffered multiple herniated disc injuries and underwent a pair of spinal fusion surgeries. The jury was apparently skeptical because they only awarded damages for past medical expenses and gave the plaintiff nothing for future medicals or pain and suffering. More on St. Petersburg Auto Accident Lawsuits and Settlements
- $500,000 Verdict (Delaware 2022): A 45-year-old female was rear-ended in a multi-car collision and suffered a cervical disc herniation. She underwent physical therapy and nerve-blocking treatment as well as spinal fusion surgery and claimed to suffer continuing pain. More Delaware Car Accident Lawsuits & Settlements
- Contact Us About Your Auto Accident Case
If you have an auto accident case involving serious physical injuries or death, call our office today for a free consultation. Call us at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.