31 Oct, 2023

How Are Bloomington Car Accident Settlements Calculated?

Author Todd A. Strong

Calculations of Bloomington car accident settlements include the damages suffered by a victim and several other factors. Some variables that are also factored into settlement calculations include the severity of a victim’s injuries, the impact on the victim’s income, the victim’s percentage of fault based on the state’s comparative negligence law, and the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits. Understanding how these factors affect calculations of settlements will help give you a better idea of the settlement amount to expect in your case and what you can do to maximize it.

What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Car Accident Case?

Illinois follows a fault-based system, where the at-fault driver’s insurance company is required to pay for the damages of the other crash victims. You can, therefore, file a claim against the driver’s policy to cover your damages.

Car accident settlements generally include a combination of economic and non-economic damages suffered due to the crash. Economic damages have direct monetary values associated with them. The economic damages you can claim compensation for include:

  • Medical expenses, such as costs of hospitalization, prescription medications, lab tests, surgery, special equipment, rehabilitation or therapy, and any other treatments
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages

Non-economic damages are less tangible and, consequently, more difficult to calculate. Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and emotional distress are some examples of non-economic damages that a settlement can compensate.

Factors Considered in Bloomington Car Accident Settlements

A common question among crash victims is, “What is a reasonable settlement for a car accident?” While a car accident settlement should cover all your damages, several factors will affect the calculation of your damages and the final settlement amount you receive.

Severity of the Injuries

The severity of the injuries sustained from an accident significantly affects the amount you can recover in a Bloomington car accident settlement. Accident cases involving more serious injuries attract higher settlement amounts than those involving moderate or minor injuries.

Serious injuries usually cause people to incur greater treatment expenses. These medical expenses increase the economic damages that the victims are entitled to, leading to higher settlements. Severe injuries also result in higher non-economic damages, particularly when the pain and suffering multiplier is factored into the calculation of the damages.

Insurance companies may apply a multiplier to an accident victim’s economic damages to calculate non-economic damages. The multiplier is usually a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on your injury's severity. For example, if your economic damages from a relatively minor personal injury were $5,000 and a multiplier of two is assigned, the value of your non-economic damages would be $10,000. If your injury was more severe and your economic damages were $100,000, you may receive $400,000 for pain and suffering damages based on a multiplier of four.

Lost Wages and Income

Lost wages and income are a factor in car accident settlements. The settlement value of a car accident claim includes calculations of the income you lost while receiving treatment and recovering from your injuries.

If you’re permanently disabled and unable to work in the future, or your injuries limit your ability to work in the same position or career, your settlement should include what you would’ve earned if you hadn’t been injured. Calculations for lost earning capacity and future lost earnings aren’t straightforward and usually require consultation with experts and taking factors like the accident victim’s age, education, previous work history, and life expectancy into account.

Property Damage

The amount of property damage in your crash affects your settlement; the more extensive the property damage, the larger the settlement you’re expected to receive. Property damage includes the costs to replace or repair your car and any other property that was inside it, including personal belongings.

The Impact on the Victim’s Life

A car accident can significantly impair a person’s quality of life, for example, by causing permanent disability. An individual with injuries that have greatly impacted his or her physical, emotional, or mental well-being will most likely receive a larger settlement than someone who didn’t suffer severe injuries.

Comparative Negligence in Bloomington Car Accident Cases

Whether you were partially at fault for your Bloomington car accident will also affect how your settlement will be calculated. That’s because Illinois law employs a modified comparative negligence standard.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence splits responsibility for an incident and damages among the parties involved based on the degree of negligence of each party. The amount of compensation a plaintiff is awarded in Illinois is reduced in proportion to that plaintiff’s percentage of fault, provided he or she isn’t more than 50% at fault. An injured plaintiff whose percentage of fault is found to be above 50% is barred from collecting any compensation.

How Does Comparative Negligence Impact a Settlement?

Under the comparative negligence system, if you were partially responsible for an accident, you could still receive a car accident settlement. However, the settlement would be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Suppose you were involved in an accident and the other driver was driving while drunk — a leading cause of car accidents in Bloomington. However, you’re found to be 30% at fault for the accident because you violated a particular traffic law. If you were eligible to receive a settlement of $100,000, the settlement would be reduced by $30,000. The final settlement amount you receive would be $70,000.

How Insurance Coverage and Limits Can Impact a Settlement’s Value

Insurance coverage and limits significantly affect the settlement process and final amount in car accident cases. The amount you can recover after an accident may be limited by your or the other driver’s policy limits.

If an insured individual causes your accident and injuries, his or her policy may limit how much you can receive from his or her insurance company. Limits vary depending on the insurance coverage that a person can afford. Illinois law requires drivers in Bloomington and other parts of the state to carry a minimum liability insurance amount of:

  • $25,000 bodily injury coverage per person per accident
  • $50,000 total bodily injury coverage per accident
  • $20,000 for property damage liability

These state minimums may not be enough to cover the losses suffered in a car accident. Some individuals may have additional coverage that could increase your settlement amount.

Some policies may have higher limits than those of the average driver. For example, the coverage limits may be much higher if the at-fault driver was driving a truck or company vehicle or was driving for a rideshare company. In such cases, victims are likely to get larger settlements.

If your damages exceed the policy limits of the at-fault driver, you may have to look for other sources of compensation, such as the driver’s umbrella policy. You could also pursue a claim under your underinsured motorist coverage. You can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover your damages directly from the at-fault driver.

If the driver that caused your accident and injuries is uninsured, he or she may lack adequate resources to fully compensate you for damages. You can recover compensation for damages through your uninsured motorist coverage.

A Bloomington car accident lawyer can help you uncover the available insurance coverage and policy limits, and any other possible sources of compensation for your losses.

How to Maximize a Car Accident Settlement

There are steps you can take after a crash that will help maximize the amount you recover in your car accident settlement.

Getting a Car Accident Lawyer

Obtaining a car accident attorney increases your chances of settling your case for the maximum amount available. A study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that injury victims represented by attorneys received larger settlements than those who settled their cases on their own.

A car accident lawyer will investigate your crash and help you identify all the potential avenues of compensation. Your lawyer will gather the relevant evidence, establish the value of your claim, and present your case to the at-fault driver’s insurance company in a manner that showcases the extent of your losses and why you’re entitled to compensation.

Insurance companies and adjusters use a number of tricks to devalue or deny claims. You’ll be less vulnerable to these tricks that make victims accept settlement offers far lower than the actual value of their case when you have a car accident attorney on your side. Attorneys use their knowledge and experience to fight back against tactics like victims being wrongly assigned full or partial blame for the crash. They use their negotiation skills to negotiate with the insurance companies involved on behalf of their clients for the highest possible settlement.

Preserving Evidence

Taking the necessary steps to preserve critical evidence early can help strengthen your claim and warrant a full settlement. Take clear photographs and videos of the crash scene and the surrounding area, get contact information of people who witnessed the crash, write down all the accident details you remember as soon as possible while your memory is still fresh, and obtain a copy of the police report from the Bloomington Police Department. Motorists involved in accidents in Illinois are no longer required to fill out a motorist crash report and send it to the state’s Department of Transportation.

Store the damaged items from your car and any documents related to the accident, such as medical reports, prescriptions, bills, and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, safely and securely. You should also request any camera footage that may have captured the accident to be saved and preserved.

Your car accident lawyer will help you follow the appropriate crash reporting instructions and effectively preserve every relevant piece of evidence. He or she will start investigations and ensure all critical evidence is collected and preserved as soon as you hire him or her.

Seeking Medical Treatment

Complete medical records of the injuries you sustained from the accident and the treatment you sought will help you maximize your settlement. Ensure you seek medical treatment immediately after your accident, even if you feel your injuries are minor. The records generated from your treatment will document your injuries comprehensively. The more you wait before seeking treatment following the accident, the harder it becomes to link the accident to the damages you suffered.

Documenting Your Injuries Long-Term

Your non-economic damages should make up a significant portion of your compensation. The more evidence you gather to prove your pain and suffering damages, the better your chances of receiving maximum compensation for your non-economic losses.

Keeping a journal specifying how your injury affects you every day will help prove the extent of your losses. Include details like your pain levels, days when you were unable to get out of bed or work because of your physical or psychological anguish, and the chores, activities, and events you couldn’t participate in because of the accident.

Including All Your Losses When Calculating Damages

The key to getting the highest settlement amount available is to avoid overlooking any current and future losses when calculating damages. A fair settlement should compensate you adequately for your current and future medical expenses, any other economic and non-economic damages suffered, and any other losses you could incur in the future due to the accident. Remember, you can’t reopen your claim once it’s settled.

An experienced car accident lawyer will take all the necessary steps to calculate all your losses properly. The lawyer will work with medical professionals to understand the long-term effects of your injuries and forecast your long-term costs based on how long you’ll take to recover and the inflation rates. He or she will also work with economic and occupational experts to value your future lost earnings more precisely.

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.