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August 20, 2023

3 Common Amounts You Can Sue for a Car Accident in California

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

As a certified California attorney referral service, we help many Californians get legal help after a car accident. One of the most common questions we hear after an accident is, “How much can someone sue for a car accident in California?”.

Below we list out three settlement ranges that are common for people to sue for after a car accident in California:

Severity of Accident Possible Amount to Sue for
Low Approximately: $5,000 – $25,000
Moderate Approximately: $25,000 – $100,000
High Approximately: $100,000 – $1,000,000+

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Explanation of Settlement Amounts

Low Settlement

For minor accidents with little to no injuries, the settlement could be a few thousand dollars or more to cover property damage and any medical bills for minor injuries.

Moderate Settlement

For accidents with moderate injuries and more significant property damage, settlements might result in settlements in the tens of thousands range. These cases typically involve medical treatment, some missed work, and possibly longer recovery periods.

High Settlement

In cases of severe injuries, long-term medical treatments, permanent disabilities, or fatalities, settlements can be substantial, potentially reaching hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Factors like medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the extent of negligence play a significant role in determining high settlement amounts.

Remember, this is a simplified overview, and every case is unique. The specific circumstances of the accident, the severity of injuries, fault determination, and other factors will impact the actual settlement.

Consulting an experienced car accident attorney is crucial to understanding what might be an appropriate settlement for your particular case.

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Settlement Ranges for Different Types of Car Accidents

The information above encompasses settlement information for all types of California car accidents. Below we’ll dive into more detail for different types of car accidents.

Rear-End Collisions

Settlements for rear-end accidents, where liability is often clear, may range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands for moderate injuries. Severe injuries could lead to higher settlements in the six or seven figure range.

Head-On Collisions

Head-on collisions can result in substantial settlements due to the severity of injuries people suffer. Settlements might range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands or more, depending on the circumstances.

T-Bone (Side-Impact) Collisions

Settlements for T-bone accidents can vary. Minor injuries might result in settlements in the lower thousands, while more severe injuries could lead to tens of thousands or more.

DUI Accidents

If a driver in the accident was under the influence (DUI), the settlement range can be significantly higher. Oftentimes in the six figure range, or higher. This could depend on the severity of injuries, property damage, and the level of negligence.

Remember, these are very broad ranges, and many factors specific to each case can influence the actual settlement amount.

Damages You Could Sue for After a Car Accident

After a car accident in California, there are several types of damages you can potentially sue for. Damages are the compensation you may seek to cover various losses due to the accident. Here are the main types of damages:

Economic Damages

These are tangible financial losses that you can prove with receipts, bills, and other documentation. They include:

  • Medical Expenses: Costs for medical treatment, hospitalization, medication, therapy, and rehabilitation.
  • Property Damage: Repair or replacement costs for your vehicle and any personal property that was damaged in the accident.
  • Lost Wages: Compensation for the income you lost due to being unable to work during your recovery.

Non-Economic Damages

These are more subjective losses that don’t have a specific dollar amount attached. They include:

  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress caused by the accident and your injuries.
  • Emotional Distress: Compensation for psychological trauma, anxiety, and other emotional effects resulting from the accident.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: Compensation for the inability to engage in activities you once enjoyed due to your injuries.
  • Punitive Damages: These are rare and are only awarded when the at-fault party’s behavior was extremely reckless or malicious. They are meant to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future.

To sue for these damages, you typically need to prove that the other party was negligent and that their negligence caused your injuries and losses.

It’s important to gather evidence such as police reports, medical records, witness statements, and photos of the accident scene to build a strong case.

Remember, California follows a “comparative negligence” rule, which means your compensation could be reduced if you are found partially at fault for the accident.

Additionally, it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional experienced in personal injury cases to navigate the legal complexities and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Calculating Compensation: Comparative Negligence and Limits

California follows a “comparative negligence” rule, which means that compensation can be adjusted based on the degree to which each party is at fault for the accident. If you were partially responsible for the accident, your compensation might be reduced proportionally.

Additionally, California does not have a statutory cap on most types of damages in personal injury cases, except for medical malpractice cases. However, there is a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases involving non-economic injuries like pain and suffering.

Pursuing Punitive Damages: An Exceptional Circumstance

Punitive damages, though rare, can be pursued if the at-fault party’s behavior was particularly reckless, malicious, or intentional. These damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar behavior in the future.

Can You Sue if You Weren’t Injured?

Yes, you can still consider filing a lawsuit after a car accident in California even if there were no injuries. While injuries often play a significant role in personal injury claims, there are situations where you might have valid reasons to pursue legal action even without physical harm. Here are a few scenarios:

  • Property Damage: If your vehicle or other personal property was damaged in the accident, you can seek compensation for the cost of repairs or replacement. This falls under the category of economic damages, as mentioned earlier.
  • Emotional Distress: Even if you didn’t sustain physical injuries, you might experience emotional distress or psychological trauma due to the accident. While emotional distress claims can be more challenging to prove, they may still be considered as non-economic damages in certain cases.
  • Negligence and Liability: If the other driver was clearly at fault for the accident due to their negligent behavior, you might want to hold them accountable for their actions. This can help prevent future accidents caused by the same behavior and maintain a sense of justice.
  • Insurance Disputes: Sometimes, insurance companies might not offer you a fair settlement for property damage or other losses. In such cases, pursuing legal action can help you negotiate a more reasonable compensation.
  • Evidence Preservation: Filing a lawsuit can help preserve evidence related to the accident, which might be important in case injuries or other damages become apparent later on.

Dealing with Low Insurance or No Insurance After a Car Accident in California

Car accidents can bring about not only physical injuries but also unexpected financial burdens. When the other party involved has low insurance coverage or is uninsured altogether, the situation can become even more challenging. In this article, we’ll explore the options available to individuals who find themselves in such circumstances after a car accident in California.

Understanding California’s Insurance Requirements

In California, drivers are legally required to have a minimum amount of liability insurance to cover potential damages in case of an accident.

However, not all drivers comply with this requirement. If you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, your options for seeking compensation may vary.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Your Safety Net

To safeguard against situations involving uninsured or underinsured motorists, many insurance policies in California offer uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. This coverage is designed to step in when the at-fault party lacks sufficient insurance. UM/UIM coverage can help you recover costs for medical bills, property damage, and even pain and suffering, depending on the specifics of your policy.

Filing a Lawsuit Against an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver

In cases where the other party lacks insurance or has inadequate coverage, you might consider filing a lawsuit against the responsible driver personally. However, it’s important to note that even if you win a judgment in your favor, collecting the awarded amount could prove challenging if the at-fault driver doesn’t have the means to pay.

Pursuing Compensation through Your Own Insurance Company

In addition to UM/UIM coverage, some insurance policies offer “uninsured motorist property damage” (UMPD) coverage, which can help with vehicle repairs if the other party is uninsured. However, UMPD coverage typically comes with a deductible.

What if I Didn’t Have Insurance?

In California, if you’ve been injured in a car accident and you didn’t have insurance at the time, you still have the legal right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.

California follows a “fault” system for car accidents, meaning that the person responsible for the accident is liable for the resulting damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses.

However, it’s important to note that California has a rule known as “comparative negligence.” This means that if you were partially at fault for the accident, your compensation could be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. Additionally, not having insurance might impact your ability to recover certain damages.

Get Help Securing Your Settlement Today

If you were in a recent car accident and need help securing your settlement, don’t delay in seeking help. We help many Californians just like you secure a car accident settlement to get their life back on track.

Call now and connect with some of the best car accident attorneys in the state.

About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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