Damages and Settlements for Car Accidents - All 50 States
What are the available damages for car accidents, and what do you need to know about average settlement amounts? Here is an overview of the law in all 50 states.
When you get injured in a car accident, recovering your losses is important to your health, financial stability, comfort, and general wellbeing. In legal terms, the money you recover for your losses is referred to as “damages,” and each state has its own laws regarding the available damages for car accidents. Average settlement amounts for car accidents also vary by state; although, as we discuss below, the averages are not particularly relevant to your claim for damages.
We have compiled the laws that establish the damages available to car accident victims in all 50 states. If you have been injured in a collision, scroll down or choose a link below to find out what type(s) of damages you may be able to recover:
- States Beginning with A through G
- States Beginning with H though M
- States Beginning with N through O
- States Beginning with P through W
- Average Settlement Amounts for Car Accidents
Overview: The Types of Damages You May Be Able to Recover After a Car Accident
The available damages for car accidents fall into three main categories: (i) damages for financial losses, (ii) damages for non-financial losses, and (iii) punitive damages. Here is an explanation of each category of damages you may be able to recover:
Damages for Financial Losses
Financial losses – also referred to as economic losses, pecuniary losses, and special damages – are losses that have a direct impact on your bank account (or credit, if you are unable to pay your bills as they come due). When you are injured in a car accident, your financial losses can begin to add up immediately; and, if your injuries have long-term effects, your financial losses could continue to add up for the rest of your life. Common financial losses suffered by car accident victims include:
- Medical expenses
- Prescription costs
- The cost to purchase medical supplies and equipment
- Transportation costs
- Other out-of-pocket costs
- Loss of income
- Loss of benefits
- Loss of future earnings
Damages for Non-Financial Losses
Non-financial losses – also referred to as non-economic losses and general damages – are losses that impact your comfort, your relationships, and other aspects of your day-to-day life. Placing a dollar amount on these losses is not easy (and it is not something the insurance companies will do for you), and you will need to work with an experienced car accident lawyer to recover the full compensation you deserve. While different state laws provide for the recovery of different types of non-financial losses, generally speaking, the non-financial losses for which it is possible to recover damages after a car accident include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Emotional trauma
- Post-traumatic stress
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship, consortium, and society
- Loss of services and support
Unlike the damages discussed above, punitive damages are not designed to compensate car accident victims for accident-related losses. Instead, they are designed to punish individuals and companies that make particularly bad decisions or egregious mistakes. For example, in many states, it is possible to recover punitive damages for drunk driving accidents.
Not all states allow for the recovery of punitive damages, and many states cap the punitive damages that are available (as we discuss below, some states cap the non-economic damages that are available to car accident victims as well. You can use the tables below to find out if punitive damages are available in your state; and, for more information, you can go to: Punitive Damages in Car Accident Cases – All 50 States.
Available Damages for Car Accident Claims
State Statute or Resource
|Alabama||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Alabama Code Section 6-5-544|
|Alaska||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Alaska Statutes Title 9, Chapter 17|
|Arizona||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Arizona Revised Statutes Section 12-581|
|Arkansas||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Arkansas Code Sections 16-114-208|
|California||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||California Civil Code Sections 3281 and 3294|
|Colorado||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 13-64-202 and 13-64-302|
|Connecticut||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Connecticut General Statutes Chapter 901|
|Delaware||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Delaware Administrative Code Title 18, Section 603|
|Florida||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Florida Statutes Section 768.81|
|Georgia||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Georgia Code Sections 51-12-4 and 51-12-5.1|
5 Important Factors for Calculating Financial Losses After a Car Accident
1. What is Your Diagnosis?
The most important factor for calculating your financial losses is your medical diagnosis. Once you have a diagnosis, everything else flows from how your injuries have impacted – and will impact – your life. As a result, after a car accident, you need to see a doctor promptly. Even if you don’t need to take an ambulance to the hospital, you should still go to the emergency room or make arrangements to see your doctor right away.
2. What is Your Prognosis?
In addition to knowing your diagnosis, you also need to know your prognosis. Will you be able to make a full recovery? If so, how long will it take? Will you need surgery? If not, what ongoing medical care will you need? Will you suffer from a disability or chronic pain? These are all critical questions for calculating your financial damages.
3. How Much Will You Need to Cover Your Long-Term Medical Expenses?
The reason why you need to know your prognosis is that the available damages for car accidents include compensation for your future medical expenses. You should not settle for payment of the medical bills you have incurred to date. Your long-term medical care could cost far more, and you need to make sure you recover the money you will need in the months and years to come.
4. Will Your Injuries Prevent You from Working?
If your injuries will prevent you from working, your financial damages also include your loss of income. Similar to your medical bills, this includes your lost income to date and your loss of income in the future. In order to recover just compensation, you will need your medical records to reflect that you are unable to work as a result of your accident-related injuries.
5. How Much Would You Have Earned in the Future?
If you had not been injured, would your wage or salary have increased over time? The answer to this question is probably, “Yes,” and this is a factor that needs to be considered when calculating your financial damages as well.
Available Damages for Car Accident Claims
State Statute or Resource
|Hawaii||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 663|
|Idaho||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Idaho Code Section 6-1601|
|Illinois||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Illinois Compiled Statutes Title 735, Section 5/2-1115.2|
|Indiana||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Indiana Code Sections 34-51-2|
|Iowa||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Iowa Code Sections 624.18|
|Kansas||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Kansas Statutes Chapter 60|
|Kentucky||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Kentucky Revised Statutes Sections 411.182 and 411.184|
|Louisiana||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages (punitive damages for DUI accidents only)||Louisiana Revised Statutes Sections 32:866 and 22:1295|
|Maine||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Maine Revised Statutes Title 18, Section 2-807|
|Maryland||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Maryland Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Section 11-109|
|Massachusetts||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages (punitive damages for wrongful death only)||Massachusetts General Laws Section 231-60H|
|Michigan||Financial and non-financial damages||Michigan Code of Laws Sections 600.2959 and 600.2946a|
|Minnesota||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Minnesota Statutes Chapter 549|
|Mississippi||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Mississippi Code Sections 11-1-60|
|Missouri||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Missouri Statutes Section 510.265|
|Montana||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Montana Code Sections 27-1-220 and 46-18-243|
5 Important Factors for Calculating Non-Financial Losses After a Car Accident
1. Have You Incurred Financial Losses?
As a general rule, in order to recover non-financial damages after a car accident, you need to be able to prove that you have suffered financial losses as well. If you were not injured and have not incurred medical bills or missed time from work, you generally cannot pursue a claim for pain and suffering or other non-financial losses.
2. How Does Your State Define Non-Financial Damages?
In some states, the term “pain and suffering” is used generally to cover all (or most) forms of non-financial damages. In other states, you must separately pursue compensation for your emotional trauma, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life. In order to make sure you seek all of the available damages for car accidents in your state, you will need to consult with a local car accident lawyer.
3. Are You Keeping Track of the Day-to-Day Effects of Your Injuries?
How do you prove your pain and suffering? While there are various ways, one of the best ways is to keep a daily “pain journal.” Each day, take a few minutes to write down the ways in which your pain and suffering have impacted your life. Were you in pain when you got out of bed? Did you miss a dinner, party, game, or recital? Were you unable to perform certain activities of daily living? These are all factors that will impact how much you are entitled to receive.
4. How Long Will the Non-Financial Effects of Your Injuries Last?
Just like your financial losses, you can recover damages for your current and future non-financial losses as well. With this in mind, you need to have a clear understanding of how long the non-financial effects of your injuries will last. The longer they will last, the more you will be entitled to recover.
5. Does Your State Use the “Multiplier” Method or the “Per Diem” Method?
There are two primary methods of calculating just compensation for non-financial damages. Some states use the “multiplier” method, some use the “per diem” method, and some allow for the use of both. With the multiplier method, your non-financial damages are calculated based on a multiple of your financial damages (i.e. if your financial damages are $100,000, your non-financial damages could be anywhere from 1.5 times to 5 times this amount). With the per diem method, a daily rate is multiplied by the number of days you are expected to experience pain, suffering, and other non-financial losses.
Available Damages for Car Accident Claims
State Statute or Resource
|Nebraska||Financial and non-financial damages||Nebraska Revised Statutes Section 25-1146|
|Nevada||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Nevada Revised Statutes Chapters 41 and 42|
|New Hampshire||Financial and non-financial damages||New Hampshire Revised Statutes Sections 507:7 and 507:16|
|New Jersey||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||New Jersey Revised Statutes Sections 2A:15-5.12 and 2C:35B-5|
|New Mexico||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||New Mexico Statutes Chapters 39 and 41|
|New York||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||New York Laws Civil Practice Law & Rules Article 30, Section 3017|
|North Carolina||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||North Carolina General Statutes Sections 1D-15 and 90-21.19|
|North Dakota||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||North Dakota Statutes Section 32-03.2-04|
|Ohio||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2315|
|Oklahoma||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Oklahoma Statutes Title 23|
|Oregon||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 31|
IMPORTANT: Partial Fault, Statutory Caps, and Insurance Policy Limits Can Limit Your Financial Recovery
In addition to the factors discussed above, there are three other important factors that can impact the available damages for car accidents as well. Specifically, the following three factors can all potentially limit the amount you are entitled to recover:
- Partial Fault – If you were partially at fault in your car accident, then you may only be entitled to a portion of your losses. Different states follow different rules; and, in five states, partial fault serves as a complete bar to recovering financial compensation.
- Statutory Damages Caps – In many states, there are statutory caps on non-economic and punitive damages. If your state has a cap, then this is the maximum amount you can recover regardless of your actual losses.
- Insurance Policy Coverage Limits – Insurance policy coverage limits can also effectively cap the amount you can recover. For example, if you have a bodily injury liability (BIL) claim and the at-fault driver only has $50,000 in coverage, then this may be the maximum amount you can receive for your financial and non-financial losses.
Available Damages for Car Accident Claims
State Statute or Resource
|Pennsylvania||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 42, Section 8528|
|Rhode Island||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Rhode Island General Laws Title 10|
|South Carolina||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||South Carolina Code Chapter 15-32|
|South Dakota||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||South Dakota Codified Laws Chapter 21-1|
|Tennessee||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Tennessee Code Sections 29-39-102 and 29-39-104|
|Texas||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 41|
|Utah||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Utah Code Sections 78-18-1 and 78B-3-410|
|Vermont||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Various provisions of the Vermont Statutes|
|Virginia||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Virginia Code Sections 8.01-44.5 and 18.2-152.12|
|Washington||Financial and non-financial damages||Revised Code of Washington Section 4.56.250|
|West Virginia||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||West Virginia Code Chapter 55, Article 7|
|Wisconsin||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 895|
|Wyoming||Financial, non-financial, and punitive damages||Wyoming Statutes Title 1, Section 1-1-109|
*The laws that establish the available damages for car accidents in all 50 states were last reviewed in 2020. You should review your state’s law to make sure you know what damages you can recover, and you should hire a lawyer to help you with your insurance claim.
What is the average settlement for a car accident? There really isn’t an answer to this question. There are a number of reasons why, but one of the simplest and most straightforward reasons is that the insurance companies don’t make this information available.
According to an often-cited survey published by Martindale-Nolo, the average settlement amount for personal injury claims (including car accident claims) is $52,900. However, this figure is based on self-reported data from individuals who responded to Martindale-Nolo’s survey request. As a result, rather than representing a true average, this really just provides a snapshot of what some people have received in some cases.
But, before you go looking somewhere else for a different answer (which you won’t find), it is important for you to understand one thing: Any “average” settlement amount is entirely irrelevant to your car insurance claim. The amount of your settlement will be based on your losses, and you are entitled to this amount regardless of what other people have recovered.
5 Reasons Why Average Settlement Amounts Are IRRELEVANT To Your Car Insurance Claim
1. Your Damages from Your Car Accident are Unique to You
From your medical bills to your pain and suffering, your damages from your car accident are unique to you. Regardless of what damages anyone else may have recovered, and regardless of the specific available damages for car accidents in your state, you can – and should – seek the full damages to which you are legally entitled.
2. Average Settlement Amounts Vary By Geographic Location
Any average settlement amounts are also going to vary by geographic location. For example, the average in a place like Los Angeles or New York City is going to be very different from the average in a rural area.
3. Car Accident Settlements Can Be Both Well Above and Well Below National and Local Averages
With any average, there are outliers on both sides, and the average is made up of various numbers both above and below the average figure. Even if the average car accident settlement is somewhere in the range of $50,000, this average includes settlements of only a few thousand dollars, and it also includes settlements involving millions of dollars in financial compensation.
4. Car Accident Victims Who Do Not Hire a Lawyer Receive Far Less on Average Than Those Who Seek Representation
There is a clear disparity between the average settlement amounts of represented and unrepresented car accident victims. For example, one study found that while car accident victims who hired an attorney received an average settlement of $75,000, the average for those who did not hire an attorney was just $18,000.
5. If You Focus on the Average, You Will Be Focusing On the Wrong Thing
If you focus on an average figure, you will not be focusing on what matters most—the amount that you are entitled to recover for your losses. You need to make sure you have a clear understanding of your financial and non-financial losses (and the available damages for car accidents in your state), and you need to work with an experienced lawyer who can help you recover the compensation you deserve.
FAQs: What Do You Need to Know about Recovering Your Losses After a Car Accident?
Q: How Do You Calculate Your Financial Losses After a Car Accident?
Calculating your financial losses after a car accident requires consultation with your doctor, an assessment of your employment history and employment prospects, and a clear understanding of all of the costs you have incurred and will incur as a result of your injuries. Calculating your financial losses – and your future financial losses in particular – is not an easy process, and you will want to work with an experienced attorney to make sure you seek just compensation.
Q: How Do You Calculate Your Non-Financial Losses After a Car Accident?
The process for calculating non-financial damages depends on whether the “multiplier” method or the “per diem” method is being used. With the multiplier method, you first need to calculate your financial losses, and then you need to determine an appropriate multiplier. The higher the multiplier, the higher the amount of your award. The size of your multiplier (which is typically between 1.5 and 5) will be based on the extent of the non-financial losses you have endured to date and that you will endure in the future.
With the per diem method, the daily rate that is used to calculate your damages is determined in a similar manner. The number of days to which this rate is applied is determined based upon your doctor’s expert opinion. With both methods, it is necessary to hire an experienced car accident lawyer to calculate just compensation on your behalf.
Q: When Can You Seek Punitive Damages for a Car Accident?
Punitive damages are available only in cases involving intentional, grossly negligent, severely reckless, or “wanton” misconduct. With regard to car accidents, DUI cases are the most-common examples, but there are various other potential grounds for seeking punitive damages as well. With that said, punitive damages awards are relatively rare (and in some states, they are not available at all), and you will need to consult with a lawyer to find out if you can pursue a claim based on the available damages for car accidents in your state.
Q: How Can I Make Sure I At Least Secure an Average Settlement for My Car Accident?
When you have a car accident insurance claim, your focus needs to be on recovering your losses. While you might be interested to know what is an average settlement, this should not influence how you pursue your claim for damages. If you receive a settlement offer that reflects just compensation based on the circumstances of your case, you should accept. If you do not, then you should consult with your lawyer about taking your case to trial. But, what you should not do is accept too little (or reject a reasonable settlement) because you are focused on an average that is ultimately irrelevant to your car accident claim.
Q: Will Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer Increase the Amount of Damages I Can Recover?
Hiring a car accident lawyer will significantly increase your chances of recovering the full available damages for car accidents under your state’s laws. There are many ways a lawyer can help with your claim—including accurately calculating your financial and non-financial damages. If you are serious about recovering just compensation and making sure you don’t settle for less than you deserve, you should schedule a free claim assessment with a local car accident lawyer today.