Bodily injury settlements after a car accident vary from state-to-state and it is important to know these limits to make sure you are not given a low amount from your insurance company for your accident.
We recently had a reader write us with just that sort of question, asking: “What is the maximum bodily injury settlement I can get in a car accident?”
While the average in 2021 was $22,734, there are many variables that ultimately determine a personal injury payout. Let’s further explore what is necessary to receive financial compensation for a bodily injury claim resulting from a car accident.
What Will Count as Bodily Injury?
At its core, the definition of bodily injury is any physical damage to the body resulting from an accident. So, what might that include? The following will generally make the list:
- Broken bones/fractures
- Bleeding (both internal and external)
- Impairment of an organ’s function
Though often used interchangeably with “personal injury,” the term “bodily injury” refers to a more limited list. The biggest difference with personal injury claims is that they can also include non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Who Pays a Bodily Injury Claim Settlement?
When a driver is at fault for an accident, their personal liability insurance generally pays any outside bodily injury claims. As a result, almost all states require that drivers must have auto liability insurance before they can legally drive a car. State laws also dictate minimum liability insurance coverage requirements. The amount you can get for your bodily injury settlement depends on where you live.
Every state has different requirements for how much liability insurance a driver must carry. This chart from the Insurance Information Institute will give you an idea of the current rate in your area.
To help you decipher what these rates mean, however, let’s look at Wyoming as an example. As of October 2022, Wyoming state law requires drivers to carry liability insurance in the ratio of 25/50/20. This means $25,000 per injured person, $50,000 total liability per accident, and $20,000 for all car repair/property damage costs.
Using that formula, review the III chart linked above for your state. This will give you an idea of what the other driver’s insurance might offer to settle a bodily injury claim. You’re unlikely to see much more than that because insurance companies will rarely grant settlements above a policy’s limits.
But keep in mind this number is only based on the insurance requirements in your state. Some people might purchase policies with higher maximums, for example. And other factors may come into play when considering what is fair compensation for your case.
What Other Factors Change a Bodily Injury Settlement?
Though people always want to know how much a payout might be, it’s difficult to estimate.
This is because there are many variables that ultimately factor into car accident compensation claims. As a baseline, however, you should expect to receive at least what the accident cost you. When bodily injury claims enter the equation, however, the numbers may go up.
When determining a payout, in addition to a driver’s insurance coverage, here are other things that will come into consideration:
- Financial loss. This is a bit of a catchall term, but it covers any monetary losses because of the crash. Part of this may include damage to the car, but also medical expenses and time off from work.
- The severity of your injuries. If you walk away from the accident with just a couple scratches, your payout will be less. Someone who requires a hospital stay and/or surgery will get more. It’s common sense. However, there may also be damages available for mental pain and suffering as well as the physical. A skilled lawyer can help determine if your condition might warrant higher bodily injury compensation.
- Liability. If there is no question that the other driver was responsible, then your chances for compensation go up. However, if there’s debate and no obvious negligence from either side, a hearing may be necessary to reach a settlement.
At-Fault Versus No-Fault States
Furthering the idea that what you might get depends on where you live, we must also explain at-fault and no-fault.
If you reside in an at-fault state and aren’t liable for the accident, then you may file a personal injury claim. This is true even if your injuries are minor, or damages to the car were minimal.
In a no-fault state, however, getting compensation will be harder. That’s because each driver’s own insurance will be responsible for covering their medical payout, regardless of who causes the accident. An individual can only sue for additional compensation when injuries are severe (and that term is also up for interpretation). That’s why there are fewer bodily injury cases in no-fault states.
No-fault rules only apply to bodily injuries, however. If fault is determinable, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance must still pay property damage claims even in no-fault states.
Currently there are 12 no-fault states:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
Unsurprisingly, insurance in no-fault states tends to be more expensive, according to WalletHub. This is because many people inflate their claims knowing their own insurance will have to pay them. In addition, this type of insurance fraud unfortunately ups the premiums for everyone in a no-fault state.
States that Limit Settlement Amounts for Bodily Injury Claims
Additionally, there are eight at-fault states that cap the amount you can get for non-economic damages/pain and suffering. Those limits are as follows:
- Alaska — $400,000 or the victim’s life expectancy x $8,000 (whichever is greater)
- Colorado — $500,000
- Hawaii — $375,000
- Idaho — $250,000
- Maryland — $875,000
- Mississippi — $1 million
- Ohio — $250,000 or 3x the total bills you submit for reimbursement (whichever is bigger)
- Tennessee — $750,000 per person
How Can I Support My Bodily Injury Case?
In a perfect world, you would just receive fair compensation for any bodily injuries resulting from a car accident. But in the real world, damages, pain, and suffering may be harder to prove.
To up the chances of a successful claim, however, there are some proactive steps you can take.
- Gather evidence. While it may be difficult, don’t forget to get as much information as you can when the accident occurs. It’s also important you don’t say too much on the scene to protect yourself later. More evidence will prove negligence was the result of your damages, strengthening your claim against the other party.
- Get medical evaluations. Even if you don’t think you’re hurt, see a doctor. If something shows ump after the fact, then you want to have complete medical records to support your case.
- Request fair compensation. Asking for the moon won’t help your case. But it’s fine to ask for what you should receive. Add up medical bills (past and future), lost wages and an estimate for pain and suffering for a ballpark number.
- Contact a lawyer. Payouts for car accident cases that include bodily injury can get confusing. Trying to estimate pain and suffering is tricky, not to mention that most insurance companies will first offer low-ball settlements. Having a skilled auto accident lawyer in your corner will help you navigate the insurance system. Consider a free consultation today so an unfair settlement doesn’t add insult to bodily injury!
Get Free Help Maximizing Your Claim’s Value
Lawyers can always get you a higher bodily injury payout than settling directly with insurance. Get your free auto accident evaluation to see if you may qualify for a cash settlement to learn how much yours is worth!
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Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann