See how settlements are calculated for mild to severe head injury cases. Learn what you can do to boost your compensation after a car accident.
Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of head injuries, including concussions.¹
Compensation for crash-related head injuries typically comes from the drivers’ auto insurance policies. Sources of compensation and what counts as damages will depend on the facts of your car accident case.
Head injury settlements can range from a few hundred dollars for a few bumps and scrapes, to millions in compensation for traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
If you or a loved one sustained head injuries in a car accident, it helps to know how compensation is calculated and what you can do to maximize your insurance settlement.
Mild Head Injury Compensation
If you and your doctor are certain you only suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (commonly called a concussion) without loss of consciousness or lingering effects, you may decide to handle your injury claim yourself.
Your demand for settlement should include the total of all your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. If your claim is with the other driver’s insurance company, add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.
In no-fault insurance states, you must look to your own insurance company for compensation under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Injured passengers file a claim under the policy covering the driver of the car they were in. PIP settlements do not include compensation for pain and suffering.
Example: Mild Concussion Settlement
Tracy was in a parking lot accident caused by a distracted driver who backed out of a space without looking. The impact caused Tracy’s head to bounce off the driver’s side window. She called the police and her husband.
After exchanging information with the other driver and talking to police, Tracy’s husband took her to the hospital emergency department. She was already suffering from a headache and had a swollen bump on her head.
After a CT scan that ruled out internal bleeding, Tracy was released from the hospital with a mild concussion and told to follow up with her regular doctor. Tracy makes $20 per hours and was out of work for 10 days until her headaches subsided. She needed no further treatments.
Medical bills (ER, Doctor bills, CT scan): $3,000
Lost wages ($20 per hour for 80 hours): $1,600
Total Economic losses ($3,000 + $1,600): $4,600
Non-economic losses ($4,600 x 2): $9,200
Estimated mild head injury settlement ($4,600 + $9,200): $13,800
Tracy knew she was asking a lot for pain and suffering, although her demand was not outrageous. After a few rounds of negotiations with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, Tracy settled her injury claim for $8,500.
Moderate Head Injury Compensation
Moderate head injuries take longer to heal. Symptoms may linger, and the victim may have sustained other injuries from the collision.
In no-fault insurance states, you may pursue compensation from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance when your injuries exceed the state’s “threshold.” This usually happens when the costs exceed your PIP limits, or because of the serious nature of the injuries.
With moderate head injuries, you can expect the other driver’s insurance company to challenge the value of your accident claim.
It pays to consult a personal injury lawyer for complicated or severe injury claims. Most car accident attorneys offer a free consultation to victims. Protect your interests. Don’t be bullied into discussing a settlement with an insurance adjuster without getting solid legal advice.
Example: Compensation for Moderate Head and Body Injuries
Looking forward to a nice lunch together, Virginia was in the passenger seat of her friend Cheryl’s vehicle. Cheryl stopped for a red light. When the light turned green, she drove forward. Almost immediately, Chery’s SUV was T-boned on the front passenger side.
Ricky was rushing back to work after his lunch. He was running late and decided to text his boss to say he’d be there soon. Distracted by his phone, Ricky ran a red light and slammed into Cheryl’s vehicle.
Ricky was ticketed for texting while driving, running a red light, and failing to keep a proper lookout. Cheryl and Virginia were taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital.
Virginia suffered a closed head injury with concussion, whiplash injuries to her neck and shoulders, and a broken right arm. Eventually she was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. She had several follow-up visits with a neurologist and an orthopedic specialist.
With physical therapy, Virginia was able to return to work after four months, although she experienced lingering fatigue and persistent headaches for a year.
Medical bills (ER, Doctors, Scans and X-rays, PT): $20,000
Lost wages ($720 per week for 12 weeks): $8,640
Replacement services (lawn care, housekeeping, meal delivery): $1,800
Total Economic losses ($20,000 + $8,640 + $1,800): $30,440
Non-economic losses ($30,440 x 3): $91,320
Estimated moderate head injury settlement ($30,440 + $91,320): $121,760
Through her car accident lawyer, Virginia made a personal injury claim to Ricky’s insurance company for $150,000. Ricky carried injury liability coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.
Virginia received the $100,000 policy limits from Ricky’s policy and $5,000 MedPay coverage from Cheryl’s policy. Her lawyer then pursued the remaining $15,000 from Virginia’s auto policy through her underinsured motorist coverage.
Traumatic Brain Injury Compensation
Head injuries from auto accidents are a leading cause of death and disability in adults. Victims who survive a fractured skull, brain bleeds, or secondary stroke often suffer life-altering brain damage.
You can’t get fair compensation for a serious injury claim on your own.
The victim and their family need an experienced personal injury attorney to establish a fair settlement amount, identify potential sources of compensation, and prove the at-fault party’s liability.
Several types of damages factor into severe head injury values, including:
- Scope of disability: Some head injury victims eventually return to independent living, although they may have permanently lost some cognitive skills, memories, or abilities. Others may be totally dependent on others for the rest of their lives.
- Lost wages and earning potential: The victim may lose the ability to work in any capacity. Or, they may have lost the cognitive skills and mental acuity to work in an area they were trained in. The attorney may hire financial experts to determine the victim’s future loss of income.
- Victim age and season of life: Normal life expectancy goes into calculating future medical costs, future lost income, and future pain and suffering. Season of life looks at how the injuries affect the person’s ability to get married, have children, care for elderly parents, or pursue pre-accident life goals.
Case Example: $32.5 Million to Collision Victim for Severe Brain Injuries
On a wintry Illinois night, 31-year old Kristin Zak was a passenger in Matt Robinson’s car when he hit a patch of ice on the interstate. Robinson’s car slid into the median, colliding with a J.B. Transport tractor-trailer.
The tractor-trailer, driven by Terry Brown, Jr., had been going too fast for the road conditions and jackknifed about an hour before. Brown had not set out safety cones or turned on the truck’s flashing hazard lights.
Zak suffered significant traumatic brain injuries that left her in a coma for a month and paralyzed on one side of her body. Zak is unable to independently care for herself or her young daughter.
After nine years of litigation, the jury awarded Kristen Zak $32.5 million. J.B. Hunt Transport and Brown were each deemed responsible for 30 percent of the verdict amount, and Robinson was responsible for 40 percent.
5 Ways to Boost a Head Injury Settlement
Successful injury claims have proof of the other driver’s fault and evidence demonstrating the scope and impact of the victim’s injuries. The following are actions that will help maximize your injury compensation.
1. Get Prompt Medical Attention
Always call 911 after a car accident to notify police and ask for help. Anyone with head injuries should try to stay quiet until help arrives. When paramedics arrive, tell them all your symptoms and let them care for you.
Shock and distress can mask head injury symptoms. If paramedics want to take you to the hospital for medical treatment, don’t argue. They know brain injuries are dangerous.
Follow up with your primary care provider or neurologist, and follow their instructions. Refusing or delaying medical care after an accident can hurt your personal injury case.
2. Gather Evidence from the Scene
Gathering evidence is important, but not worth aggravating your injuries. Unless you’re saving a life, an activity that worsens your injuries can hurt your insurance claim. If there is someone who can help gather evidence, they should try to take pictures and talk to potential witnesses.
If no one can take pictures at the scene, a friend or family member may be able to take pictures after the fact of your wrecked car and the bloody interior.
3. Request a Copy of the Police Crash Report
If you’re unable to gather evidence right after the crash, don’t worry. Police reports are arguably the best evidence when trying to prove the other driver’s negligence. Insurance companies trust the investigating officer to be honest and impartial.
4. Continue Gathering Evidence Until Your Claim Settles
Medical records are crucial in a head injury claim. The doctor’s notes must link your head injury directly to the accident. Request copies of your medical records and bills from the ambulance, hospital, and any specialists or therapists you saw during your injury treatment and rehab.
You’ll also need receipts for any out-of-pocket medical expenses like medications and assistive devices. Track your mileage and parking fees for trips to the doctor or therapy.
If your head injuries are visible, have someone take pictures throughout your recovery. Photos of black eyes, stitches in your scalp, or embedded glass in your face can be dramatic proof in a jury trial.
Be sure to get a statement from your employer detailing your lost wages, as well as used vacation or sick time.
5. Document Your Pain and Suffering
Write down what you remember of the car crash and the aftermath. You or a caregiver should keep detailed notes about the day-to-day struggles with your head injury, including treatments, memory loss, headaches, impairments, sleep disturbances, and emotional distress.
Include details about missed social gatherings, family events, lost deposits for vacations, having to drop classes, and any other ways the injuries have affected your quality of life.
Your daily journal will support your demand for car accident pain and suffering compensation. Be as detailed as possible.
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