How to Increase a Side Impact Collision Settlement: Get More for Your Damages

Side-impact collisions often lead to high-dollar insurance claims. Here’s how to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

Side-impact accidents, also known as broadside or T-bone collisions, happen when the front of one vehicle slams into the side of a second vehicle. These types of accidents are responsible for 25 percent of all motor vehicle deaths each year.¹

Side-impact crashes happen most often at intersections, where drivers blow past stops signs and run red lights. Even at low speeds, these accidents often result in severe injuries.

If you or a loved one were injured in an auto accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the at-fault motorist.

How Much is Your Car Accident Claim Worth?

Minor Injuries

If you are one of the lucky few who walk away from a side-impact car crash with minor injuries, you may decide to handle your own insurance claim.

Assuming you’ve recovered from soft-tissue injuries and only missed a few days or weeks of work, you can easily calculate a fair settlement amount. Start by collecting proof of your economic damages, meaning medical bills, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, and a statement of lost wages from your employer.

After adding up your economic damages, multiply that amount by one or two to account for your general damages, better known as pain and suffering.

The total of your combined economic and general damages is a fair settlement amount to seek from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Example: Whiplash Compensation After Side Impact Collision 

Margaret Simpson was driving the family SUV home from the grocery store when she stopped at an intersection for a red light. When the light turned green, she proceeded through the intersection. She was partway through the intersection when the SUV was T-boned on the passenger side by a compact sedan.

Margaret’s vehicle spun around before coming to a stop. She was stunned and shaking, but was able to call 911 to report the crash and ask for help. Police and paramedics were soon on the scene.

Paramedics lifted Margaret out of the vehicle after stabilizing her neck and back. She was transported to the hospital where she was treated for a whiplash neck injury and shock.

The driver of the sedan, Nick Ramirez, was cited by police for running a red light and failing to yield the right-of-way.

Margaret was incapacitated for three weeks, until she could resume her homemaking activities. Her out-of-pocket expenses for replacement services (child care, housecleaning, and meal delivery) came to $4,000.

Her medical expenses added up to $1,200 for the emergency room, imaging studies, and follow-up doctor’s care.

Margaret’s economic damages: $4,000 + $1,200 = $5,200

Her general damages (pain and suffering): $5,200 x 2 = $10,400

Margaret’s car accident settlement amount: $5,200 + $10,400 = $15,600

Understanding that both sides must compromise to reach a fair settlement, Margaret could open negotiations with a demand for $16,000. 

Serious Injuries

The tragic reality is that side-impact collisions often result in traumatic brain injuries, crippling back injuries, or crushing fractures and internal injuries. Many victims are permanently disabled or do not survive these types of serious injuries.

Claims for severe injuries or wrongful death are complex and expensive. These cases require an experienced personal injury attorney to get the maximum available compensation for victims and their families.

Case Example: California Jury Awards $41.63 Million to Man Paralyzed in T-Bone Accident

Anthony Taylor had been out Christmas shopping with his fiancée and her mother. Anthony was sitting in the back seat when they were broadsided by a car driven by Samantha Schilling.

Schilling had driven through a stop sign, and admitted to police that the last thing she remembered before the crash was texting on her cell phone.

Anthony, who was 27 at the time of the crash, suffered a broken neck with a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia, meaning he was left paralyzed from the neck down.

Although liability was clear, the insurance company would not agree to a fair settlement amount. Anthony’s attorney filed a personal injury lawsuit on his behalf.

After reviewing the facts, the jury awarded Anthony $41.63 million. Schilling’s insurance company agreed to pay the civil judgment rather than appeal the verdict.

What You Can Do to Increase Your Settlement

If you’ve suffered only minor injuries, you may decide to handle your own claim. If so, it’s not enough to simply send the adjuster a demand letter with copies of your bills. The adjuster will likely reject it outright and counter with a lowball settlement offer. Stay calm, and politely reject the low offer.

You won’t likely end up with the full amount of your original demand, but there are actions you can take to increase your final settlement amount.

Be Prepared to Defend Your Hard Costs

Adjusters are wary of soft-tissue injuries, especially whiplash. However, they are obligated to pay reasonable costs for appropriate medical treatment. It helps to study your medical records so you can reference the medical necessity of your diagnostic tests and treatments.

For example, if the adjuster challenges the need for an MRI of your upper body, you can respond that T-bone accidents are known to cause traumatic tears to the aorta. Any responsible emergency room doctor would test to rule out a life-threatening condition.

Similarly, adjusters routinely question the amount of lost wages. Point out the doctor’s notes ordering you to stay off work until your injury was healed. Explain how the injury affected your ability to perform your job duties.

Justify Your Pain and Suffering Compensation

Even when the adjuster is willing to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages, they will strongly resist paying compensation for pain and suffering. They may even ridicule your request, and minimize your experience as a “little inconvenience.”

Here’s where your accident diary comes in handy. You’ll have a ready reference to help you recount how the crash has emotionally affected you.

Beginning with the crash, use descriptive language to describe:

  • Your terror during impact, the sounds of squealing tires and torn metal
  • The number of sleepless nights caused by pain and nightmares
  • Your anxiety every time you get back into a vehicle
  • Distress at not being able to care for your child or aging parents
  • The family events you missed during your recovery

A descriptive telling of your experience, without embellishments or exaggeration, will incline the adjuster to pay more to get your claim settled. The adjuster would rather pay more than have your convincing testimony given to a sympathetic jury.

Dealing With the Insurance Company

Always notify your own insurance company of an accident, even when it’s not your fault. Your insurance can usually help with some of your immediate expenses. More importantly, your insurance company will defend you if someone from the other car blames you for the crash.

No-Fault States

Injured drivers in no-fault insurance states must first rely on the med-pay or personal injury protection (PIP) coverage on their own policy.

PIP usually covers the cost of medical treatment, lost wages, and replacement services. PIP will not compensate you for pain and suffering. But you don’t have to stop there. You can still file an injury claim against the at-fault driver if your medical costs are higher than your no-fault coverage.

In a no-fault state, you will file your property damage claim with the other driver’s car insurance company.

Traditional Fault States

If the accident happened in a traditional fault state, meaning you were not required to carry no-fault insurance, file your claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Dealing with Claims Adjusters

Your claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance will be assigned to a personal injury claims adjuster. Your property damage claim will likely be handled by a different adjuster.

The adjuster should treat you with courtesy and respect, but don’t let your guard down. Insurance companies train their employees to find reasons to deny or reduce claim settlements. Try to think like an adjuster while preparing for negotiations.

The claims adjuster will ask you lots of questions and try to get you to say things that could hurt your claim. Be wary of giving a recorded statement. You don’t have to give a statement to get paid. Above all, never give a statement while you’re medicated or upset.

Remember that if you aren’t comfortable with answering questions or feel bullied by the claims adjuster you can immediately contact an attorney.

Seeking Your Compensation in Court

Keep an eye on the statute of limitations. Each state has a deadline for settling an injury claim or filing a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, you lose the right to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver.

When the insurance company tries to shift the blame to you or only offers a low-ball settlement, it may be time to file a personal injury lawsuit. Lawsuits must be filed against the at-fault driver, not their insurance company.

If you have severe or disabling injuries, you’ll need an attorney to help you get a fair settlement.

A good car accident attorney can:

  1. Look for sources of compensation in addition to the at-fault driver’s insurance
  2. Settle wrongful death claims for the estate to protect the next-of-kin
  3. Defend accusations of comparative negligence
  4. Get your fair share of compensation when there are multiple injured claimants competing for limited funds
  5. Represent child accident victims

The insurance company will fight high-dollar injury claims every step of the way. There’s too much at stake in these types of cases for you to go it alone. Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to car accident victims.

It costs nothing to find out what a skilled personal injury attorney can do for you.

Side-Impact Collision Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>