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If you’re the victim of a car accident in California, how much can you expect to be compensated in a settlement? Multiple factors influence settlement amounts in California, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. To help you gain a better understanding of how much to expect from a car accident settlement in California, here is an overview of different factors that influence this kind of case.

Car Accident Settlements in California

how much to expect from car accident settlement california

The purpose of a settlement is to compensate the victim for their losses, which can include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Many factors can influence car settlements, and each case is unique. The amount you can expect to receive will depend on the specific circumstances of your situation.

How Much is the Average Accident Settlement in California?

A gavel rests on a stack of $100 bills. How much money can you expect from a car accident settlement in California?

Due to the variety of factors that influence car accident settlements, there is no average amount that one can expect after a car accident. About half of personal injury plaintiffs receive less than $24,000. Victims of minor accidents with little to no injuries generally receive much less, while victims who have suffered serious injuries generally receive a much higher amount.  

You should work with a personal injury attorney to review the specifics of your case and calculate a settlement amount that accurately reflects your damages.

Factors That Influence Settlement Amounts

Several factors influence how much you can expect from a car accident settlement in California:

  1. Extent of Injuries: The severity and extent of your injuries play a role. Severe injuries that require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation generally result in higher settlements.
  2. Medical Expenses: The total cost of medical treatment, including hospital stays, surgeries, medications, and ongoing therapy, will be considered in the settlement.
  3. Lost Wages: If you miss work due to your injuries, your lost wages will be factored into the settlement. This includes both past and future lost income.
  4. Pain and Suffering: Compensation for pain and suffering accounts for the physical pain and emotional distress you experience as a result of the accident.
  5. Property Damage: The cost to repair or replace your vehicle and any other personal property damaged in the accident is included in the settlement.
  6. Liability and Negligence: The degree to which each party is at fault can affect the settlement amount. 

How is Pain and Suffering Calculated in California?

A wincing woman touches her neck. Pain and suffering may influence car accident settlements.

There are a few different methods for calculating pain and suffering. Here are two of the most common methods: 

  • Multiplier method: This method calculates pain and suffering damages by multiplying actual economic damages by a set number, which often ranges from 1.5 to 5. 
  • Per diem method: This method calculates pain and suffering damages by estimating the number of days your pain lasts and paying a specific rate for it. The daily rate paid is often equivalent to one day of wages.

Multiplier Method

The multiplier method is one of the most common ways to calculate pain and suffering. Here’s how it works:

  1. Calculate actual damages: Add up all the quantifiable damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
  2. Choose a multiplier: Select a number between 1.5 and 5 based on the severity of the injury and its impact on your life.
  3. Multiply the actual damages: Multiply the total actual damages by the chosen multiplier to determine the pain and suffering amount.

For example, if your actual damages total $10,000 and a multiplier of 1.5 is used, the pain and suffering compensation would be $15,000. 

Per Diem Method

The per diem method assigns a daily value to your pain and suffering and multiplies it by the number of days you are affected by the injury. Here’s an example of how it works:

  1. Determine a daily rate: Choose a daily rate that represents your pain and suffering. This could be based on your daily earnings.
  2. Calculate the number of days: Estimate the number of days you have been and will be affected by the injury.
  3. Multiply the daily rate by the number of days: Multiply the daily rate by the total number of days to determine the pain and suffering amount.

For instance, if you choose a daily rate of $300 and your recovery period is 100 days, the pain and suffering compensation calculation would be $30,000. However, your calculated total is not a guarantee that this is the amount you will receive from your settlement.

What is the Average Payout for Whiplash in California?

Whiplash is a common injury in car accidents, particularly in rear-end collisions. The average settlement for whiplash can range anywhere from $2,500 up to $100,000, depending on the severity of the case. 

A personal injury attorney can help you calculate a settlement amount based on your situation.

Factors Influencing Whiplash Settlements

Several factors can influence the amount you might receive for a whiplash injury:

  1. Medical expenses: Higher medical costs can increase the settlement amount.
  2. Duration of treatment: Longer treatment periods can lead to higher payouts.
  3. Impact on work: If the injury affects your ability to work, this can increase the settlement.
  4. Pain and suffering: As with other injuries, pain and suffering play a significant role in determining the final amount.
  5. Pre-existing conditions: If you had pre-existing conditions that were impacted by the accident, this could affect the settlement.

Getting a Settlement After a Car Accident

Here are some steps that car accident victims often take to maximize their settlement. Speak with a personal injury attorney so that you can understand what you should and should not do in your particular case.

  1. Seek medical attention immediately and save medical records.
  2. Document everything.
  3. Notify your insurance company.
  4. Gather evidence, such as photos, witness statements and police reports.
  5. Keep a pain journal. 
  6. Consult with a personal injury attorney.

Seeking Medical Attention

Your health and safety should always be your top priority. Seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t think your injuries are serious. Some injuries may not show symptoms right away. A medical professional can properly diagnose and document your injuries.


Car accident victims often keep records of the following to support their case. Your attorney can advise you regarding what to do in your particular situation.

  • Medical treatments
  • Accident details
  • Communication
  • Receipts

Notifying Your Insurance Company

Victims are generally advised to report the accident to their insurance company as soon as possible. Speak with your attorney to understand how to handle this step effectively. 

Gathering Evidence

Evidence can include items such as:

  • Photos of the accident scene, vehicle damage and your injuries.
  • Witness statements
  • Police reports

Your attorney can provide you with personalized guidance and oversee the collection of evidence.

Keeping a Pain Journal

Victims often maintain pain journals to document their case. Speak with your attorney about what you should do in your particular situation. Pain journals can include information such as:

  • Pain levels
  • Emotional distress
  • Impact on daily life

Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney

Consulting with a personal injury attorney in Phoenix can help you understand your rights and help you receive a fair settlement.

Common Mistakes After a Car Accident

A woman in a car covers her mouth in shock.

Here are some common mistakes that car accident victims make. Mistakes can lead to lost or lower settlements. Work with your attorney to understand what you should and should not do in your particular case.

  1. Admitting fault at the scene of the accident
  2. Delaying medical treatment
  3. Giving recorded statements without consulting an attorney
  4. Accepting the first offer without consulting an attorney
  5. Posting on social media
  6. Not hiring an attorney

Why You Should Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

Hiring a personal injury attorney can significantly impact the outcome of your car accident settlement. Here’s why:

  1. Experience: Attorneys have the experience to navigate the legal system and understand the complexities of personal injury law.
  2. Negotiation skills: Attorneys are skilled negotiators who can advocate for a fair settlement on your behalf.
  3. Understanding of damages: Attorneys can accurately calculate the full extent of your damages.
  4. Legal representation: If your case goes to court, having an attorney to represent you can make a significant difference.
  5. Stress reduction: Handling a car accident claim can be stressful. An attorney can manage the legal aspects, allowing you to focus on your recovery.

Additional Considerations for Car Accident Settlements in California

Understanding the broader context of car accident settlements in California can help you better navigate your claim. Here are some additional considerations:

Statute of Limitations

Speak with your attorney about the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations refers to how much time you have to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries. Different situations have different statutes of limitations. 

Insurance Coverage

California law sets minimum insurance requirements for drivers. It is important to understand what your insurance covers and how to contact your insurance company in case of an emergency. 

Comparative Negligence

Speak with your Phoenix car accident attorney about comparative negligence. In some cases, settlement amounts can be modified if the victim is found partially at fault for the accident. 

Medical Liens

If your health insurance or medical providers cover your treatment costs, they may place a lien on your settlement to recover these expenses. A lien means that they have a right to be reimbursed from your settlement before you receive any remaining funds. Your attorney can help negotiate these liens to ensure you receive a fair portion of your settlement.

Pre-Existing Conditions

If you have pre-existing medical conditions that were aggravated by the car accident, it’s important to document how the accident affected your health. Insurance companies may try to argue that your injuries were not caused by the accident but were instead pre-existing. Work with your attorney to understand how to demonstrate the impact of the accident on your pre-existing conditions.

Common Types of Car Accident Injuries and Their Impact on Settlements

An injured woman goes over paperwork with her lawyer.

Car accident injuries can vary widely in severity and impact. Understanding common types of injuries and how they affect settlements can help you better understand what to expect.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains, and bruises, are common in car accidents. While these injuries may not be life-threatening, they can still cause significant pain and require medical treatment. 


Whiplash is a specific type of soft tissue injury that affects the neck and spine. It occurs when the head is suddenly jerked forward and then backward, causing strain on the neck muscles and ligaments. Whiplash can cause chronic pain and mobility issues, leading to higher settlements, especially if long-term treatment is required.

Broken Bones

Broken bones are common in more severe car accidents. The treatment for broken bones can be extensive, including surgeries, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. Settlements for broken bones often include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Head and Brain Injuries

Head and brain injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries, can have a profound impact on a person’s life. These injuries can result in long-term cognitive and physical impairments, requiring ongoing medical care and rehabilitation. Settlements for head and brain injuries are often substantial due to the severity and long-term nature of these injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can result in partial or complete paralysis, significantly impacting a person’s quality of life and ability to work. These injuries often require extensive medical treatment, rehabilitation, and sometimes lifelong care. Settlements for spinal cord injuries are typically among the highest due to the impact on the victim’s life.

Psychological Injuries

Psychological injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, can also result from car accidents. These injuries can affect a person’s ability to work and enjoy life. Settlements can include compensation for psychological injuries, especially when they require ongoing therapy and treatment.

Contact Us for Help Determining How Much to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement in California

If you sustained an injury in a car accident in California, it’s crucial that you work with an attorney to receive a settlement that accurately reflects your damages. At Sargon Law Group, we help accident victims navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you on the path to recovery.

Knowing how much to expect from a car accident settlement in California can provide you with peace of mind and help you make informed decisions about your case. Every accident is unique, and working with a personal injury attorney can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.