top of page
  • Writer's pictureKenneth Powell

What to Expect from a Car Accident Permanent Injury Settlement

Car accidents injured more than 2 million people in the US in 2020, and numbers continue to climb. Sadly, many of these injuries have permanent effects on victim's lives.

Suffering a permanent injury in a car accident is tragic and unjust, but there is compensation available. In many cases, the fact that an injury is permanent can lead to higher settlements for victims.

The ins and outs of permanent injury car accident cases can be very straightforward or quite complex depending on the situation, which is why it is essential to work with an experienced and passionate personal injury attorney who will go to war for clients. They have more information on what to expect for a minor injury car accident settlement.

What is Classed as a Permanent Injury?

What is Classed as a Permanent Injury?

A permanent injury is any physical harm that impacts (or is expected to impact) a person in some way for the rest of their life. They are often serious injuries that significantly change a person's way of life, but they can also be subtle.

From a legal standpoint, any injury that leaves residual symptoms beyond the point the victims reach maximum medical improvement (as declared by a physician) is permanent.

Maximum Medical Improvement Explained

Maximum medical improvement (MMI) is the diagnosis given by a physician at the point they believe an injured victim has recovered as much as they are ever going to. In other words, MMI is as good as it gets for a person after an injury.

If a doctor declares a person has reached maximum medical improvement and they still have symptoms or residual effects from the injury, then that injury is legally permanent. As far as legal action goes, if a person's MMI is anything less than their pre-accident condition, they have a permanent injury case.

Defense teams and insurance companies may argue that the symptoms are being exaggerated and that the person's new condition is equivalent to before.

What Are Some of the Common Permanent Injuries in Car Accidents?

Minor injuries and serious injuries can be permanent. Here are some of the most common injuries caused by car accidents that have permanent impacts on a person's life.

  • Head and brain injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are sadly common in high-speed car crashes. They can leave people with migraines, memory loss, damaged eyesight or hearing, or reduced speech capabilities. In some cases, a brain injury can leave a victim significantly less capable of living an independent life- and can even leave them all but incapacitated.

  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis

People who damage their spine or suffer a spinal cord injury in a car crash can be left with permanent back pain, limited movement, or even complete paralysis. Paralysis is one of the permanent injuries received with the most sympathy from juries and generally results in some of the highest settlements.

  • Loss of limb

Amputations are common in serious car wrecks- especially for drivers who are trapped behind the wheel. There is no denying the permanent nature of limb amputation, and a hefty settlement can be reached if it is the result of another person's negligent actions.

  • Nerve damage

Nerve damage is one of the most common types of injuries seen in car accidents. It can be minor or major- but it is usually permanent. Damaged nerves can result in loss of feeling, movement, and strength- which can impact people's ability to perform certain tasks and do certain jobs. Even minor nerve damage to someone's hand can have a permanent impact on their life.

How Much are Permanent Injury Claims Worth?

People often ask, how much is a permanent injury worth? The answer is not as clear-cut as people may think, and like any compensation, it depends on many contributing factors.

  • Permanent injury claims may be worth as much as 10 times more than temporary injuries.

  • Depending on the circumstances, a permanent injury can raise the punitive damages and pain and suffering compensation significantly.

  • A permanent injury that completely changes a person's quality of life is worth more than one that merely interferes with a hobby or passion.

  • If the permanent injury prevents the victim from working in the same capacity as they did before, the at-fault party may also be liable for lost wages and lost future income further adding to the settlement.

Types of Compensation Available in Car Accident Permanent Injury Claims

Permanent or not, there are three main categories of compensatory damages available for car accident victims.

Special Damages

Special damages are also called economic damages. They are the things that have a tangible cost attached to them, such as medical bills, the cost of emergency services, vehicle damage repair or replacement costs, legal fees, etc.

Lost wages during recovery are also calculated as part of this category.

Because a permanent injury usually comes with ongoing medical treatment and prescription costs, the likely long-term medical expenses are also considered under special compensatory damages.

General Damages

Also called non-economic damages are the things that have no price tag but are still worth something. These include the emotional distress caused by the accident, post-traumatic stress disorder, the general pain and suffering of the victim, and the overall impact an injury has on a person's quality of life.

Pain and suffering damages are usually higher in cases involving a significant permanent injury.

Punitive Damages

Unlike special and general damages, punitive damages are not there to compensate victims for something they lost. Instead, they are there to punish the at-fault party for their negligent actions that led to an accident.

These are not common in insurance company claims, but they will be at least considered if the at-fault party is brought up on criminal charges for their negligence.

If the permanent injury was caused through malicious actions rather than just plain negligence, there is a chance the punitive damages will be significant.

Why Are Permanent Injury Lawsuits Sometimes Complicated?

At the end of the day, the victim's lawyer is trying to get the maximum settlement amount for their client based on their injury, and the insurance company or defense lawyers are trying to minimize the payment as much as possible. Because of that, the battle to prove the permanency of an injury can be intense.

Say, for example, a jogger is hit by a car that is driving too fast. They suffer soft tissue injuries on their leg. As a result, they can no longer run as fast as they could- and cannot participate in marathons anymore because their leg muscles do not respond as they used to. The doctor says it is unlikely their muscles will ever be as strong as before.

On one hand, this is a permanent injury because the victim cannot do something they could do before and probably never will again. From the defense's side, they may argue that there are other factors that mean they can't run marathons that have nothing to do with the accident (age, lack of training, etc.).

This is just an example that only scratches the surface, but vehicle accident attorneys in St Louis have a tough fight when proving permanent injuries that are not as severe as the usual suspects in serious car accident cases.

Proving a Permanent Injury

Being able to prove that an injury is permanent is essential for securing fair compensation. In essence, a victim must be able to show that the injury they sustained has reduced or changed their capabilities and will continue to do so for the rest of their life.

Most of the evidence to prove this depends on the doctors, physicians, and other medical professionals involved in the treatment of the injury. Several diagnostics tests and official injury reports are used to touchingly examine and determine what- if any- permanent impacts the injury is expected to have.

There is also an official written statement issued by the treating physician sharing their belief, based on professional expertise, or how likely the victim is to partially or fully recover. Other expert testimonies can be taken to support the findings if necessary.

Sometimes, there is no doubt that an injury is permanent, and it is simply a case of pushing for the most compensation possible based on the facts. It is the injuries that are less obviously permanent that require the most care and attention from the evidence side of things.

How Can Personal Injury Lawyers Help?

How Can Personal Injury Lawyers Help?

Sometimes, the permanency of an injury is without question, but sometimes it is not. Insurance companies will try to lower the settlement amount by any means, and disputing the permanent impacts of an injury is one of the tactics.

An experienced personal injury attorney can pre-empt this move and build a strong case to defend the victim and their claim. They can take the lead in gathering evidence and use it during the negotiations to win the claim and maximize the settlements.

Negotiating a settlement in a permanent injury auto accident case is intense and can take time. It is not something to face alone, especially when dealing with a personal, physical, and emotional recovery. Having a trusted legal team fighting on the front line takes that pressure away from the victims.


Suffering any injury in a car accident is traumatic, but a permanent injury is even harder to accept. It is vital to pursue the rightful compensation owed to victims.

In many car accident cases, a settlement could be worth significantly more if the injury is permanent, so speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to find out how best to fight a case.

Powell Law Firm is the expert in car accident and personal injury law in St. Louis, Missouri. They fight for the injury victims and leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a settlement amount be negatively affected if a permanent injury claim is viewed as false?

There is evidence in past claims to suggest that over-exaggeration or false claims relating to the residual symptoms and long-term impact caused by an injury can work against a plaintiff if the case is on trial in front of a jury. An insurance company may also use a supposedly lie or exaggeration to justify a lower settlement offer.

It is best to be honest about injuries and let an attorney lead the way in pursuing the maximum compensation in the best possible way.

Is it possible to have permanent soft tissue injuries?

Absolutely. Despite what many insurance company legal teams will argue, soft tissue injuries can be permanent, and in fact, some studies show that as many as 45% of them are. Although the impact on life may be lower than a spinal cord injury, damaged soft tissue can be permanently weaker, scarred, or sensitive.

Do car accident cases require a permanency rating for injuries?

No, they do not- and it is highly recommended to avoid seeing a doctor who will determine a permanency rating for an injury. Permanency ratings are used in workers' compensation cases. They are, in fact, mandatory. The rating is a percentage based on how much of an impact the injury will have on a person's life.

Loss of limb and paralysis, for example, would have high permanency ratings, while mild scarring or slightly reduced strength would be lower.

It is best to avoid these ratings in car accident claims as they can be used by the defense to try to lower the settlement amount if the percentage is low. They are subjective and debatable and are not required after a car accident.

Are permanent injuries worth more than temporary injuries?

Yes and no. Generally speaking, higher settlements are awarded to injuries that will have a long-lasting impact on a person's life. That said, some injuries that are technically considered permanent have an insignificant effect on how someone lives, and a decision may be taken not to award more.

Furthermore, some temporary injuries could result in higher settlements than permanent ones if the pain and suffering they caused are greater and there were more damages involved.

bottom of page