What Damages Can I Collect for a Car Accident?
Between 20 and 50 million people suffer injuries, and 1.35 million die in car accidents annually in the U.S. Additionally, the economic impact is substantial. Single car crashes often result in straightforward claims through the driver’s insurance company. However, when more than one party is involved in an accident, either one or both parties are responsible for the damages incurred, and damages can be severe. If an auto accident caused by another party’s negligence resulted in serious losses for you or a loved one, you should know what damages you can recover through a car accident lawsuit.
What Are Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages were designed to compensate for the losses associated with a car accident. The two types of compensatory damages are economic and non-economic, also called specific and general damages, respectively.
Economic damages refer to specific losses with absolute monetary value. They include:
- The cost of medical treatment, which covers medications, hospital expenses, ambulance expenses, and doctor visits
- The cost of future medical treatment, which may be necessary for plaintiffs needing long-term care for injuries incurred in the accident
- Payment for lost wages, including future lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- The cost to repair or replace any damaged property, typically the vehicle but may include any damaged items
- The cost of modifications to the home needed to accommodate injuries
- The expenses related to in-home care
You can build a strong case for economic damages by seeking immediate medical attention following the accident. Even if you have no visible injuries and feel fine, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. A car accident’s abrupt and unexpected nature gets your adrenaline flowing, and adrenaline can mask internal injuries by hindering pain receptors. Additionally, medical records and bills provide evidence for injuries.
Remember to keep receipts and thorough documentation for all the damages you plan to claim. For example, pay stubs and recent tax returns can evidence lost wages and future lost wages. In addition, receipts or estimates from an auto repair expert will prove the value of your claim to compensation for damaged property.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify. These refer to the losses suffered that have no inherent monetary value. Examples include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional and mental anguish
- Disability, either temporary or permanent
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment for life
- Loss of companionship
- Damage to reputation
Determining the value of non-economic damages may require a variety of methods. Your written testimony and testimonies from friends and family help prove pain and suffering. Additionally, an attorney may refer to precedent to place a reasonable value on some damages. Another source is a mental health evaluation by a related professional.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are awarded in cases where the at-fault party acted in complete disregard for the damage they may cause. If the court awards punitive damages in your case, the purpose is to punish the defendant rather than compensate you for your losses. A claim for punitive damages must include proof that the defendant’s actions were intentional. For example, suppose a defendant willfully operated a vehicle knowing that they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In that case, an award of punitive damages may act as a deterrent for similar behavior.
What Are the Damages for a Wrongful Death Case?
There are economic and non-economic damages for car accident cases resulting in the death of one party because of the negligence of another. Damages include:
- The cost of medical expenses incurred before the individual’s death
- The loss of the deceased expected income
- The loss of financial benefits, such as health insurance and pension
- The value of any goods the deceased provides to their family.
- The cost of funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering for the survivors, including mental and emotional anguish
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium
In most states, anyone related to the deceased or directly affected financially by their absence is eligible to file a wrongful death suit against the at-fault party. The usual plaintiffs are the deceased’s spouse, parents, or children.
What If Both Parties Are at Fault for the Accident?
Not all accident cases are straightforward. Sometimes both parties share responsibility, but being partially at fault does not eliminate your eligibility for compensation. In the case of shared fault, the rule of comparative negligence applies. The court requires the jury to present two numbers during a car accident trial: the percentage of responsibility for both parties and the compensation award. Under comparative negligence rule, you, the plaintiff, may still receive the award. However, your percentage of fault represents that amount deducted from it. Additionally, there are two types of comparative negligence:
- Modified comparative negligence allows the plaintiff to recover compensation if they are not more than 50% responsible for the accident. Some states set the threshold at 51%.
- Pure comparative negligence allows the plaintiff to recover compensation as long as their percentage of fault is less than 100%.
The state mandates which rule to follow, but most apply the modified version. An example of this rule in action would be if the jury set the award for damages at $150,000 and found you 30% responsible for the accident. You would then deduct 30% from the award, which is $45,000, leaving you with $105,000 in compensation. However, suppose you live in a state that follows the modified comparative negligence rule, and the jury finds you 52% responsible for the accident. In that case, you cannot recover any compensation and must rely on your insurance coverage.
What Are the Advantages of Hiring an Experienced Car Accident Attorney?
If you are still on the fence about the next step in your case, consider the advantages of hiring a car accident attorney:
- They often work on contingency, which means no upfront charge for legal representation. Instead, they receive payment when you receive a settlement or award.
- You have the comfort of knowing that your attorney has faith that your case will work out in your favor.
- They have negotiation experience, which may translate into a better settlement for you.
- They can guide you through the complexities of the legal process and protect your rights along the way.
- They will conduct an investigation into your case, collecting sufficient evidence to support and value your claim.
- They can offer a professional presence and an objective point-of-view.
- They will take care of all communications with the insurance companies, which are known to resort to bad faith tactics to avoid paying valid claims. Adjusters are more likely to offer a more fair settlement amount when dealing with an attorney.
- They have access to experts in fields that may help you build a stronger case with sufficient evidence.
The aftermath of a car accident is often harrowing. If you suffered a severe injury, you should use that time to recover physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, you may also face substantial financial repercussions. Phillips Law Group can help you recover compensation for the losses you suffered. The person responsible for your accident is liable for the damages incurred, and our experienced attorneys are ready to take on your case. Call us today or fill out a free case evaluation form online.
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