There are several types of damages you may claim in a personal injury lawsuit if you have sustained car accident injuries. Claims for medical expenses are chief among these. But you may also claim damages for lost wages or diminished employment opportunities.
Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of affection (also called "loss of consortium"), or punitive damages can be pursued as part of car accident claims.
This article focuses on the basic types of damages that car accident victims may seek.
Auto accident injuries may be as minor as a few cuts and bruises or as serious as paralysis or some other permanent disability. Serious injuries may not produce symptoms at first or may need additional medical care down the road. It's important to undergo a thorough medical examination immediately following a car crash.
Medical bills arising from a car accident may include (but aren't limited to) any of the following:
- Physical and/or cognitive therapy (if a brain injury)
- Ambulance fees
- Consultations with healthcare professionals
- Accessories such as crutches or heat pads
- Disfigurement (see Pain and Suffering below)
- Permanent disability
- In-home services (even if non-medical)
If your doctor believes you will need additional medical treatment or therapy when settling your personal injury claim, your personal injury attorney will calculate the likely costs and include them in the settlement offer. Expert witnesses, such as doctors and other healthcare professionals, can help with these estimates.
If a motorist is liable for the death of another motorist, the surviving family could file a claim for wrongful death, in addition to any medical costs incurred between the accident and the time of death.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering are legally defined as mental or physical distress for which one may seek damages in a lawsuit. These damages vary based on the type of injury, the seriousness of the pain suffered, and the prediction for future pain associated with the injury.
Pain and suffering may also include mental anguish and/or emotional damage stemming from the incident, such as anxiety or stress. Some states allow plaintiffs to include pain and suffering damages for a general loss of enjoyment of life.
Not all states award damages for pain and suffering in the same way. Some juries have to assume there must always be pain and suffering associated with a bodily injury. Others require a certain period of consciousness during the injury to make that claim.
After a car accident, injuries may cause you to lose your earning capacity. This may also include an inability to work due to:
- Physical injuries
- Physical therapy sessions
- Time spent in a hospital
- Problems with mobility
- Other factors that prevent you from earning your usual wages
You must be able to prove that the injuries have impaired or diminished your ability to earn money in the future, based largely on past earnings. When determining lost income, a jury will consider factors such as:
- Life expectancy
Loss of Affection or Companionship
For married couples, an injury could deprive you and your spouse the ability to show affection, including sexual activity. In legal terms, this is referred to as a "loss of consortium." Unlike other types of damages, the uninjured spouse files a claim for loss of affection, companionship, and/or consortium. But these types of damages can't be recovered if you don't recover damages from your injuries.
If a motorist dies as a result of his injuries, surviving family members may claim loss of society and companionship damages. For this type of claim, the jury considers whether:
- The deceased motorist had a loving and harmonious relationship with the plaintiff(s);
- Their living arrangements; and
- The general impact of the motorist's death on the surviving loved ones
If gross negligence or intentional misconduct of the at-fault driver can be proven, some states may allow for punitive damages for the injured person. Punitive damages are meant to punish the offender for their behavior. Examples of these behaviors may include drinking and driving or texting on a cell phone while driving. For this claim, some states may limit recovery. For example, Florida's limit on punitive damages is $500,000 or three times the compensatory award to injury victims, whichever is greater.
The at-fault party's car insurance company will typically cover the property damage from the car accident case after an insurance claim is filed. Generally, the amount of damages is the difference in the worth of the car before and after the accident. State laws differ on the statute of limitations for filing claims. It's best to notify the other driver's insurance company as soon as possible. A car accident attorney can provide legal advice about the likelihood of recovering financial losses.
What Kinds of Damages May You Claim? Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer To Find Out
You may be entitled to different types of damages in a personal injury case if the car accident injuries have impacted your quality of life or the lives of those closest to you. Don't delay. Strongly consider the help of a personal injury lawyer to receive fair compensation.
Get started today by contacting an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer near you.