Car accident claims rarely see the inside of a courtroom. Victims and their legal representatives usually settle with the insurance company before the trial phase begins. However, understanding the recoverable damages available in your case is vital to ensuring you get the compensation you need as quickly as possible. With the help of an experienced car accident lawyer, you can focus on healing and build a strong claim simultaneously.
What Damages Can You Recover After a Car Accident
The value of your settlement comes from the losses you suffered. The court refers to these losses as compensatory damages and further categorizes them as specific and general damages, also known as economic and non-economic losses. In addition, under rare circumstances, you may also receive punitive damages.
Specific damages are the financial losses directly associated with the injuries you endured as a result of the accident. The type and amount of specific damages vary from case to case, but many claims have some variation of the following:
- Loss of income. If your recovery requires you to miss work or leaves you with a permanent disability, you can claim lost current and future wages and loss of earning capacity.
- Medical treatment expenses. The negligent party in your case is responsible for the cost of all medical care required to treat your injuries. This includes emergency services, hospital stays, doctor's visits, medications, surgeries, therapies, and all future treatments.
- Cost of damaged property. The at-fault party in your case is responsible for the repair or replacement of any property damaged in the collision.
- Related expenses. Anything you pay for out-of-pocket to compensate for your injuries is potentially recoverable. For example, if you need childcare services or household help while you recover, the court may award you compensation for those losses.
As the claimant, you provide evidence to support your losses. For example, for economic damages, medical bills, pay stubs, past tax returns, and relative estimates for the damaged property are generally accepted. Your attorney will help you better understand the proof you need.
General damages refer to the psychological effects of the accident and your injuries. Examples may include:
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Loss of the ability to enjoy your life as you did before
- Loss of consortium if your injuries affect your relationship with your spouse
General damages, also known as non-economic damages, require a sophisticated calculation method. The most common approach is the multiplier method. For example, you would use a number between 1.5 and 5 to multiply by the total economic losses. A higher multiplier would indicate more severe injuries and losses.
Additionally, you must provide evidence to support your claim for general damages. Examples may include testimonies from people close to you, your written statement, and expert witnesses in the field of psychology. Your attorney will help you collect the evidence and value these claims to ensure your settlement reflects your losses adequately.
Exemplary damages are also known as punitive damages. They differ from compensatory damages because an award of exemplary damages does not cover any loss associated with your case. Instead, an award of punitive damages is a monetary punishment for especially egregious behavior, such as gross negligence or malicious intent. For example, in a car accident case, gross negligence could be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causing a devastating collision. If the other driver intentionally hits you, that constitutes malicious intent. To better understand how the other driver's actions in your case could affect the potential for exemplary damages, speak with a personal injury attorney.
Can You Still Receive a Settlement if You Are Partially at Fault?
A typical response from the other driver in a car accident case is an attempt to shift the blame to the victim. However, sometimes, both drivers share the responsibility for the accidents. In that case, the court typically requires them to share the cost of damages, which is the basis for the comparative negligence rule.
Comparative Negligence Rule
To follow the comparative negligence rule, the court will assign a percentage of fault to both parties. As the plaintiff, you can still receive compensation for damages. However, the final award or settlement available will reflect the total damages minus your percentage of fault. Additionally, there are two types of comparative negligence: modified and pure. Most states apply the modified comparative negligence rule, which renders the plaintiff ineligible for compensation if their percentage of fault exceeds 50% or 51%, depending on the threshold set by the state.
A handful of states, including California, follow the pure comparative negligence rule. According to this version, the plaintiff is eligible for a percentage of compensation equal to the defendant's percentage of fault, regardless of whether or not the plaintiff is more responsible. So, for example, if you are 99% at fault for the accident, you can still recover 1% of the total damages.
What Happens if Your Case Does Not Settle?
Insurance companies have a reputation for using any means available to avoid making substantial payments, even for a valid claim. One of the benefits of having a legal representative is they will protect your right to fair compensation, which sometimes means they will advise you to take your case to trial. Even with a trial being a rare possibility, a personal injury attorney will begin preparing long before entering the courtroom by filing all the necessary paperwork and gathering all the evidence to present to the judge or jury. Then, the court decides the total value of damages based on the support presented and makes a final fault determination.
How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help You?
Suppose you suffered severe injuries after a car accident caused by another party. In that case, a car accident lawyer will listen to the details of your case and help you determine what legal avenue will work best. Facing the physical, emotional, and financial repercussions alone is not your only option. Consider the advantages of hiring a personal injury attorney:
- Car accidents make up the majority of personal injury cases, making personal injury attorneys experts in these cases.
- They handle all communication with the insurance company and the defense team so you can focus on healing.
- You have a significantly better chance of receiving a higher settlement.
- They investigate your case to identify damages and gather supporting evidence for your claim.
- They often have access to resources, such as experts with experience in similar cases.
- They will prepare your case for trial should the insurer fail to provide a fair settlement offer.
- They aggressively protect your rights while also providing compassionate understanding.
Securing a fast settlement that fairly represents your losses is a top priority for personal injury attorneys. Most work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid when you get paid. At Johnson Attorneys Group, we understand the importance of having experienced legal representation following a severe car accident. In recent years, we have recovered over $98.4 million for personal injury victims. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and speak with an experienced car accident lawyer. Our phone line is open 24 hours a day at (800) 208-3538, and we are ready to answer your questions and help you rebuild your life