Car accident victims can recover three types of damages: Economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. The amount and type of damages depend on several factors, including the severity of your injuries and whether the at-fault driver’s actions or inactions were negligent or grossly negligent.
It is often difficult to obtain all of the damages you deserve unless you retain a car accident lawyer experienced in handling complex claims that involve severe or catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, and various degrees of negligence.
Non-Economic Damages: Pain and Suffering
If doctors expect an accident victim’s injuries to result in long-term or permanent disabilities, or if the accident caused the death of a loved one, the accident victim or family of the decedent could recover non-economic damages.
These types of damages do not have a monetary value and include:
Pain and Suffering
A victim that suffers long-term pain because of an accident could recover compensation for pain and suffering. However, if doctors do not expect the pain to last long, the court will not allow for pain and suffering. Pain and suffering could be physical or emotional.
An accident victim might feel physical pain for years because of crushed bones that doctors can never completely repair or even real and phantom pain from an amputation.
Emotional distress is a form of pain and suffering. If you lost a loved one, you could recover compensation for the emotional distress of losing a loved one. Emotional distress also covers psychological issues caused by a car accident. For example, a mother might have minor injuries, but when she realizes the truck is going to T-bone her on the side where her toddler, strapped in a car seat, is sitting, all she can think is that she is going to lose her child.
It takes only a split second for that thought to significantly affect a parent. That split second could cause weeks, months, or even a lifetime of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Other Intangible Losses
Non-economic damages also include certain losses, including:
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse. Someone who lost a spouse can also recover compensation for loss of consortium.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer take part in family activities and events, especially if you have children who will not have the benefit of you being active in their lives.
- Loss of quality of life. Often, an accident causes life-long changes, such as using an ambulatory aid or taking prescriptions. If you have to make these or other changes because of injuries you suffered in an accident, you could recover extra compensation.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function. Sometimes, accident injuries cause paralysis, which affects the use of limbs, digits, and bodily functions such as bladder control or eyesight. An accident victim can recover compensation for these life-changing losses.
- Cleaning, home repairs and maintenance, lawn maintenance, and even grocery shopping, injuries that prevent activities cost money. The injured person has to hire someone, and it also causes emotional distress since the accident victim often feels useless.
- Amputation, excessive scarring, and disfigurement often cause physical pain and discomfort but could also cause depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
These items do not have a monetary value, making them difficult to price. An additional difficulty is determining whether any of these losses affect a person in other ways. For example, an up-and-coming athlete or musician could be well on the way to fame when the accident causes loss of use of a hand.
While the injured person also recovers compensation for loss of future earning capacity through economic damages, lawyers have to determine a fair amount for losing the ability to do something you love to do. The activity was not only your livelihood, but it was what you lived for. You deserve compensation because someone’s negligence caused you to lose a career and an activity you loved.
Special damages, or economic damages, are much easier to figure out since they have a monetary value. Economic damages might include medical expenses, replacement or repair of your vehicle, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and funeral-related expenses.
However, figuring out economic damages when accident injuries turn into permanent disabilities is difficult. Lawyers discuss your injuries and expected prognosis with experts, including your doctors, to get a good idea of how much medical care you might need. Like everything else, this is an estimate based on several factors.
In severe cases, the court orders a defendant to pay punitive damages. It is very difficult to recover punitive damages as you have to prove gross negligence or intent. Ordinary negligence is not enough since the court orders punitive damages to punish the defendant’s actions or inactions.
While punitive damages are difficult to win, it is often worth the extra time and steps it takes to ask the court for punitive damages. An accident victim can use the money for anything they wish.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
Insurance companies will try anything to get out of paying the compensation you deserve because it affects their bottom lines. They will try to deny your claim and, barring that, will offer you the least amount possible to “make you go away.” They realize that the average person does not know the intricacies of the law and will use that to lower your payment—sometimes so low that it doesn’t cover medical expenses, never mind other losses and damages.
Insurance companies know that a lawyer will not hesitate to file a lawsuit if they do not offer a fair and reasonable amount to cover the damages you suffered. If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident, contact a car wreck lawyer for a free case evaluation.