A car accident claim is worth the amount of damages a victim suffers as a result of a collision. There is no blanket amount of money that covers all car accidents. Each person filing a claim will have to determine the amount of compensation they deserve based on their economic and non-economic damages.
For some, that could be a few thousand dollars. For others, that could be millions. Every accident is unique and comes with its own set of recoverable damages. To learn more about how much you can recover, you could discuss your options with a car accident lawyer. They can assess your case’s value and fight for what you need.
Your Car Accident Claim Comes With Its Own Compensable Losses
So, what do lawyers mean when they say “damages”? Does that relate to physical damage or money? In a way, it’s both. Damages are the losses one can pursue via a claim or lawsuit. Damages are both economic and non-economic, meaning they pertain to your physical, emotional, and financial hardships.
In rare instances, the court system awards injured car accident claimants punitive damages. The courts only award these damages in instances of egregious negligence. For instance, if a serial drunk driver causes your collision, the court may impose punitive damages. This would further penalize the driver for their negligence and, to some extent, serve as a warning to other wrongdoers.
Economic Damages Are Financial Expenses
As the name suggests, economic damages refer to the money you deserve based on your financial losses. A car accident can leave you with a plethora of expenses you didn’t previously have. Victims who suffer injuries incur medical bills for surgery and diagnostic scans, for example. They probably also need major repairs to restore their car to its pre-crash condition.
Each of these things costs the victim money that they wouldn’t have needed to spend were it not for the car accident. Because of that, the law allows them to recover money from the at-fault driver or whoever is responsible for the crash. To determine what your car accident claim is worth, a lawyer may first evaluate the money you spent on your collision-related damages. Then, they can calculate how much you currently owe or stand to lose because of the collision.
Types of Economic Losses You Could Recover
Your compensable economic damages may include:
- Medical bills
- Physical rehabilitation costs
- Mental health care costs
- Lost income because you’ve missed work
- Car replacement or repair costs
- Rental car or other transportation costs (such as using ridesharing apps, taxi cabs, or public transit)
- The cost of substitute household services that you can’t perform on your own (such as childcare, grocery shopping, etc.)
- Increase living expenses or daily care costs
You receive economic damages equivalent to the financial loss you experience; therefore, a $1,000 car repair bill would result in $1,000 worth of compensation. Receipts, invoices, and bills can all serve as evidence when determining your economic damages.
Non-Economic Damages Cover Pain and Suffering
The other portion of your car claim compensation rests on your non-economic damages. These damages compensate you for non-financial losses. Not all harm results in financial expenses. There are emotional, psychological, and quality of life losses you may have to contend with as well. These losses are sometimes broadly called pain and suffering.
The law recognizes that the impact of a car crash goes beyond money. Ironically, the way the law makes up for that impact is through financial compensation. Money is the closest thing to making up for the losses one has suffered. The idea is that it can help to make victims “whole again” or at least address their injury-related challenges.
Determining the Value of Non-Economic Losses
The problem is that you cannot measure non-economic losses tangibly. There is no dollar amount that represents emotional distress or any other type of pain and suffering. For instance, the use of your right leg does not have an intrinsic monetary value, so you must determine its worth based on something else.
If you work with a car accident lawyer, they can determine the value of your pain and suffering by assessing your overall situation. They may also consult with field experts (such as medical professionals) to review your quality of life moving forward. Many states do not cap how much you can request for non-economic damages, so there’s no limit to what you can request.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering and inconvenience
- Loss of consortium
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional trauma
Supporting Evidence for Calculating Pain and Suffering
You can save yourself a lot of time and stress by hiring an attorney to calculate your damages’ value. They understand how insurance companies view pain and suffering. As noted, they also work with experts to assign a dollar value that reflects your losses.
Your attorney can consider various factors when learning what you deserve, such as:
- Your age
- Your health
- The severity of your injuries or losses
- Your expected recovery
- Any permanent or temporary disabilities
- Your condition’s effect on your relationships, independence, and ability to make a living
- Your economic losses
In general, the more severe your injuries are, the higher your pain and suffering compensation will be.
You Could Get Punitive Damages
As previously noted, a third class of damages is sometimes awarded to personal injury victims. The court awards punitive damages (or exemplary damages) to the victims to punish the at-fault party for their reckless actions or intentional misconduct. These damages are not designed to make you whole but to make an example out of the wrongdoer.
In car accident cases, punitive damages are imposed on victims of drunk driving accidents and hit-and-runs. When you partner with an injury lawyer, they can explain whether you could get punitive damages through legal action. If so, they can do everything possible to recover this compensation for your losses.
How You Can Help Your Lawyer Calculate Your Car Accident-Related Damages
To help your lawyer evaluate your damages’ cost, you should:
Get Medical Treatment for Your Injuries
You must receive medical treatment to have the insurance company adequately compensate you for your losses. Insurance companies want to know that your injuries are medically verified before they agree to pay you anything for them. Without documented medical evidence, the insurance adjuster may claim your injuries were pre-existing or that they are not as severe as you say.
Track Your Car Accident Expenses
Keep track of all your accident-related expenses or estimated costs. This is usually easy to do, as finances come with a paper trail most of the time.
Collect documentation and keep it in a safe place:
- Medical bills. Your medical bills will probably make up a large portion of your damages, depending on the extent of your injuries. Keep track as you receive them to avoid delaying your car accident case.
- Work schedules. Your work schedule provides a picture of how many hours you work in a week and how many hours you could have expected to work before you were injured. This helps with calculating lost future income.
- Pay stubs. Like work schedules, these items can help your lawyer determine the cost of your past, present, and future lost income. They can also account for any tips, commissions, or bonuses you would have earned in your line of work.
- Communications with your employer. Correspondence with your employer or co-workers may document the time you’ve spent out of work, the impact the crash has had on your work relationships, your ability to fulfill your obligations, and your reputation.
- Bills, receipts, and invoices. Ensure you hold on to any bills, receipts, or invoices for necessary purchases or payments resulting from the car crash. You can include the cost of out-of-pocket expenses in your case’s value. Do not assume that minor expenses don’t make a difference. Small bills add up.
- Repair or replacement estimates. An auto body shop can explain the cost of repairing or replacing your car. For other damaged property, you can determine the repair costs from the appropriate repair shop or find out how much it costs to replace the item.
- Estimated treatment costs. Your medical care provider or treatment facility should provide you with a recommended treatment plan for your injuries, including the associated costs. Your attorney can use this to figure out your future medical expenses.
Your car accident lawyer will need to have a copy of these documents. If you have them on hand, bring them to your first meeting. The attorney can review them to better understand your claim.
Gather Evidence to Support Your Pain and Suffering
Since there is no inherent monetary value in your pain and suffering, you won’t have any bills or receipts for them in most cases. You’ll need to demonstrate those losses in other ways. Supporting evidence should show the impact the crash has had on your emotional or mental state and on your life as a whole.
To support your claims of non-economic damages, your lawyer may use:
- Medical records and reports detailing your injuries, treatment, and prognosis
- Research studies providing scientific data on the impact of your injuries
- Your personal accounts via journal entries or other methods of documentation, detailing your life since the motor vehicle accident
- Accounts from friends, family, co-workers, and employers describing changes in your behavior, demeanor, abilities, and relationships
- Testimony from expert witnesses substantiating the emotional or psychological effects of your injuries and the costs to your quality of life
- Photos or videos of your injuries and your daily struggles since the car accident occurred
Act Fast to Start Your Claim
The longer you wait to initiate your car accident claim, the more challenging it becomes to prove your case. Over time, evidence gets lost or degrades. Witnesses move away, move on, or become less interested in assisting.
Insurance companies also tend to get skeptical when claimants don’t take immediate action, questioning their motives and the true nature of their injuries. Each of these factors can detract from your claim and ultimately reduce the amount of compensation you can receive.
File Your Lawsuit Within the Statute of Limitations
Remember that a car accident case is a time-sensitive affair. The longer you wait to get started, the less time you’ll have to build your case. Every state has a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in court.
If you don’t file your case before the deadline expires, you could end up losing your right to recover compensation from the at-fault party altogether. At that point, your car accident claim is worth absolutely nothing because neither the insurance company nor the defendant has an obligation to pay you.
You should consider contacting a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to avoid this unfortunate reality. Most states have a statute of limitations that runs between one and three years. For example, if you live in Georgia, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to file your lawsuit. Your lawyer can file your case before that time runs out.
You Have Legal Options as a Car Accident Claimant
Hire a personal injury lawyer to assist with your car accident claim. They can explain what your car accident claim is worth and help you fight for the money you deserve. They can even do this without you paying a dime upfront. Car accident lawyers usually work on a contingency-fee basis, so they only charge their attorney’s fees if they win your case.