When seeking financial recovery after a car accident, there’s one term you really need to know: damages. If you were injured in a car accident, your “damages” are the losses you experienced because of the at-fault party’s negligence and that can you can be awarded money for as compensation. When seeking legal counsel from a car accident lawyer, you’ll need to understand damages and how they work in your favor.
How do damages work in a car accident case?
The purpose of damages following a personal injury case like a car accident is to help “make you whole” and get you back on your feet despite your injuries and losses. The goal is to put you as the victim as closely as possible back into the position you were before the accident. The law doesn’t assume this money will fix your situation, but it’s intended to get you what you’re owed to help you get life back on track.
If the other party in the car accident was found to be at-fault for the accident, they or their insurance will be responsible for paying you the amount needed to recovery for your damages.
What types of damages can I recover money for after a car accident?
There are several types of damage in a car accident claim. They can vary depending on the victim’s circumstance, the type of case, and the laws of the state where the accident occurred, but here are common personal injury damages:
If you require medical care of any type because of your injuries, you have a right to be compensated for them. That can include:
- Doctor visits
- Hospital stays
- Physical therapy
- Prescription medications
- Other ongoing treatment for your injury
The cost of medical treatment after a car accident can become very high, especially if the injuries were severe—and that includes future costs for treatment that continues long after the accident. You shouldn’t have to stress about finances due to your injuries caused by the other party. All are damages that you can claim recovery for in your case.
This includes financial recovery for damages like lost income or wages because of your injury or treatment for your injury. Even if you were able to use sick time or vacation days, you should still be compensated for losing those days. And if your injuries made you permanently unable to work or disabled you to reduce your future earning abilities, the other party may be responsible for paying the wages you would have made over the course of a lifetime.
Damaged property is common in car accidents, so you’re entitled to recovery money for costs related to damage, such as car repairs. This is why it’s so important to take pictures of the scene directly following a car accident case. Your lawyer will help you document the property damage and gather other necessary information to show these damages.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages refer to the physical and emotional stress caused by an injury. Damages that may fall under this category include:
- Limitations on how much activity you can perform (short-term or permanently)
- Aches and pains
- Potential shortening of life
- Mental anguish caused by a loss or its consequences
- Lowered quality of life
When a car accident case settles, insurance companies will usually use techniques like a “pain multiplier” that takes concrete losses (like lost wages and medical bills) times a certain number to obtain a reasonable financial number for pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering damages fall under the category of non-economic damages, meaning you can’t necessarily point to a specific financial cost for them.
In most car accident cases, there has to be a physical injury to also recovery money for emotional damages. In most cases, you can’t seek financial recovery if you only have a psychological/emotional injury without a physical one. If you are seeking damages for emotional distress, you’ll usually need proof like a diagnosis or psychiatric records. There can be exceptions to this however, so it’s always a good idea to contact your attorney about the details.
Wrongful death damages are pursued by the family members of a victim who was killed as a result the car accident or their injury from the accident. Spouses can bring a wrongful death lawsuit, and parents can on behalf of a minor.
Loss of Companionship
Loss of companionship is a damage that can be brought by family members of the victim who was either killed or changed in a significant way by the car accident or injuries. This damage is meant to compensate the family member for their loss of the victim’s life and companionship.
There are two types of damages in a car accident case:
- Compensatory damages, which are those listed above
- Punitive damages
Punitive damages are different than other damages in a car accident case because they aren’t intended to make the victim whole. Their main purpose is to punish the person at fault for their behavior and act as a deterrent for future behavior. Punitive damages are extra money paid to the victim and emphasize that the victim was wronged beyond just their injuries and losses. Punitive damages are especially common in car accidents where someone behaved egregiously or broke the law, such as in a drunk driving accident case.
Under law, you can receive punitive damages if the person responsible for your injuries showed “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.” In other words, the person at fault didn’t just make a bad decision but also showed a lack of concern for your wellbeing.
What damages am I entitled to in a car accident case?
Your exact damages will depend on your case and what you lost, but all damages listed above are commonly recovered in a car accident case. Damages with quantifiable costs, such as for hospital bills, damage to your vehicle, or lost wages. General, non-economic damages are more likely to vary from case to case—but they’re common in severe cases. The best way to know the exact damages you’re eligible for is by speaking with a personal injury lawyer with experience in car accident cases.
Have you been injured in a car accident? Our dedicated attorneys work exclusively on personal injury cases, and we know how car accident cases work. For a FREE consultation to discuss your case and how to start pursuing damages, call us today at 404-341-6555 or fill out the form to your right for your free consultation.