What are the Different Types of Monetary Damages in a Car Accident Settlement?
You were in a car accident that was clearly not your fault. Your vehicle is totaled, and you have injuries that kept you out of work. The insurance company representing the other driver is ready to cut you a check for damages in a car accident case, but it simply is not enough. If you took the driver to court, what kinds of damages or compensation can you expect to receive when you work with a personal injury attorney to represent you?
Your Insurance Company Breaks it Down Differently
If you have ever collected on a claim with your car insurance company, you are probably familiar with collision, personal property damage, medical payments, and liability. When you work with an attorney to reach a settlement by filing a suit against the person or entity that caused the accident, the payments in the settlement are called different names. They will, however, encompass many of the same types of damages. There are two major types of damages in personal injury law suits called General and Special.
Damages that Reimburse You for Money Spent or Money Lost
The part of the settlement that will repay you for out-of-pocket expenses for damage or loss of your vehicle, medical expenses, and lost wages is called Special Damages. A good way to remember this is that these damages are specific or specially for your particular incident. Your attorney will collect all of your receipts, billing statements, and wage report from your employer to submit to the courts. For more serious injuries, these damages can include cost of living expenses, medical equipment, physical therapy, and mental therapy.
Damages that Compensate You for Pain and Changes to Your Lifestyle
You often hear of courts awarding damages for pain and suffering. This is known in the courts as General damages. It is a monetary settlement that generally encompasses your mental distress, the loss of function, and even the pain your injury brings to your family. The number will vary widely depending on the severity of your injuries and if you will expect to continue to suffer pain or disability for an extended amount of time.
Can I Expect to have All My Future Medical Bills Included in the Damages?
This is where having an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner will provide needed support. Most car accident settlements are paid out by insurance companies and they are eager to close the case. They will often show a number to the injured party that looks generous, but it comes with a catch. They ask you to sign an agreement that says you will never ask for another penny, even if your broken leg is not yet out of the cast. You will need medical and legal experts to help you understand the true extent of your injuries and its potential economic impact on your life in order to negotiate a settlement that will provide for you in the future.
How do the Insurance Companies Calculate General Damages?
Yes, they have formulas. Each company maintains a chart with a list of types of injuries suffered in car accidents and the general cost associated with recovering from that trauma. The initial offer will not take into account the specific circumstances surrounding the accident or how it truly will affect your lifestyle. For minor injuries, you may see an offer that covers your out-of-pocket expenses plus another 50% of the total. In more severe losses where there is extended recovery time and therapy, their conservative offer may be up to five times your out-of-pocket costs. However, it is rare that they will make an offer that truly makes you whole unless you have an attorney fighting for your cause.
It was their fault! What about Punitive Damages?
If you settle with the insurance company or an individual out of court, it is extremely rare for punitive damages to be paid. These are usually only seen in trials where the actions of the at-fault driver is a case of willful negligence that directly resulted in the accident. The point of punitive damages is not to compensate the victim, but to ensure that the defendant never does it again. Punitive damages are normally awarded by the judge or jury, depending on your state.
When you have significant damages in a car accident case, don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself and call in the professionals. A personal injury attorney like Hanna Personal Injury Law in Texas, experienced in car accidents, can help you get fully reimbursed for your car, your pain, and the damage done to your bank account.