If you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by another driver, you are probably wondering what compensation you can recover. Because each case presents a unique set of facts, this can be a difficult question to answer. There are, however, categories of damages that generally apply to most cases.
“Damages” is the legal term that insurance companies and courts used to describe compensation that a wrongdoer (or “tortfeasor”) must pay to the victim. Claims adjusters and lawyers may divide damages into two categories of compensatory damages: “special damages” and “general damages.”
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Special damages are those that actual dollar figures can quantify. They include medical expenses, loss of earnings and property damages.
Medical expenses tend to be the driving force of all damages in a car accident case. The amount of medical care a victim requires tends to have a direct relationship to the other damages the victim has suffered or will continue to suffer.
Medical expenses can include previously incurred bills for treatment, as well as the estimated costs of future treatment. Past and future expenses for which you may want to seek compensation include:
- Ambulance fees
- Radiology expenses
- Physician or hospital bills
- Pain management (medication, acupuncture, chiropractic)
- Physical, occupational, or vocational therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Counseling costs
- Mobility aids, accessories, or modifications
- In-home health care services
- Rehabilitative or long-term care facility expenses
- Non-medical household expenses related to the accident, such as child care, maintenance, or repairs you were unable to provide
- Medical costs incurred between the accident and time of death (in a wrongful death case)
Lost earnings and diminished employment opportunities also comprise the “special damages” category. If you have missed work due to incapacity, or because you were attending treatment appointments, your employer can furnish wage and hour documentation to prove the amount of time missed from work. If you have been self-employed, you would furnish profit and loss statements to substantiate a claim for the profit you have lost because of the accident.
If the accident will hinder your future income, then you have a claim for loss of future earning capacity. Typically, an expert witness is necessary to verify the mathematical specifics of the lost future earning capacity. The typical factors involved in this situation are the victim’s age, occupation, experience, skill, and life expectancy. You may also account for any fringe benefits, or retirement benefit opportunities lost as a result of the lost future earning capacity.
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Another area of special damages provides for the destruction or devaluing of any personal property involved in the accident. Apart from a vehicle itself, you may have suffered damage to personal electronic devices, bicycles mounted onto the vehicle, or other valuables the vehicle contained.
General damages, or “non-economic” damages include categories of damages that, while significant, do not lend themselves to mathematical calculation. They can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of companionship.
Pain and Suffering
“Pain and suffering” usually refers to the physical distress involved in enduring and recovering from injuries. This category of damages depends on the nature of the injuries. The amount of pain and suffering damages also relates to the outlook or prognosis for future pain stemming from the injury.
Mental pain and suffering tends to fall under the category of “emotional distress.” This includes loss of enjoyment of life, anxiety, or humiliation due to disfigurement, anger, fear, and other forms of mental anguish.
Loss of Consortium
Car accidents hurt families. In the case of married victims or parents of child victims, a claim for loss of consortium (or loss of affection or loss of companionship) may apply. Known as a “derivative” action, these are claims that a deprived spouse or parent can pursue for damage to the quality of the relationship. The primary victim’s claim must be successful in order for any derivative claims to succeed.
In an auto accident case involving drunk driving, the victim may also pursue a claim for punitive damages. Though a court can award punitive damages to the victim, the intent of these damages is to punish the offender, and not to compensate the victim.
Under Florida law, voluntarily driving a vehicle while impaired constitutes the sort of reckless indifference for public welfare that warrants punitive damages. However, punitive damages are relatively rare. A judge must first allow the victim to request punitive damages, and then a jury must decide whether to award them.
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If car accident injuries have impaired your quality of life and/or your finances, you may be able to recover compensation. For a free estimate of the types and amounts of compensation you could see, call Anidjar & Levine today.