Accidents are an aptly named concept. Occurring anywhere and anytime, road accidents are the leading cause of deaths in the US. Research indicates that about 1.3 million people die in road crashes every year. That makes an average of 3,287 deaths a day.A road accident, be it a completely totaled car or a mere fender-bender, most likely involves major expenses. It will not only have your car in the shop for a few days or more, but also have you filing claims for damages with an insurance company. In worst cases you would be making the rounds of a hospital.While not all accidents are similar there are certain steps that you can take to ensure that you are compensated for your losses. Figuring out what compensation you can be awarded depends primarily on the damages incurred.Were there monetary losses, physical injuries or was it a mental and emotional trauma? These are just a few questions you need to ask yourself.In personal injury cases, monetary damages are awarded to the person injured during the crash by the individual or the company found responsible for the accident. The damages to be awarded can be agreed upon after a negotiated settlement, or they can be ordered by a judge or a jury following a trial.
Most personal injury cases can be called compensatory, that is they are intended to compensate the plaintiff for what was lost due to the accident or the injury. A compensatory damage award aims to balance the monetary losses suffered by the plaintiff. This effectively means putting a dollar figure on every consequence of the accident. Damages like reimbursement of property loss and medical bills are relatively easy, but it is harder, if not impossible, to place a number on the suffering caused. Below are a few types of compensatory damages that are common in personal injury cases.
- Medical Treatment
Damages awarded for personal injury cases more often than not include the cost of medical care associated with the accident. The reimbursement of treatment received and compensation for the medical attention required in the future due to the accident are covered under this.
- Loss of Income
An accident may have adverse effects on your earning capabilities and/or salary and wages, thus making you entitled for compensation of the same. It is not only in lieu of the income you have lost but also the money you could have made in the future if it were not for the accident. This can be referred to as compensation for the victim’s “loss of earning capacity.”
- Loss of Property
In the event of the loss of any property, vehicle, clothing or other item due to the accident, you are entitled to a reimbursement for repairs or compensation, at fair market value, of the property lost.
- Compensation for suffering
Many accidents result in more mental trauma than physical. You can be entitled to be compensated for pain, and serious mental discomfort suffered as a result of the accident.
Compensation for Emotional Distress
Linked usually to more serious accidents, emotional distress damages compensate a personal injury plaintiff for the psychological ramifications of an injury. Serious accidents are often accompanied by trauma, fear, anxiety, sleep loss, etc. Some states consider emotional distress as a part of “pain and suffering” damage awarded to a personal injury plaintiff.
- Loss of Enjoyment
In some cases accidents also result in an individual losing the ability to enjoy the more regular pursuits of life like walking, exercising and other activities. This can make you eligible for “loss of enjoyment” damages.
- Loss of Consortium
Accidents can often leave an individual unable to enjoy their relationship with their spouse. The loss of companionship or the inability to maintain a sexual relationship can make you eligible for “loss of consortium” damages. Some states consider the impact on the relationship of a parent and a child separately. In some cases, loss of consortium damages may be directly awarded to the family member instead of the plaintiff.
A personal injury plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct is found to be particularly careless. Punitive damages have a completely different rationale than compensatory damages, which are aimed to make the person “whole” again. The essential goal of punitive damages is to hit the defendant where it hurts, in the pocket book. They are a deterrent from further carelessness and egregious behavior on part of the defendant and others. It is not unusual for punitive damages to go into millions of dollars; most states though have a cap on punitive damage awards in personal injury cases.
Plaintiff’s Role in Damages Awarded
In cases where the plaintiff’s negligence or inaction has played a role in causing the accident, or if their inaction has exacerbated their injuries, the damages awarded can be curtailed.
If you have played any part in the accident that caused your injuries, there is a good chance that the damages will be awarded keeping that in mind. Most states adhere to a “comparative negligence” standard that links damages to the degree of fault in a personal injury case.
In a small number of states, if you are deemed to be partially responsible for the accident you may not be able recover any compensation. These states follow the “contributory negligence” concept for personal injury lawsuits.
Failure to Mitigate Damage
Most states expect plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits to take steps to minimize the financial impact of the accident. If a plaintiff fails to get the necessary medical treatment after an accident, thus making the injuries worse, the damages awarded will be significantly reduced. You can get in touch with car accident lawyers in Raleigh for a free first counsel to get an idea of what damages are due to you.
Proving damages is usually a matter of keeping all the receipts from your medical bills, days missed at work, bills from vehicle repairs, etc. Keeping this documentation in order will give you a clear idea of the actual costs you incurred because of the accident.
Michael Georgiou M.A of Business Communications, Marketing/Advertising University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Michael Georgiou is a dynamic business and marketing professional in the marketing division of Wilson Law, PA based in Raleigh, NC. He is an entrepreneurial guru with a proven success record in creative strategy, online branding, project management, and communication projects in both public and private sectors.