One of the most common questions that our personal injury lawyers receive is “How much is my case worth?” The answer is usually “It depends.” One of the most important factors that determines the potential value of your case is the damages you sustained. Since Alabama is an at-fault state, the negligent motorist may be held liable for your injuries after a car accident, meaning their insurance company has to compensate you for all your medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Damages are the ways that you have been negatively affected because of the accident and your injuries. Tort law provides a right for accident victims to pursue compensation for injury or loss stemming from events that are caused by someone else’s negligence.
Below, we discuss the common types of damages in a lawsuit following a car accident. If you have any questions about the injury compensation to which you may be entitled after a car crash, contact the dedicated car accident lawyers at Stokes Stemle, LLC.
Special or Economic Damages
The first type of damages potentially involved in a car accident claim is what is called “special” or “economic” damages. These damages affect you financially and can be reduced to a specific financial cost.
Some of the most common economic damages involved in motor vehicle accident claims include:
Your medical expenses will likely make up a significant portion of your claim for damages. You may be entitled to receive compensation for the medical expenses you incurred immediately after the crash, including:
- Ambulance charges
- Emergency room treatment
- Prescription medications
- Health and mobility aids, such as a wheelchair or crutches
If you require follow-up care because of the injuries you suffered, you can also request compensation for this treatment.
Additionally, if it is reasonably anticipated that you will likely require medical care in the future for the injuries you suffered, you can seek compensation for your future anticipated medical expenses.
Because it can be difficult to gauge the full extent of your injuries right after an accident, we encourage accident victims to seek prompt medical attention and follow all doctors’ orders. We may wait to try to settle your claim until you have reached maximum medical improvement so that we have a good understanding of the continued medical care you might need so that we can seek full compensation for it.
Physical therapy and other rehabilitative needs
When a vehicle crash occurs, the occupants in the vehicle feel the force of the combined speeds of the vehicles involved. This extreme force can often damage the body, resulting in serious injuries such as:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal injuries
If you or your loved one suffered a serious injury, you may require physical therapy or other rehabilitative services to re-learn life skills or adapt to a new medical condition. You may be able to recover compensation for these expenses.
Loss of income
Some accidents may cause you to miss work for several weeks or months. Tragically, some people are never able to return to work after a disabling car crash. You may be able to recover compensation for:
- Lost wages for the time you were out of work
- Benefits you had to use to seek treatment or recover from your injuries
- Lost or lowered earning capacity caused by the injuries
- Lost value of homemaker services
Calculating lost wages is fairly straightforward. You multiply the number of hours you missed from work due to your injury by your hourly rate. The calculation becomes more complicated if you are determining the amount of your lost earning capacity. An expert may need to estimate the amount of income you were projected to make before the accident occurred and compare it to the amount of your projected income with the injury considered. This calculation may involve several factors, including your:
- Profession and occupation
- Work history
- History of promotions
You also have the right to pursue compensation for the cost to repair or replace your vehicle. If any other personal property was damaged in the collision, you can also seek compensation for that damaged property.
General or Non-Economic Damages
Your claim for damages can also include so-called “general” or “non-economic” damages. These damages seek compensation for your injuries that cannot be easily quantified, like pain and suffering. A jury or insurance adjuster may assign a number, based on their subjective analysis of what these damages are worth. Various factors may affect the amount of these damages, including the type of injury, its severity, and the effects it had on your life.
General or non-economic damages may include:
Pain and suffering
Our courts understand that you may endure physical or mental pain and suffering because of the accident. Even if a number cannot easily be placed on this type of harm you suffered, you still have a right to pursue compensation for it.
We recommend that you keep a pain journal throughout the life of your claim. This can help you keep track of important information and put into your own words how the accident affected you. An insurance adjuster or jury may later review these notes to determine what is a reasonable value for your pain and suffering.
If possible, keep track of the following information in your pain journal:
- The pain you feel on a daily basis, on a 1-10 scale
- Doctor’s appointments and notes, including treatment for your pain and side effects of medications
- Statements regarding how your injuries have affected your relationship with others and the activities you can complete without assistance
Disfigurement and impairment
Some car accidents can lead to disfiguring injuries, such as those involving leaking gasoline and explosions. In these accidents, you will likely endure extensive medical treatments and debilitating pain and suffering. You may also be left with scars, lacerations, or other physical reminders of the accident. You may be able to receive compensation for the disfigurement.
Additionally, accident victims who suffer impairment because of the collision may be able to recover compensation. A physical or mental impairment can have a dramatic effect on your life, your relationship with others, and your perspective on life. As such, accident victims are often able to request compensation for impairment.
The moments following an accident are often scary. You may suffer from mental or emotional trauma because of the collision. This may cause you to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, or other emotional injuries. In addition to any counseling or psychiatric expenses you incur, you may also be able to recover compensation due to the emotional injuries you suffer as a result of the accident.
Loss of enjoyment of life
You may also be able to receive compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life if your injury interferes with your ability to do things that bring you joy. These activities could be hobbies, social events, volunteer opportunities, or recreational activities.
Unlike the other types of damages discussed above that provide accident compensation to victims, punitive damages are not for the purpose of compensating the victim. Instead, they send a message to society and the defendant personally that their grossly negligent or reckless actions will not be tolerated. Punitive damages are a form of punishment. They also serve to deter the defendant or others from acting in a similar manner in the future.
Punitive damages are rare, but they are sometimes awarded in car accident cases where the defendant’s actions go beyond ordinary negligence, such as in cases involving drunk drivers or street racers.
How the Alabama Car Accident Lawyers at Stokes Stemle Can Help
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help maximize the value of your claim by:
- Conducting a thorough investigation – A thorough investigation can help identify the parties who are liable for your injuries and all potential sources of compensation. Our dedicated legal team can investigate your case, gather evidence, and pursue fair compensation for your claim.
- Guiding you through the claims process – We can handle all communications with the insurance company and guard you from taking actions that may adversely affect your claim, like providing a recorded statement to the insurance company. We can also ensure that we take all necessary legal action within the applicable time limits.
- Negotiating fiercely for your claim – Our lawyers work on personal injury cases every day, so we understand the long-term consequences that injuries can cause. We can ensure that all of the damages that apply to your case are factored into your demand for compensation.
- Preparing your claim for litigation – By preparing each case for trial at the beginning, we show that we are serious about your case and are ready to litigate it, if necessary. This is often enough to convince the insurance company that it is in its best interests to resolve your claim through a settlement. If not, then we will be ready to move forward with your case through litigation.
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, Stokes Stemle, LLC is here to help. Give us a call or contact us online for a free case review. We can discuss your legal rights and options, as well as the potential compensation that might be available for your claim.