Personal Injury: What Damages Do I Claim?
Personal injury cases often involve many different forms of “damages”. As you will see below, when dealing with an insurance company, and seeking a settlement in particular, it is important to account for everything. You do not want to leave any money on the table, simply because you will not be able to get it back later. Many people are concerned about future medical treatment. Others are worried about the time they missed from work or the damage to their vehicle. Below is an explanation of the different types of damages that you should ask for when seeking a settlement from the insurance company.
Medical Bills: This includes services that you have received, prescription medications and any products or items that you have purchased as a result of your injury. This includes:
(1) Hospital and emergency care; subsequent doctor appointments, chiropractor visits, specialists, and even the cost of surgery;
(2) future medical expenses;
(3) Rehabilitation with a physical therapist or any other health care provider that assists in your recovery;
(4) Items, products and prescriptions purchased, such as wheel chairs, crutches, braces, slings, and medication
Medical expenses are one of the single greatest factors in your recovery because they are a key indicator of your actual damages. This is because the amount of medical damages you actually incurred can impact other types of damages, such as pain and suffering, lost wages and emotional distress because they indicate that your injuries were severe, the recovery was long, and you suffered greatly as a result.
Future medical expenses are also important to account for in any settlement demand. Your doctors and medical specialists will need to provide a statement of their medical advice and opinions about how much ongoing care you will need and how much that ongoing treatment will cost.
Emotional Distress: Car accidents often come with significant emotional distress and pain and suffering. Since the accident occurred, you may have noticed severe discomfort with driving on the same road where the accident occurred. You may even have anxiety or fear just from the act of having to drive. This anxiety is real and you may even be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if the accident was severe or traumatic.
Pain and Suffering Disfigurement is a troubling result of many car accidents. Many car accident victims who suffered spinal cord or other back injuries, hip injuries, severe hand or arm injuries can have lasting mental scars as a result of a disfigurement. Hip, back, and leg injuries can lead to severe limps and bone degeneration. Hand, arm and other appendage injuries can be shocking to the system because they may require you to retrain yourself in how you do simple things in life, such as brush your teeth or put your pants on. This can also lead to severe emotional distress.
Mental Anguish: The mental anguish that results from a traumatic car accident should not be discounted. Mental anguish is real and people truly suffer as a result of car accidents. The suffering does not always end when the wounds heal. Any personal injury attorney would agree with that statement.
Lost Income/Lost Earning Ability: In many cases, people may have lost time from work. Accounting for the loss of income in any given case might be as simple as knowing how many days of work they missed and how much money they make a day. However, most people do not have that sort of pay scale. Many people who are injured are self-employed. Many people work based on commission only. In those instances there are other ways of accounting for their lost wages, such as getting pay statements for the previous six months prior to the accidents, obtaining their tax returns for the last few years. Lost income can be significant, as well. If you missed time, we need to know when and for how long. Days missed from work can also signify the amount of special damages you are able to receive. This, just like the severity of your injuries, indicates that the accident was more severe and more traumatic and was a greater disruption to your life than a normal car wreck where everyone was “okay”.
Permanent Injury: Additionally, if the injury is permanent, you may not be able to return to the same work that you did before. This happens most often in cases where the accident has cause you some sort of disfigurement where your hand, arms, or legs have been affected. Maybe you are no longer able to walk. In these cases, you may not be able to perform jobs where you are required to stand for long periods of time, or lift heavy boxes onto shelves. Many professional people, like plumbers, welders, and those in construction, will find it very difficult to continue in their line of work if they are no longer able to perform their duties. This means that the accident has affected their ability to provide for themselves and their family.
Calculating Lost Wages and Permanent Injury: Income that you lost because of your injury is an expense that must be included in your claim. This also includes any uncompensated time you took off from work that is related to the injury, such as driving to and from doctors appointments. Even the mileage should be counted so that it may be claimed. The amount of lost wages should be calculated based on what you would have earned had you not been injured. This means that if you are no longer able to earn what you did before, you will need to hire an expert who can provide an opinion of what your working life would have looked like had you not been injured and how much you could have made over the remaining years of your projected life time before the accident. They will weigh what you likely would have made against what you will likely be able to make after the accident and the difference will be recoverable.
Loss of Companionship: When a spouse is injured and the marriage suffers as a result, this is known as a Loss of Consortium. This loss applies to the spouse’s loss of relationship and care as a result of the accident. Several factors of the marital relationship are considered when determining a loss of consortium claim, such as a loss of companionship, sexual relations, aid and comfort, affection and partnership. The partner who sues for this type of damage will only recover if the injured spouse succeeds in recovering damages. This means that the spouse only recovers if the injured spouse recovers.
When a jury determines the extent of the loss of relationship of the marriage, they will consider such things as the length and stability of the marriage, the type and amount of care given during marriage before the accident, the couple’s life expectancy and the degree to which these interests have been lost.
Property Damage: This is typically covered by the insurance company without problem. Most people who come into our office typically have already had the repairs completed on their car by the time they come in and speak with us. The contentious portion of this process is the settlement for medical and other damages.
Proportionate Responsibility: If any of your actions contributed to the accident, then you may be considered to be proportionately responsible for your injuries. This could figure in to your total settlement award because the insurance company is likely to say that your total damages are this and you were 25% liable, therefore we will cover 75% of your damages, plus mental anguish, etc.. Actions that could be considered as a “contributing cause” would be distracted driving, improper lane change, following too closely, exceeding speed limit, and even not wearing a seat belt. This is another reason why paying close attention to the road and not allowing yourself to be distracted in any way is important while driving because if you do end up in an accident, then you want to be absolutely blameless.
About Our Firm:
Guest and Gray, P.C. is an experienced litigation team serving all North Texas counties. We are the largest and highest rated law firm in Rockwall and Kaufman County. We regularly pursue and defend various civil litigation claims, including personal injury claims. Our practice is quickly growing, and we have multiple offices in the area to provide maximum convenience to our clients. We are longtime faces in our community and we love what we do. We seek to provide an air of calm and confidence for our clients during a difficult time. We believe that makes us a little bit different from everybody else, and we like it that way.
For more information, or if you are seeking legal advice, give us a call at (972) 564-4644.