Maximize your settlement by claiming all the different types of car accident damages. Don’t miss anything with this comprehensive list.
Auto accident victims are entitled to compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.
To calculate a car accident settlement, insurance adjusters first look at expenses like medical bills and lost wages. They then look at the extent of physical injuries to determine an amount for pain and suffering.
Wrongful death and catastrophic injury claims include compensation for future losses and may also compensate close family members for losing the accident victim’s support and companionship.
Punitive damages are a third type of compensation only awarded by a judge or jury. These damages punish the at-fault party (usually a corporation) for egregious acts of negligence.
Types of Economic Damages: Measurable Hard Costs
Economic damages, also called hard costs or special damages, are the measurable losses that arise from motor vehicle accidents. Measurable means you’ll have bills, receipts, invoices, or a written statement that verify the amount of your damages. There are five categories of special damages.
1. Medical Care and Rehabilitation
Never refuse medical care at the scene of a traffic accident. Shock and adrenaline can mask injury symptoms. A delay may not only harm your health, but can also undermine your car accident claim.
Your first stop after a crash may be a hospital emergency department, trauma center, or urgent care center for diagnostic and initial treatment services. You might be referred to specialists for additional treatment and follow-up care.
Collect copies of all your medical bills:
- Paramedic evaluation and treatment at the scene
- Ambulance ground transportation to the nearest hospital
- Helicopter or airplane medevac transport to a trauma center or children’s hospital
- Physician services (ER doctor, surgeons, orthopedists, radiologists)
- Facility emergency room fees
- Facility operating room fees
- Diagnostic tests such as lab work, X-rays, CT or MRI scans
Physical therapy is prescribed to restore strength and mobility after broken bones, whiplash, and other musculoskeletal injuries. Car accident victims with a severe brain injury or spinal cord injury may require intensive inpatient rehabilitation.
Serious crash injuries are high-dollar claims. You’ll need an experienced car accident lawyer to maximize your compensation.
Economic damages during recovery may include:
- Physical therapy
- Inpatient rehab facility room charges
- Occupational therapy
- Vocational rehabilitation
- At-home nursing care
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
2. Mental Health Services
When you or your child are psychologically harmed by a bad car accident, permanent injuries, or painful treatments, you can be compensated for treatment costs. Emotional trauma after car accidents is common, even for minor collisions.
You’ll need treatment records and bills for:
- Evaluation and therapy with a licensed mental health professional
- In-patient services, if necessary
3. Reimbursement for Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Save your receipts for any supplies or services you would not have incurred but for the car accident.
You can be compensated for:
- Medications (prescription and over-the-counter)
- Supplies and medical devices (crutches, bandages, etc.)
- Cost of transportation to medical appointments
- Replacement services, like lawn mowing and child care
4. Lost Wages
The at-fault party’s auto insurance carrier should reimburse you for the time you had to miss work because of your injuries, even if you used sick leave or vacation days.
Ask your employer to verify your losses:
- Days missed from work
- Used vacation or sick leave
- Lost commissions
- Missed opportunities for overtime
- Lost benefits, like a gas allowance or retirement contribution
5. Property Damage Compensation
Even in no-fault states, the negligent driver’s insurer should compensate you for the cost of your vehicle repairs, or the value of your car if it’s deemed a total loss.
Similarly, if you were pulling a camper, trailer, or carrying bicycles damaged in the crash, you can pursue compensation.
You can also claim repair or replacement costs for personal property:
- Jewelry and watches
- Cell phones and laptops
- Clothing and accessories
- Child safety car seats and booster seats
- Groceries or other perishables ruined by the accident
Animals, including the family pet, are treated as personal property by insurance companies.
Types of Non-Economic Damages: Pain and Suffering
Non-economic damages, also called general damages, are best known as pain and suffering. These damages have no objective measurement, although there are ways to support these types of damages in personal injury claims.
The amounts paid for car accident pain and suffering vary widely, depending on the scope and severity of the victim’s injuries.
In a no-fault state, your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage won’t pay for pain and suffering. However, if your injuries are severe enough to exceed the PIP threshold, you can pursue all your general damages from the negligent party.
1. General Damages for Pain and Suffering
When you’re handling your own insurance claim for minor injuries, you can still pursue compensation for pain and suffering. Most adjusters will pay an amount that makes sense for the type of injury you suffered so long as you document your experiences.
Commonly accepted pain and suffering includes:
- Physical pain
- Shock and trembling after the crash
- Painful injury treatments
- Unpleasant medication side effects
- Upsetting limitations, like not being able to lift your toddler
- Missed family events and holidays
- Diminished quality of life
2. Accident-Related Emotional Distress
Emotional distress can affect accident victims of any age. Some distress is temporary and improves as the body heals. Some types of emotional distress can be debilitating, requiring extensive mental health services. You may need a car accident attorney to handle a claim for significant emotional distress.
Emotional distress may appear as:
- Fear of riding in a vehicle
- Sleep disturbances
- Humiliation from needing help with personal hygiene
- Shame over impotence caused by injuries
- Psychological effects of permanent disability or scarring
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Children involved in car accidents may regress developmentally, become clingy and tearful, or start wetting the bed.
In rare circumstances, an uninjured family member who witnessed the death of a loved one can recover compensation for emotional distress. However, in most cases you won’t get far with a claim for pain and suffering without proof of physical injuries.
Tips for Filing an Auto Insurance Claim
Deciding when to file a car accident claim, and which auto insurance company to file with, depends on your role in the crash and the extent of your injuries.
Always notify your own insurance company of an accident, no matter who you think was at fault. An insurance policy is a binding contract, and most auto policies have a “notification and cooperation clause.” If you caused the car crash, your insurer has a duty to defend you.
If the other driver is at fault, your insurance company can still help you. For example, after a hit-and-run, you should be covered by your uninsured motorist coverage if the other driver can’t be located.
In a no-fault state, you and your passengers must use your PIP coverage for injury claims, no matter who caused the accident.
In tort states, you and your passengers can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability coverage. You can also use your own policy’s MedPay for immediate expenses, if you have that type of coverage.
In any state, the at-fault driver’s insurance company should pay for vehicle damage. Some people find it quicker and easier to use their own collision coverage to get their car repaired, and let their insurer seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
How to Calculate Personal Injury Compensation
The multiplier method is an easy way to estimate a settlement amount for most minor car accident injury claims. Your demand will include all your expenses and an amount for your pain and suffering.
Step 1: First, add up all your documented economic losses. Use the full amount of your medical expenses, even if health insurance covered some or all of the cost.
Step 2: After adding up your expenses, multiply the total by 1-2x. This will account for your pain and suffering. Use a multiple of 1 for relatively minor injuries, and a higher multiple for mild-to-moderate injuries.
Serious injury claims can justify a multiple of 3-5x, or even higher. But these types of cases are complicated. You’ll need a personal injury attorney to get fair compensation for severe injuries.
Step 3: The last step is to add your total expenses to the pain and suffering amount. The combined total is the approximate compensation value of your injury claim.
Sample Calculation for Car Accident Compensation:
Total Hard Costs: $1,500
Pain and Suffering: $3,000 ($1,500 x 2)
Estimated Settlement Value: $4,500 ($1,500 + $3,000)
In this case, the injury victim can open claim negotiations with a reasonable settlement demand of $5,000. A compromised settlement will always be lower than the original demand.
Severe injuries, disfigurement, or wrongful death are high-dollar cases that must be handled by an experienced accident attorney. Your attorney’s calculations will include loss of earning capacity, permanent disability, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and many other factors.
Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to accident victims and their loved ones.
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