If you were involved in a traffic accident in which the other driver was partially or wholly at fault, you may be entitled to compensation for losses you’ve suffered as a result of the accident. The type and amount of compensation you receive depends on various factors, including the extent of the property damage and seriousness of your injuries.
Here is an overview of some damages you may be entitled to:
Compensation for medical bills and expenses
Generally you can receive payment for any medical treatment you received to treat injuries sustained in the accident. You can also be compensated for future treatment your physician has deemed medically necessary.
Compensation for medical bills and expenses will cover the cost of transportation by ambulance, treatment received at a hospital, prescription medicines or medical devices, and any necessary follow-up visits with a physician or medical professional.
The amount you receive and how complex the claim process can get is highly dependent on the severity of your injuries. The process will likely be straightforward if you were simply brought to a hospital for evaluation and discharged within a few hours. If you were badly injured and stayed in the hospital for weeks, you can expect to file various kinds of paperwork and wait a longer time before you get an answer from the at-fault driver’s insurer.
Property damage compensation pays for the costs of repairs for any damage your car sustained in the accident. In some cases, the damage to your car will be so extensive that the costs of repairing it to its pre-accident condition exceed its actual value. This is referred to as a “total loss” by insurers. In this scenario, you may receive a monetary amount equivalent to how much your car was worth before the accident.
Compensation for lost wages pays for the wages you would have normally earned but couldn’t as a result of the accident. For example, if your injuries have prevented you from being able to do your regular job for a month, you may be compensated for that month of lost wages.
If the accident caused you to be permanently disabled, you may be awarded a settlement to compensate you for future lost income. This is a settlement given to people who would have been able to earn money over the course of their career but cannot because the accident rendered them incapable of working.
You may also be awarded a partial future lost income settlement if you can return to work but will make far less money than you would if you had not been injured. Calculating future lost income is a very precise process and is best handled by an experienced personal injury attorney to be sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
In certain cases, the court may order a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit to pay punitive damages to the accident victim. Punitive damages are typically awarded in cases of gross negligence and are designed to be harsh so the defendant does not commit the same act in the future.
Whether or not you are entitled to punitive damages depends on the circumstances surrounding your claim and the laws in the state in which the case is filed. Not every state allows punitive damages to be awarded.
Additional points to consider
In the majority of auto accident cases, the insurer of the at-fault driver will pick up the tab for your property damage and personal injuries, if applicable. However, just how much compensation you receive will be restrained by the coverage limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
There may be cases when the damages caused by the at-fault driver exceed these limits, especially if they caused a serious accident and have the minimal liability coverage required by state law. In some cases, the at-fault driver has no insurance, which further complicates the matter. You can read our article on what happens when you get into an accident with a driver who has no (or very minimal) insurance. In cases such as these, the other driver may have so little money that it’s unlikely you can collect on your claim.
Even if the driver has enough coverage, insurance companies naturally try to minimize the amount of compensation they pay out. An insurance adjuster could try to pressure you into accepting an offer that is much lower than what you’re entitled to.
Auto accident cases can get very complex. You should get in touch with a qualified lawyer as soon as possible after you’ve been involved in an accident. Your attorney can give you more details related to the process and will fight on your behalf to get you fairly compensated. The Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team offers free legal consultations. We get paid only if and when you get paid.