Settlements for car accidents vary widely depending on the circumstances. Not every car accident injury is the same, so damages could range from hundreds of dollars to millions of dollars. Additionally, if the defendant’s gross negligence or intentional behavior caused the car accident injuries, the plaintiff might elect to litigate to recover punitive damages.
Car Accident Injuries
A settlement or trial award depends on the type of injuries you have. If you have minor injuries and expect to recover within a few months, you will most likely recover economic damages. However, if your doctors expect your injuries to cause long-term or permanent disabilities, you could also collect non-economic damages. Finally, if your attorney believes that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional, they might recommend litigating your case so that you can recover punitive damages.
Car accident injuries include:
- Bumps, bruises, lacerations, scratches, and cuts.
- Strain and sprains.
- Pulled muscles, torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones.
- Eye and face injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Head, neck and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Thermal and chemical burns, including road rash.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
Complications of Car Accident Injuries
These injuries could cause complications that delay or prevent full recovery. Open wounds could become infected, especially if you have a compromised immune system-whether from an existing condition or because you are on treatment that kills white blood cells, such as chemotherapy.
Traumatic brain injuries could cause emotional, physical, cognitive, and sensory issues. Spinal cord injuries could paralyze the body below the injury.
Many secondary injuries often require long-term medical care, whether you need additional surgeries and follow-up appointments, home health care, or long-term care in a rehabilitation facility. You will most likely need various types of therapy if you have long-term or permanent disabilities caused by a car accident, including psychological, occupational, cognitive, and physical therapy.
Recovering Damages: Do I Have to Go to Court?
The short answer is, “No.” However, you might want to go to court if the insurance companies involved refuse a fair and reasonable settlement. Additionally, you might want to go to court if you want to pursue punitive damages.
You can always accept an insurance company’s settlement against the advice of your attorney. However, if they advise you to end settlement negotiations and start litigation, they believe the insurance company is offering much less than you deserve. Insurance companies are known to offer so little that they might not even cover your current medical expenses.
Once you sign a settlement agreement, you cannot go back to collect additional compensation later. Even if you do not want to go to court, it is often worth it. Additionally, insurance companies typically reenter settlement negotiations once you file a lawsuit-going to court is expensive, and they might end up paying not only their legal fees and costs but yours, too.
Recovering Damages: Compensatory Damages
You could recover two types of compensatory damages, depending on the severity of your injuries or whether you lost a loved one in a car accident. Economic damages have a monetary value, while non-economic damages do not. Most people can recover economic damages, but in most cases, only those with injuries that cause long-term disabilities or those who lost a loved one usually recover non-economic damages.
- Medical expenses, including doctors’ appointments, surgeries, appointments with other medical professionals, follow-up surgical appointments, prescriptions, ambulatory aids, hand controls for your vehicle, and upgrades to your home-including but not limited to ramps, grab bars, and widened doorways to make the house more accessible. You can also recover compensation for occupational, cognitive, psychological, and physical therapies.
- Personal property, including compensation to repair or replace your car and any personal property of value that was in your vehicle and destroyed or damaged in the accident.
- Lost income.
- Loss of earning capacity if you can no longer work. You could also recover partial wages if you can only work part-time or if you have to take a lower-paying job. You could recover loss of earning capacity from the time of settlement or a trial award through the time you would normally retire.
- Death-related expenses, including funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, probate court fees, and other expenses, and probate attorney’s fees.
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make lifestyle changes, including taking prescription drugs or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or participate in family activities and events.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a leg or hand.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your hearing, vision, or bladder.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as house cleaning, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
- Amputation of a limb or digit.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
- Total or partial paralysis.
- The death of a loved one.
You might also recover punitive damages in certain circumstances. However, because the court only orders a defendant to pay punitive damages to punish egregious behavior, you must prove that the defendant was grossly negligent or their actions were intentional.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident, contact a car accident lawyer for a free case evaluation.