Every day, serious car accidents cause substantial injuries, immense property damage, and complications that can permanently impact a victim’s life. Car insurance can help provide much-needed compensation in the event of a serious accident. However, many accident victims find themselves wondering: “Just how much compensation can a car accident claim provide?”
How much money can you get from a car accident settlement? A car accident lawyer cannot guarantee the compensation you can recover, which may vary based on several key factors. However, by breaking down the categories involved, you can arrive at a reasonable estimate of how much compensation you should pursue to cover the full cost of your injuries.
How the Liable Driver’s Insurance Company Can Impact Your Claim
Most drivers carry auto insurance that protects the victims of a serious auto accident. How much compensation that insurance provides, however, will depend on the specific policy. Many drivers carry only minimum liability insurance for bodily injury protection. Others, on the other hand including commercial truck drivers, rideshare drivers, and drivers who carry higher-value policies to help protect their vehicles may carry policies that offer considerably more protection to the victim of a serious accident.
Working with an attorney can prove critical in understanding how much compensation you can expect after an accident, including the limits of the insurance policy and how they may impact your right to compensation. Often, insurance policies will contain specific clauses that may have a substantial impact on the compensation you can recover.
An attorney can help look over the entire policy to give you a better idea of the maximum compensation you can recover through that policy. Insurance companies may not offer compensation that reflects the true value of your case immediately after an accident. In many cases, you may need to go through several rounds of negotiation to arrive at a reasonable settlement offer. Working with an attorney can help you identify and fight for that much-needed compensation.
Most personal injury claims break down into specific elements, including both general and special damages. Special damages include damages to which you can assign a specific financial amount: the actual amount that the accident and the resulting damages cost you.
#1. Medical Costs
After a serious car accident, you may find yourself dealing with immense medical expenses. Even relatively minor injuries, like broken bones, can cost tens of thousands of dollars in medical treatment. Your medical costs may rise exponentially for more serious injuries, including burns, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injury.
In many cases, you may not know the full extent of your medical costs, or even your future anticipated medical costs, until several months into your recovery. Often, even your medical team cannot provide you with a full picture of your prognosis and eventual costs until you have had a chance to recover from your injuries and pass the risk of substantial complications. If you suffered serious injuries in your car accident, your attorney may recommend waiting until you have progressed through your recovery to get a better idea of what your eventual medical costs will look like and how they could impact the compensation you can recover as part of your claim.
In the meantime, you should track all your medical bills and keep them in one place so that you can more easily calculate your medical costs as you get ready to file your claim. Keep in mind that, in many cases, you may receive more than one bill for the same service. For example, if you received care in the emergency room, you may receive separate bills from the emergency room, the care provider that took care of you, and for any tests and procedures you received while in the emergency room. Tracking those bills in one location can make it easier to keep track of what you owe as well as what your actual costs look like.
#1.1 The Cost of Emergency Care
Your medical expenses may start adding up at the scene of the accident. An ambulance may arrive at the scene to take you to a hospital. Depending on your insurance, ambulance transport may cost hundreds of dollars, plus mileage. Then, you may arrive in the emergency room, where you will receive emergency care for your injuries. Emergency care can include immediate care for your injuries, including surgery to save your life, if needed. You may also receive a careful evaluation of your injuries, including x-rays and other tests, which can add up substantially.
Many injuries will require immediate hospitalization to help facilitate your recovery. You may need regular observation or regular medical care to increase your odds of making a full recovery. If you have to stay in the hospital, your medical bills will increase for every day that you remain. A stay in the ICU or a special care unit, including a burn unit, may further increase your medical costs during your recovery.
#1.3 Procedures and Ongoing Tests
Your doctors will want to monitor your recovery and facilitate it as much as possible. In the case of many types of injuries, you may undergo substantial tests and treatments throughout your recovery. Some injuries, for example, may require multiple surgeries to increase your odds of making a full recovery as much as possible. Others may require you to undergo considerable tests to track your recovery and make sure that you heal as much as possible.
#1.4 Long-Term Care
Some injuries may prevent you from taking care of yourself in the immediate aftermath of your accident as well as you used to before the accident. You may need long-term care to help you manage your medical needs or take care of regular self-care tasks, including bathing and getting dressed. Sometimes, you may stay in a long-term care center, where you can receive care geared toward all your medical needs. Other times, you may choose to go home and bring in-home health care while you recover. Regardless of the method you choose for your recovery, however, you may find your medical costs increasing considerably.
#1.5 Durable Medical Equipment
Following many types of injuries, you may need durable medical equipment to help recover some of your independence or aid in your recovery. Durable medical equipment may include everything from a ventilator to help with breathing, including a portable model that you may take home with you, to items like a wheelchair or crutches and braces, which can help you maintain some mobility and independence even in the aftermath of serious injuries.
#1.6 Physical and Occupational Therapy
Many types of injuries may require you to go through substantial therapy to regain as much strength as possible or help you cope with the limitations you may face after your accident. Physical therapy aims to help you regain strength and mobility. This provides specific exercises that can help you build up your capability and increase your odds of a full recovery. Occupational therapy, on the other hand, usually focuses on helping you find ways to cope with the limitations you may now face. An occupational therapist may, for example, help you learn more about how to get around in a wheelchair or aid you in figuring out how to manage the memory loss often associated with traumatic brain injury.
#1.7 Psychological Therapy
Can you claim compensation for mental and emotional distress suffered due to car accident injuries? In many cases, yes. If you need to see a therapist, including a psychologist, to help you recover from your accident, and you have clear medical costs related to that treatment, you can include it as part of the medical costs related to your recovery.
#1.8 A Note on PIP Insurance Coverage
Many states, including Pennsylvania and Florida, require drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance in addition to their liability insurance. Personal injury protection insurance, also called PIP coverage, offers no-fault coverage for medical bills you may face as the result of a car accident, which means that it kicks in regardless of who causes the accident.
PIP coverage will compensate you for the immediate cost of medical bills following a car accident, minus any deductibles assigned to your insurance coverage. You cannot file a personal injury claim until the cost of treatment for your injuries exceeds your personal injury protection insurance, though you can file a personal injury claim if you do not carry PIP insurance.
#2. Lost Wages
Aside from your medical bills, lost wages can pose one of the greatest difficulties in managing your long-term finances after your accident. Severe injuries often prevent accident victims from working at their usual jobs in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Suppose, for example, that you suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident.
If you have trouble with focus and concentration, it can prove very difficult to keep your attention on the task at hand, which can slow down your work and make it hard for you to take on your usual projects. If you suffered serious physical injuries, including broken bones, these injuries may prevent you from standing for a long time or make it uncomfortable for you to do your usual job tasks.
Sometimes, employers may work with their employees to provide them with modified or limited responsibilities while they recover. In other cases, however, employers may prefer that their employees remain out of work until they have progressed further in their recoveries and can return to work safely.
Even after you return to work, you may continue to miss out on the income you would usually earn. You may have to alter your hours to account for your recovery: some injuries may, for example, prevent you from working your usual eight-hour shift. You may have to miss work for follow-up appointments, including physical therapy. The more work you have to miss, the more those missing wages may add up, and the more they may impact you long-term. Make sure you talk to your lawyer about how to calculate the value of all your missing wages.
#3. Vehicle Repair or Replacement
Car accident claims usually include two categories: payment for your injuries and payment for the damage to your vehicle. While vehicle replacement might fall lower on your list than managing your recovery, you may find that vehicle repair and replacement costs add up fast.
Car insurance usually includes a separate category for vehicle damage, which means that you will not have to worry about how the cost of your medical recovery will impact the value of your car’s repairs and the compensation you can recover for that purpose.
While special damages have a specific financial amount assigned to them, general damages include the damages that may not fall into neat financial categories. Car accident injuries can cause immense pain and suffering, leave you with considerable emotional distress including depression, anxiety, and PTSD and, for many victims, sap their overall enjoyment of life.
As part of your personal injury claim, work with your lawyer to put together an estimate of the ways those injuries have impacted your life. They may have changed your relationships, made it difficult for you to enjoy the activities you once loved, or even changed how you engage with the world around you, especially if you suffered a traumatic brain injury that poses mental and physical burdens.
An Attorney Can Help Evaluate Your Car Accident Claim
While a car accident attorney cannot predict an exact dollar amount for the compensation you can recover after a car accident, working with an attorney can give you a much better idea of the compensation you should expect for your car accident injuries, which may make it easier to negotiate for the compensation you deserve. Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as you can to learn more about the compensation you may qualify to pursue to cover the cost of your injuries.