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What Damages Can I Recover if I was Injured in a Car Accident?

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What Damages Can I Recover if I was Injured in a Car Accident?

If you have been in a car crash, you are probably wondering how much money you are entitled to receive from the person that caused the accident and your injuries. First of all, it really is not the person the caused the car or motorcycle accident, but their insurance company that will pay you the damages to which you’re entitled. When you hear a personal injury attorney talking about damages, they are really just talking about money. The types of damages you suffer in a car accident can be non-economic which are sometimes called general damages, or they can be economic damages which are sometimes called special damages. In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded to the injured person.

Non-Economic or General Damages

These are the damages that are hard to calculate. Non-Economic or General Damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship and even inconvenience. What is pain and suffering worth? For instance, let’s assume you have been in a motorcycle accident and broken your wrist, when the attorneys from Jones Law Group summarize the case for the jury or even then insurance adjustor, that attorney will be asking for an award of pain and suffering. Clearly, the pain at or near the time of the accident will be intense, but what is the value of that claim?

Courts generally separate pain and suffering into two separate categories: Past pain and suffering and future pain and suffering. Most people can easily relate to the past pain and suffering. Everybody has suffered a painful event and can remember it hurting. They can remember the pain and inconvenience of trying to live daily life with that injury. Jurors find it easier to attach a value to that with which they can relate. However, depending upon the age of the accident victim, future pain and suffering is where most of the damages may lie.

The future pain and suffering presents a unique challenge to attorneys and jurors alike. If the jurors are not living with constant or regular pain, they may not understand the challenges it presents. In our motorcycle accident scenario in which the rider suffered a broken wrist, it is likely the motorcycle rider will suffer arthritis in that wrist, it is likely he/she will suffer pain before it rains and there are a host of other issues a person suffers a broken wrist in an accident is likely to experience for the rest of their lives.

How does a jury put a value on that? If the person who suffered the injury was 25 years old, you want the jury to know that your client will be living with that pain for 50+ years (according to actuary tables). That daily pain for almost 20,000 days or twice as long as the victim has been alive. The attorney could ask for a daily monetary number. The attorney could ask for an amount equal to medical bills or the personal injury attorney could simply provide the jury a lump sum figure. There is no singular correct answer as it has to be evaluated on a case by case basis. What works for one client and one jury might not for another.

Economic or Special Damages

Economic or special damages are the damages that can be easily calculated because values can be assigned. Medical bills, lost wages, property damage, costs spent on medication or costs spent on obtaining rides to and from work or medical appointments are all examples of economic or special damages. Just because economic damages can be calculated does not mean the insurance company will pay the amount demanded.

After getting into an accident caused by a negligent driver, you will likely accumulate medical bills. If we again return to our example of the injured motorcycle rider who suffered the broken wrist and assume he was transported to the hospital via ambulance where he received surgery on his broken wrist. After being released from the hospital where he very likely will have medical bills in excess of $75,000.00, he will be facing months of physical therapy and rehabilitation appointments. It would be easy for the at fault party or their insurance company to pay those bills, but they will not do that. Instead, they will challenge the bills as being unnecessary or excessive. They will try and confuse the jury by using rates paid and negotiated by insurance companies to which the average person does access.

When you file a claim, it is likely the insurance company will try to give a lowball offer and tell you the doctors will take less money, but they do not pay the medical bills or negotiate them down for you which can leave you in the unenviable position of owing more money than you receive. The personal injury attorneys at Jones Law Group will fight this unethical behavior by the insurance companies and get you every cent to which you are entitled or is available under the insurance policy. Our attorneys will also assist you in resolving your medical bills often times saving you thousands of dollars.

Settlement Calculator

If your personal injury attorney claims he can tell you exactly what your case is worth, run. Each case is different because each injury is different. In fact, each plaintiff is different. Two people can have the same injury, but vastly different responses to that injury. If we go back to the motorcycle accident discussed throughout this article. One person after breaking their wrist and undergoing surgery might heal very quickly and not suffer any long term issues such as arthritis while another with the same injury might take significantly longer to heal and experience permanent pain, reduced range of motion and experience other degenerative conditions.

There is no one size fits all for calculating damages because each injury is different. Also, at the end of the day if your case goes to trial your injuries are worth what a jury calculates them to be worth and you need a personal injury lawyer that understands what strategies that may work for one jury may not be effective with another. Personal injury lawyers who have settlement calculators are their websites trying a one size fits all approach to fighting for their clients. You can rest assured they will not see you and your case any differently than they see every other client they claim to “fight” for.

Punitive Damages

All of the damages discussed herein have a common purpose to compensate the victim in an auto or motorcycle accident. They are meant to try and “return” the victim to the same point he or she was prior to the accident. Pain and suffering cannot be taken away, so the victim is compensated with money. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are designed to punish the wrong doer. They are paid to the victim, but they are designed to deter intentional or reckless behaviors or actions motivated by malice.

The award of punitive damages in Florida is an extraordinary measure discussed in Florida Statutes § 768.72 and requires the defendant have engaged in intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Although, usually not available in personal injury cases, due to its nature impaired or drunk driving is a situation in which punitive damages are available for injured plaintiffs. However, insurance companies do not have to pay any punitive damage awards. The rationale of Florida courts is a person has no right to shift the blame for his/her reckless behavior to another. What does this mean for you if you have been injured by a drunk driver? Unless the impaired or drunk driver has substantial assets, you will not be able to collect any punitive damages. At Jones Law Group we run asset searches on defendants to make sure we have left no avenue of recovery unexamined.

Wrongful Death

What is wrongful death? Wrongful death is defined as the death of one person caused by the wrongful act of another. It differs from murder or manslaughter in that it is a civil action as opposed to a criminal case. Wrongful death claims can be based upon intentional acts or negligent acts. Florida law limits the people that can recover in a wrongful death action to the spouse, children, parents, and blood relatives who were dependent financially on the decedent. The types of damages that are recoverable are governed by the same statute. Medical and funeral costs are recoverable. If the deceased provided support for the claiming individual lost future income may also be claimed. Additionally, claims can be made for loss of companionship and emotional loss.

What are the elements of a wrongful death case?

  1. A life was lost.
  2. The life that was lost because of the actions of another.
  3. The action which caused the loss of life was either intentional or negligent.
  4. There are survivors financially harmed by the loss of life.

Contact Jones Law Group, Car Accident Attorneys

Your consultation is free. We understand that after you have been involved in an accident, you may be without transportation or unable to make it to our office. A lawyer from Jones Law Group is always available to meet you at the location of your choosing. While we are conveniently located in St. Petersburg, we have successfully litigated cases in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers and throughout the State of Florida.

At our firm and it is our belief that evaluating each case on an individual basis produces the best result for our clients. We handle your personal injury case differently than many of the bigger firms that are constantly advertising on TV (or on a bus). These firms are constantly advertising in order to attract new clients because their old clients won’t refer them new business. At Jones Law Group we rely on referrals from our current and former clients. Our clients can reach their attorney 24 hours per day. Each client has their lawyer’s cell phone number. To put it simply, your case is treated on the basis of its own merits. We will carefully evaluate and discuss each facet of your case, and if a better result can be obtained by taking the case to trial, we will take the case to trial.

At Jones Law Group, our Law Firm believes that our client’s success determines our own. It is our goal that you feel like an important client and strive to provide the personal attention to which you are entitled. We understand how difficult the decision is to hire a personal injury attorney, but you can rest assured knowing you have a skilled and experienced team behind you to support your case. Contact us online or call us today at (727)571-1333.

Heath Murphy

About the Author

Heath Murphy is a partner at Jones Law Group and focuses on personal injury law. He has been working as a lawyer for 18 years and routinely writes about auto accidents, wrongful death, and personal injury laws.

Read more: Heath’s Bio