How Much Is an Accident Injury Claim Worth?Personal Injuries
After an accident, one of the first questions that pop into your mind is how you are going to pay for medical bills and a lawyer when you can’t work. When you retain us to handle your personal injury case, you don’t have to worry about attorney’s fees. We don’t charge if we don’t win your case. We take our fees out of your settlement or trial award if we win your case.
The next question you probably have is how much your injury claim is worth. That depends on several factors, including the severity of your injuries.
Car accidents can leave you with anything from minor injuries to catastrophic injuries or even death. Some people might need psychological and cognitive therapy if the accident was significantly traumatic. Others might require physical and/or occupational therapy.
Injuries might include:
- Bumps, bruises, scratches, cuts, and scrapes.
- Road rash.
- Burns from chemicals or fire.
- Strains, sprains, pulled muscles, torn muscles, and other soft-tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Internal injuries.
- Psychological injuries, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Amputations, including those suffered in the accident and those caused because of infection after the accident.
- Excessive scarring and disfigurement.
The damages you can recover depend on your injuries and whether the defendant’s actions were willful, wanton, or reckless. In South Carolina, you can collect three types of damages. Economic damages and non-economic damages are compensatory damages. The court orders these damages in an attempt to make you financially whole again.
Special damages, usually referred to as economic damages, have a monetary value and include:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred after an accident and before a settlement or trial award.
- Future medical expenses for those incurred because of the accident injuries after a settlement or trial award. Future medical expenses often include therapy expenses.
- Past lost wages for those lost between the accident and a settlement or trial award.
- Future lost wages for those lost after a settlement or trial award. You might collect future partial lost wages if you can work, but your injuries force you to take a lower-paying job.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property, including your vehicle and personal property inside your vehicle.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses.
General damages, usually referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value. Furthermore, the court usually orders the defendant to pay non-economic damages if doctors expect your injuries to be long-term or permanent or if you lost a loved one in an accident.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress for those that suffered injuries in an accident.
- Emotional distress for those who lost a loved one in an accident.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to take medications for the rest of your life or if you need to use ambulatory aids, such as a wheelchair or walker for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer take part in and/or enjoy family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse. Spouses could also win damages for loss of consortium in a wrongful death case.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do, including grocery shopping, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and home maintenance and repair.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger, hand, or foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or loss of bladder control.
- Paralysis, quadriplegia, and paraplegia.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and disfigurement.
The Social Security Administration considers any injuries that cause disabilities expected to last longer than 12 months or to result in your death as long-term or permanent disabilities. However, insurance companies might less-generous definitions of long-term or permanent disabilities.
In certain circumstances, the court might order the defendant to pay punitive damages. You must ask for punitive damages in your initial complaint. If you can prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions were wanton, willful, or reckless, and if you win compensatory damages, the court then has a second trial for punitive damages (a bifurcated trial).
The same jury hears your case. You have to have a bifurcated trial because you cannot recover punitive damages unless you recover compensatory damages. Once you receive that award, then the same jury hears evidence proving the defendant’s conduct was willful, wanton, or reckless.
Because the court orders punitive damages as a punishment against the defendant, the evidence of the defendant’s behavior must be clear and convincing and that your injuries were caused by the defendant’s wanton, willful, or reckless actions or inactions.
The jury determines whether the defendant is responsible for paying punitive damages in the second half of the trial. The award you get depends on several factors, including the severity of your injuries, the defendant’s degree of culpability, whether the defendant was aware of his or her error, whether the defendant tried to hide his or her conduct, and several other factors.
Long-Term and Permanent Disabilities and Therapy
If your doctor orders therapy for you, make sure you keep every appointment unless you have an emergency. Generally, therapy appointments last longer than it takes to go through a settlement or trial. The defendant will argue that you do not need therapy if you miss appointments.
If you have to miss a therapy appointment, whether it’s for physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, or psychological therapy, document the reason. If you can provide a medical excuse for missing the appointment, make a copy of the doctor’s notes and attach them to the documentation of missing the appointment.
If you suffered injuries in an accident, contact a personal injury lawyer for a free case evaluation.