Understanding Damages in a Car Accident Lawsuit

January 24, 2016 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
Understanding Damages in a Car Accident Lawsuit

Car Accident Compensation

In many cases, car accidents not only lead to serious injuries, but also other “damages” in the form of expensive medical bills, loss of income, and even long-term treatment. By filing a personal injury claim, you are asking the insurance company to compensate you for your losses caused by the accident.

In car accident cases, "damages" is a fancy word for monetary compensation owed for injuries and other losses suffered.

This compensation may cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses including pain and suffering. Under North Carolina law, if you or a loved one sustained injuries due to the negligence of another driver, then you may be entitled to recovering significant damages, otherwise known as compensation.

The experienced car accident lawyers at Riddle and Brantley have helped thousands of North Carolinians throughout the state and we would love to help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.

With over 220+ years of combined legal experience, the attorneys at Riddle & Brantley can help you determine exactly what damages resulted from your car crash. We have decades of experience representing injured car accident victims, so we know what types of compensation you deserve.

If you are unsure of who is responsible for the wreck or how to claim damages, we can answer your questions in a FREE, no-obligation consultation. We have offices throughout the state for your convenience, and our legal team can even evaluate your claim by phone, email, text or video conference.

We can even send one of our retired law enforcement investigators to you.

Since 2000 alone, we’ve secured more than $600 million in damages for our valued clients (see disclaimer below) and we’d love to help you however we can.

What Are Damages in a Car Accident Claim?

Essentially, “damages” means monetary compensation for your injuries and other losses. By filing an insurance claim against the negligent party, you are asking for repayment of the expenses associated with the car crash. In our experience, the majority of auto accident claims settle prior to filing suit.

An experienced car accident attorney can calculate damages and help seek maximum compensation for you.

This means that your attorney may negotiate an offer from the insurance company without having to file a complicated and time-consuming lawsuit. Because the majority of personal injury claims settle before going to litigation, it is important that your speak with an experienced car accident attorney.

At Riddle & Brantley, we understand how the insurance companies work. They want to pay as little as possible for your car accident injuries and employ high-powered attorneys to try and make that happen. However, our North Carolina car accident lawyers work diligently to get our clients the best compensation we can.

In the event that the insurance company refuses to provide you with a fair settlement, the next step is to file a car accident lawsuit. By filing suit, you ask the court to decide whether anyone else involved in the accident was negligent and, if they were, to pay the costs caused by the accident.

Types of Damages Available in a Car Accident Claim

Possible damages you may seek in a car accident claim and/or lawsuit include:

Car Accident Medical Bills

The most common damages in a car accident are medical expenses, which cover the cost of your immediate treatment. Accident injury victims may also face expensive medical liens following treatment, which must be paid out of any potential settlement.

Lost Wages After a Car Accident

You may be entitled to recovery of compensation for lost wages due to missing work as a result of the car accident.

Potential Loss of Future Income

If you’ve suffered a long-term injury or disability, you may be entitled to damages related to your lost ability to earn future income.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering refers to non-economic damages and emotional distress, which may include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or mental distress.

Continuing or Lifetime Treatment

In some cases, treatment will be required long after the accident, leaving you with future medical expenses. In these cases, a personal injury lawyer will sometimes obtain a comprehensive life care plan to calculate these damages.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are intended "punish" negligent parties and hold them accountable for their actions. These are less common and can only be awarded by a judge or jury in a lawsuit.

Other Losses

Potential other losses as a result of the accident may include scarring, permanent injuries, loss of use of a body part, lost limbs, or loss of consortium (loss of association and fellowship with a married partner).

“Do I Need to File a Car Accident Claim or Lawsuit to Obtain Damages?”

Filing a car accident claim or lawsuit can seem like a big commitment or even be overwhelming after an accident. Some of our clients initially try to settle the claim quickly without hiring representation. This is especially true if the at-fault driver’s insurance company says they can take care of the claim.

In our experience, the insurance companies rarely treat injured parties fairly, which is why we recommend calling a North Carolina car accident attorney.

The Importance of Damages:

  1. Car accidents are expensive. The CDC estimates that car accidents cost U.S. residents over $75 billion in medical bills, lost wages, and property damage in one recent year alone. In the United States, more than 100 people die every day from auto accidents on average.
  2. Total losses are often bigger than you expect. Losses like medical bills, property damage and lost wages are only part of the picture. When injuries sustained also diminish your quality of life, this is also considered a loss. While this cost can be estimated, it can never be fully equated in dollars.
  3. Damages help send a message. When drivers and other negligent parties (and their insurers) are required to pay for what they have done, the person responsible for your injuries is forced to stand up and be held accountable for the harm they have caused. This is especially true for drivers under the influence. In these cases, North Carolina law allows for punitive damages when defendants are caught driving under the influence.

What Are Compensatory Damages in a Car Accident Claim?

Damages in a car accident case may be available to cover a wide range of losses. However, not all losses are covered by damages in every case. The most common type of damages received in a car accident in North Carolina are compensatory damages.

In car accident cases, the “damages” the injured person receives are known broadly as “compensatory damages.” As the name suggests, the purpose of these damages is to compensate you for actual losses caused by the crash.

The calculation of these damages typically depends on the bills and medical records you present in the case showing what you spent. Calculations may also include how much you are likely to spend (or lose, if you cannot work) in the future. If your car accident case goes to court, a judge or jury will look at the evidence of your losses and decide what damages to award.

Your attorney can help you argue for a damages award that fully compensates you for what you have already lost and will also help you take care of future expenses.

There are no upfront costs and no attorney fees unless we recover compensation in your case.

“How Will the Insurance Company Classify the Damages in My Car Accident Claim?”

Insurance companies often use special terms to define different types of damages.

Terms you may see when dealing with your insurance company include:

  • Total Loss of Vehicle – This happens when your car is “totaled,” or damaged beyond cost-effective repair. If the insurance company decides your car is a total loss, it should pay you the actual cash value of your vehicle at the time of the crash. It is important to note that insurance companies often attempt to undervalue totaled vehicles. Also, the actual cash value of your vehicle may be less than what you owe on it, particularly if you purchased it recently. There are also times when the true value of your vehicle is less than the amount you owe. This situation is referred to as being “upside down.” You may purchase gap coverage on your own policy which will pay for this difference so you don’t lose money if you are in this situation. However, this is very complicated, so we encourage you to call us for guidance if you find that you owe more on your vehicle than the insurance company offers to pay for it.
  • Special Damages – These are damages for which you can easily present a bill or paperwork showing the actual cash value. Special damages typically include medical bills, lost income, and other losses, such as the cost of car repairs.
  • General Damages – This category includes damages for pain and suffering, scarring, loss of body parts, permanent injuries and other damages that are more difficult to value. “General damages” is also a “catch-all” category that many insurance companies simply refer to as “inconvenience.”

Riddle & Brantley found me all the available money from the insurance company.

-David H., Riddle & Brantley client

“Do I Have a Car Accident Claim If There Are No Damages?”

Riddle & Brantley found me all the available money from the insurance companies - Riddle & Brantley client review

Due to confusion about what constitutes damages, some car accident victims believe they cannot recover compensation if there was only minimal damage to their vehicle.

However, damages are much broader than dents, scrapes and crumpled metal. Even a “low-impact” crash can cause serious personal injuries. These can cause significant pain and suffering and may prevent a victim from working for an extended period.

You should always talk with an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney, even if your car sustained only minor damage. A lawyer can fully review your situation and calculate the damages you personally suffered. If you have a valid car accident injury claim, a personal injury lawyer can represent you in negotiations with the insurance company and/or a lawsuit.

There is no obligation and you won’t pay any attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive compensation.

Questions About Damages? Let Us Help!

At Riddle & Brantley, our car accident attorneys are available on-demand to consult with you about your accident and determine how we can help you seek the compensation you deserve.

Every time I’ve needed them, they were there for me.

-Tyronnie T., Riddle & Brantley client

Every case is different and we treat each case based on the needs of each client. We have dedicated our practice to providing an exceptional level of service to each client we serve, and we’re proud of the words our clients use to describe their experience working with our attorneys and staff.

With offices throughout North Carolina, we are ready to serve you.

Free consultations are available by phone, email, text, and video conference. We can even come to you directly if you prefer.

Justice Counts and we would love to help you if we can.

*** Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.