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The Importance of Damages in a Car Accident Lawsuit

North Carolina Auto Accident Attorney Explains Car Crash Compensation

When you file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident, you are asking the court to order the other people or companies named in the lawsuit, called the “defendants,” to pay you money damages. The other driver is almost always a defendant. Additionally, that driver’s insurance company is usually responsible for paying damages in a successful car accident claim. If your accident resulted from the negligence of other people or companies, they may also be named as defendants.

A North Carolina auto accident attorney from Riddle & Brantley, can help you determine exactly what damages resulted from your car crash. We have decades of experience representing these kinds of cases, 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 review. We have offices in Raleigh, Jacksonville, Kinston and Goldsboro and accept cases statewide.

What Are Damages in a Car Accident Claim?

“Damages” are simply compensation in the form of money. When you file an insurance claim, you ask for repayment of the expenses associated with the car crash. If you file a car accident lawsuit, you ask the court to decide whether anyone else involved in the accident was negligent and, if they were, to make them pay the costs from the crash. Possible damages you may seek in a car accident claim and/or lawsuit include:

  • Medical costs and expenses as a result of your car accident injuries.
  • The cost to repair the vehicle damage.
  • Lost income, past and future.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Other losses you suffered as a result of the accident to include scarring, permanent injuries, loss of use of a body part, or lost limbs.

Do I Really Need to File a Car Accident Lawsuit for Damages?

Filing a car accident claim can seem like a big commitment or simply too much work after a crash. This is especially true if the at-fault driver’s insurance company says they can take care of the claim. However, it is always worth it to call a North Carolina auto accident attorney and fight for fair compensation.

First, car accidents are expensive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that car accidents cost U.S. residents $242 billion in medical bills, lost wages, and property damage in just one recent year. That is an average of $897 for every person living in the United States.

Of that money, the NHTSA estimates that:

  • $34.9 billion, or 13 percent of all car accident compensation went toward medical bills, including ongoing rehabilitation, therapy or care for permanent disabilities.
  • $70.2 billion, or 25 percent, paid lost wages, salaries, commissions and bonuses when hurt motorists were unable to work.
  • $76.2 billion, or 28 percent, paid for property damage.

Second, the total loss is bigger than you expect. Losses like medical bills, property damage and lost wages are only part of the picture. The blow to your quality of life is also a loss. This cost can be estimated, though not fully replaced, in dollars.

In just one year, NHTSA estimates the loss of quality of life as a result of car accident injuries adds up to $594 billion for car accident victims. This figure is more than twice the estimated losses due to medical bills, lost wages and property damage.

Third, 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 accountable for the harm they have caused.

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 car accident cases in North Carolina are compensatory damages.

In more than every car accident case, the “damages” the injured person receives are known broadly as “compensatory damages”. As the name indicates, the purpose of these damages is to compensate you for actual losses caused by the crash. This may include compensation for:

  • Medical bills. These include bills for emergency transport (ambulance), surgery, hospital stays, follow-up care, rehabilitation and therapy. It also extends to the cost of ongoing and future care for a permanent disability caused by the car crash.
  • Lost income. This includes lost wages, salaries, or commissions you would have earned if you had not been too injured to work.
  • The value of lost future income. You may collect these damages if the disabilities resulting from the accident have made it harder or impossible for you to earn a living.
  • Property damage, including damage to your car.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Scarring.
  • Permanent injury and loss of limbs.

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 to lose, if you cannot work) in the future. If your car accident case goes to court, a judge or the jury will look at the evidence of your losses and decide your damages 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.

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 upside down in your vehicle”. 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 other insurance 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 “catchall” category that many insurance companies simply refer to as “inconvenience”.

Do I Have a Car Accident Lawsuit If There Are No Damages?

Due to popular 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 just 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 to an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney, even if your car sustained only minor damage. A lawyer can fully review your situation and all of the damages you personally suffered. Then, if you have a valid car accident claim, a lawyer can represent you in insurance negotiation and/or a lawsuit.

Questions About Damages? Let Our Experienced North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Help

At Riddle & Brantley, our car accident attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to consult with you about your accident and to determine how we can help you seek the compensation you deserve. Each case is different and we treat each case depending on the needs of each client. We dedicate our practice to providing an exceptional level of service to each client we serve.

To learn more, contact us today and schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team. We have four locations in North Carolina, including Raleigh, and we can help wherever you are in North Carolina.