After you’re injured in a car accident, your primary focus will be on healing. But after you recover, you’ll likely see a troubling financial picture. If your injury affected your ability to work, you may have fallen behind on your bills. Worse, the car accident may have created a whole new set of bills and financial issues.
Dealing with financial stress after a car accident can be nerve-wracking. Luckily, if you are injured, a personal injury attorney can help you recover damages. Read on to learn more about the three types of damages awarded in Alabama personal injury cases.
Damages: A Quick Overview
Before we begin, let’s learn a little more about damages. When a person breaks a criminal law, the punishments can range from a small fine to a jail term. But when there is no crime involved – such as with a breach of contract or car crash – the law punishes people by making them pay money. Lawyers call these payments “damages.”
Damages are a key part of your personal injury claim. Your accident attorney will estimate your damages before beginning settlement negotiations with the other driver. If you and your injury attorney decide to file a lawsuit, the complaint – the document that begins the lawsuit – must list the amount of damages you are claiming. At the end of the trial, the jury will award you a specific amount of damages.
We’ll discuss the various types of damages below.
Types of Damages: Damages for Financial Losses
The word “compensatory” sounds like “compensate.” That’s because compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the injured person. (Personal injury lawyers sometimes call this “making the victim whole again.”)
Compensatory damages cover many different types of financial losses. Compensatory damages awards often cover:
– Medical bills (including surgery, hospital stays, physical therapy, tests, in-home health care, and much more);
– Lost wages;
– Lost future earning potential; and
– Property damage.
There are many more types of economic damages. Your accident attorney will help you decide which damages are best in your case.
Note: To receive economic damages, you must prove your losses. Records and paperwork are very important types of proof. You can support your damages claim by keeping your medical records, pay stubs, and other financial information in a safe, organized place. You should bring them with you to the first visit with your personal injury attorney.
Types of Damages: Damages for Physical and Emotional Pain
Car accidents don’t just cause financial losses. Often, they also cause emotional distress. Luckily, damages can be awarded not only for financial losses but also for emotional and physical pain. (Lawyers sometimes call this “pain and suffering.”)
Pain and suffering damages take two approaches. First, you are entitled to damages for the actual pain of the injury. Second, you are entitled to damages if you are emotionally distressed because of the injury. (This can include sadness associated with not being able to engage in normal activities.)
For example, Dee is hit by a reckless driver. After the accident, she discovers that her leg is broken. Her leg causes her great physical pain and prevents her from attending a scheduled skiing trip with her friends which depresses her. For months after the accident, she has nightmares about the crash. Dee can recover damages not only for her medical costs but also for the physical and emotional pain she experienced.
Like financial damages, emotional damages must be proven. You should keep records of your physical pain as well as visits to therapists and other mental health providers.
Types of Damages: Punitive Damages
As mentioned above, compensatory damages are awarded to make the victim whole again. The focus is on what the injured person lost. Punitive damages are different. Instead of focusing on what the injured person lost, they focus on punishing the behavior of the person who caused the accident.
Alabama personal injury law states that to receive punitive damages, a car crash victim must prove that the over driver “deliberately engaged in oppression, fraud, wantonness, or malice.” In other words, in a car accident case, the victim must prove the other driver’s actions were intentional or extremely reckless. For example, a driver with road rage who tries to run another person off the road or a driver who gets behind the wheel after a night of heavy drinking could meet this standard.
Alabama limits punitive damages. A jury can award you three times the amount of your compensatory damages, but no more. So, if you receive $25,000 in compensatory damages, you can receive an additional $75,000 in punitive damages, but no more.
Punitive damages are extremely rare, but they are appropriate in certain cases. Your car accident attorney can help you decide if punitive damages make sense for your case.
How Much Will I Get in Damages?
It is difficult to predict how much any person will get in damages after a car accident. Every case is unique. In general, factors courts consider include the severity of your injuries, the amount of your financial losses, and the extent of your pain and suffering. But other factors in your case – including the quality of witnesses, the make-up of the jury, and much more – can affect the amount of the damages award in your personal injury claim.
The best way to determine how much you can expect to win after a car accident is to ask an experienced Alabama personal injury attorney to evaluate your case.
More Questions About the Types of Damages in Alabama Car Accident Cases?
If you’ve been injured in a car crash, you probably have many questions. If you have more questions about the types of damages you can get after a car accident, please contact Collins Law, LLC. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers has helped people with claims for car accidents, trucking accidents, slip and falls, product liability, and much more. We can help you get the compensation that you deserve. Click here or call (205) 881-0403 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.