It doesn’t take long for the bills to pile up after even a minor car accident. According to government statistics, the average cost of medical treatment after a car crash is about $15,000. Since most of us don’t have $15,000 tucked away, it’s normal to wonder how you’ll pay your bills after a car accident.
The good news is that there is a way to get money to cover your bills. If your car accident happened because of another driver’s carelessness (also called “negligence”) you can file a personal injury claim. Your claim will allow you to get money from the other driver or anyone else who might be responsible for your injuries. Lawyers call this money damages.
Here are seven factors that impact the amount of damages awarded in Alabama car accident cases.
The severity of your physical injuries.
When it comes to damages, one of the most important factors is the nature of your injury. While every injury causes pain and stress, courts do not treat them all the same. Generally, the more severe the injury, the higher the damages. Severity can refer to the importance of the body part, the scope of the injury, and much more.
For example, a bruise on your arm is less serious than a broken bone in your arm. But a broken bone is less serious than being paralyzed. There is no one way to decide how severe your injuries are but an experienced Birmingham personal injury lawyer can help you figure out how the rules apply in your case.
The duration of your physical injuries.
Along with severity, the duration of your physical injuries matters. Courts want to know how long the injury will last. For every injury, doctors will decide when you’ve reached “maximum medical improvement.” This is the point when the injury will not get any better. If you reach maximum medical improvement before you regain full function, you are permanently injured.
In general, permanent injuries are usually worth more than those that will eventually heal. For example, if the accident broke your bone but the doctor says that your leg will completely heal and your ability to walk will not be affected, the injury is not permanent. On the other hand, if a trucking accident shattered the bones in your leg and doctors say that you must walk with a cane for the rest of your life, the injury would be considered permanent.
This rule also applies to injuries that affect your looks. It’s not uncommon for juries to award damages in cases where a burn or cut permanently scars someone’s face.
The severity and duration of any emotional injuries.
Car accidents cause more than physical injuries. Nearly 50 percent of car crash survivors experience psychological harms such as
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
- Amaxophobia (fear of driving).
Some physical injuries – especially traumatic brain injuries – can make these conditions worse or cause additional emotional problems such as mood swings. Car crash survivors are entitled to damages for these emotional injuries.
In addition, you may be entitled to compensation for the pain caused by your physical injuries. Lawyers call these damages “pain and suffering.” An Alabama accident lawyer can explain more about how pain and suffering damages are calculated.
The money the accident cost you.
Of all the factors that impact the amount of damages awarded in Alabama car accident cases, the most important might be the money you spent to recover from the accident. These costs include many things such as
- Hospital bills (for surgeries, extended stays, ER visits, etc.),
- Bills from your primary care doctor,
- Bills from any specialists (orthopedists, plastic surgeons, etc.),
- Bills from psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and other mental health providers,
- Bills for physical therapy,
- Bills from home-care nurses,
- The cost of buying specialized equipment for your injury (such as a wheelchair),
- The cost of renovating your home to accommodate your injuries (i.e., adding a wheelchair ramp to your house), and
- The cost to hire help to do things the injury will not allow you to do, such as mowing the lawn.
If the accident kept you from working for any period of time, you can add lost wages to this number. If the crash put you out of work permanently you can also collect future lost earnings. To calculate your future lost wages, lawyers and juries look at things like your chances of promotion and how many years you might have worked without the injury.
Keep records of each and every cost related to the accident. (Think about things like hospital invoices, doctor bills, co-pay receipts, and contractor estimates.) Organize them carefully and store them in a safe place. Bring them to your first meeting with your Birmingham personal injury lawyer.
Your age can affect your car accident damages. Older drivers sometimes receive lower settlements. This might be because younger car accident survivors can usually claim that the crash affected their future ability to work, but it’s harder for a retired person to make that claim. Also, when juries consider how an injury will affect a person’s life, they unfortunately think about how much life is left. Worse, senior accident victims often have Medicare or Medicaid coverage. After paying your medical bills, these companies will use every legal means to collect part of your settlement or jury award.
But it’s not all bad news. Because older accident victims often have more serious injuries and longer to reach maximum medical improvement, awards can be higher. Also, older accident victims are more sympathetic. Juries don’t like hearing that someone’s carelessness robbed a senior of the opportunity to enjoy their golden years to the fullest.
The vehicle that hit you.
Generally speaking, an accident between two sedans will be different than an accident between a sedan and an SUV. A trucking accident is the worst of all. The average mid-sized, four-door sedan weighs about 3,000 pounds and is about 5.5 feet high. The average tractor-trailer stands 13.5 feet tall and can weigh as much as 40,000 pounds when fully loaded. The size and weight difference between the typical car and the typical semi-truck is just one of the reasons why trucking accidents cause more serious injuries than accidents between cars of similar size. As said above, more serious injuries lead to higher damage awards.
Also, trucking companies must follow strict insurance rules. While a regular person might drive around without insurance, a semi-truck is less likely to be uninsured. Also, because freight companies have higher insurance limits than the average non-commercial driver, it’s likely that the policy will be sufficient to cover your bills.
If you were hit by a semi-truck, make sure you talk to an Alabama accident attorney who specializes in trucking accidents such as our law firm.
The strength of your case.
Regardless of what happened during the accident, your settlement or jury verdict will depend on what you can prove. So the strength of the evidence in your case is one of the most important factors.
Evidence comes in many forms. Pictures and videos can help you prove the conditions at the time of the accident. Medical bills can help you prove your economic costs. But the quality of your witnesses will probably affect the outcome of your case the most. How many witnesses do you have? Were they able to see the accident clearly? Are they trustworthy? Your accident lawyer will ask these and other questions to see if you have solid witnesses.
Besides witnesses, there are other factors that affect your case. Did you go to the doctor immediately or did you wait? If you waited, the insurance company will argue that your injuries weren’t that serious. Did you post smiling, happy vacation pictures on social media after the car accident? The other side will claim that you’re not really depressed. Did you give a recorded statement to the insurance company without talking to an attorney? Your opponents will use even your most innocent statements against you.
There is no one way to evaluate the strength of a car accident claim. But experienced injury attorneys know what to do to help you build a strong case.
Want to learn more about damages in Alabama car accident cases?
If you’ve been injured in a car crash, you probably have a lot of questions. If you want to know more about the factors that impact the amount of damages in Alabama car accident cases or other things about personal injury claims, please contact Collins Law, LLC. Our clients give us high ratings for our compassion and ability to keep them informed. To learn how we can help you get the compensation you deserve after an accident, call us at 205-588-1411 or use our website’s online scheduling tool.