After an accident, one of the biggest questions clients have is, “Who will pay my medical bills?” And for good reason. A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that the average emergency room visit after a car accident costs about $3,300. Accident-related hospital stays can average $57,000 over an injured person’s lifetime. So, it’s no wonder that accident victims spend lots of time wondering about expenses.
But there is good news. If you’ve been injured in a car crash, you have legal rights! Those rights give you several options for recovering money that can help after an accident. Lawyers call this money “damages.” This article will talk a bit about the types of damages available to you after an Alabama car accident.
Why damages matter
Damages are the key to your personal injury case.
When you are injured by another driver’s carelessness, the law gives you the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against that driver. To win this lawsuit, you must prove that the other driver had a duty to drive carefully and that they failed in that duty by taking careless actions like speeding or driving while distracted. Then, you have to prove that the driver’s carelessness caused your injuries. Finally, you have to prove that the carelessness caused you to suffer physical, financial, or emotional harm.
If the jury finds that the other driver’s carelessness was the cause of your injuries, they will award you damages.
What are the types of damages?
Personal Injury lawyers split damages in car accident cases into two main categories.
The first type of damages is called compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the injured person for belongings lost in the accident, money spent because of the accident, and other such losses. Simply put, compensatory damages are designed to put you in the same position you were in before the accident. Compensatory damages can be split into two types – economic and noneconomic damages.
The second category of damages is punitive damages. We’ll talk about those a little later.
What are economic damages?
Economic damages attempt to compensate car accident survivors for the financial harm caused by accidents.
Perhaps the biggest category of economic damages is medical bills.
Medical expenses can include anything from hospital bills to physical therapy costs to copays for doctor visits and prescription medication.
Another major part of economic damages is lost wages. If your accident injuries caused you to miss work, you can recover that lost income in your personal injury claim. You can also get compensation if the accident permanently affected your ability to continue in your line of work. In that case, you can ask the jury to compensate you for your future lost wages.
Economic damages can also include money spent on accident-related costs such as
- Property damage (including vehicle damage),
- In-home nurses or health aides,
- Medical equipment,
- Future medical costs,
- Home modifications to improve accessibility (such as new ramps), and
- Funeral and burial costs (in wrongful death cases).
As you can see, economic damages cover a wide range of costs. Your Alabama accident attorney can help you decide which damages apply in your case.
What are noneconomic damages?
Economic damages focus on costs that can be counted. There are receipts for medical bills and car repairs. But noneconomic damages focus on car accident injuries that can’t be easily reduced to dollars. Noneconomic damages usually focus on the mental and emotional harms caused by auto accidents.
Pain and suffering is one of the biggest categories of noneconomic damages. If you suffered a broken leg after your car crash, the costs to repair your leg would be economic damages. But the pain associated with the break, its healing, and any physical therapy would fall into the pain and suffering category.
You can also receive noneconomic damages for other harms caused by the accident such as
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
- Loss of sleep,
- Inability to enjoy normal activities, and
- Loss of consortium (damaged relationships with loved ones).
Your Birmingham personal injury attorney will be able to tell you which of these damages might apply in your case.
What are punitive damages?
Compensatory damages look at what the accident victim lost and try to make up for it. On the other hand, punitive damages look at the at-fault driver’s behavior and decide whether it warrants punishment. These damages not only punish the bad driver in your case, they also deter other drivers from doing the same things.
Under Alabama law, a car accident victim can only get punitive damages if the other driver “deliberately engaged in oppression, fraud, wantonness, or malice.” Translated from legalese, this means that it won’t be enough to prove that the driver who hit you was careless. You’ll have to prove that they intentionally engaged in truly harmful conduct like purposefully going the wrong way down a one-way street.
Your Alabama accident lawyer will be able to tell you if punitive damages are appropriate in your case.
What factors can affect the amount of damages?
Even if you are clearly injured in the accident, your damages won’t be guaranteed. The amount you can recover in a settlement or at trial will depend on what you can prove. Keeping good records will make it easier for you to prove your case in court. Usually, having more proof will result in a higher damages award.
Because proof matters, you’ll need to keep good records. For economic damages, this means that you should keep track of all medical bills and store them in a safe place. As for noneconomic damages, you should safely maintain all medical records and diagnoses. Keep diaries that reflect your emotional state. (Your Alabama accident attorney can tell you more about this.)
Even if you keep excellent records, other factors can impact your damages. If you skip doctor’s appointments, the other driver’s lawyer could argue that your injuries weren’t really that severe. If you post happy vacation pictures to your social media accounts, the other side could argue that you weren’t really depressed. Follow your Birmingham personal injury attorney’s advice on how to protect your rights.
What else should I know about car accident damages?
Hopefully, this article has helped you learn more about the types of damages available to you after an auto accident. If you have more questions about damages after motor vehicle accidents or other personal injury matters, contact Collins Law, LLC. Our firm can help you with injuries after any type of accident. To learn more about how we can help you, call 205-588-1411 or use our website’s online scheduling tool.