As an Alabama personal injury attorney, one of the most common questions I get is, “How much is my car accident case worth?” This seemingly simple question doesn’t have an easy answer.
Some people will try to tell you that there is a magic formula you can use to determine the value of your car accident case. This is not entirely true. No two car accidents or injuries are the same. So, there is no “one size fits all” answer to how much your personal injury case is worth. Yet, experienced personal injury attorneys can use certain facts to predict the approximate outcome in future cases. This blog post will discuss 10 factors that can impact how much you will get from your car accident.
How severe was your accident?
The most important factor in determining how much you will get from your car accident is the severity of the accident. Of course, your accident is serious to you and should be treated as such by your car accident attorney. But courts and lawyers place more monetary value on injuries that are more severe.
Lawyers look at several factors to determine severity, but the most important is the nature of the car accident injury. Accident injuries that are expected to fully heal are less valuable than injuries that permanently hurt or disfigure a person. Injuries that totally prevent you from going about your daily life are usually worth more than those that create a moderate inconvenience. Finally, so-called “hard injuries” – broken bones, lost limbs, and the like – tend to receive higher awards than “soft injuries” like bruises and soft tissue damage. These and other factors that affect the severity of your case will be the biggest factor guiding how much you will get from your car accident.
How much are your economic losses?
Economic losses play a major role in most car accident settlements and verdicts. Economic losses include things like property damage, lost wages, and medical expenses.
The good news about medical bills is you can recover for both past medical bills and expected future medical expenses. So, if you paid $10,000 for medical care prior to trial and your doctor expects that you will need to spend an additional $5,000 to reach full recovery, your personal injury attorney can ask the jury to consider the full $15,000 when determining the award. (The same is true for lost wages.)
When calculating your medical expenses, you should include obvious things like hospitalizations, surgeries, and rehabilitation. But don’t forget about other things that fall into this category such as home modifications (wheelchair access ramps, etc.) and the money paid for services you can no longer perform yourself due to the car accident, such as
- Mowing and landscaping services,
- Housekeeping or laundry help, and
- Personal shopping subscriptions.
Keep receipts for all money spent on things relating to the accident and give them to your personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.
How much are your non-economic damages?
Economic damages will be a big part of how much you will get from your personal injury claim, but you may also be able to recover for non-economic damages. These damages usually fall under the umbrella of “pain and suffering.” In Alabama, pain and suffering damages include not only the actual physical pain caused by the injury but also the emotions – such as anxiety, fear, stress, embarrassment, and anger – caused by the injury. But Alabama courts have made it clear that pain and suffering damages require a “high degree of mental pain and distress,” as opposed to normal emotions. Your car accident attorney will be able to help you craft a solid argument on pain and suffering.
Non-economic damages can be harder to prove than economic ones, but you can help your personal injury lawyer by seeking treatment for your emotional injuries and keeping a diary that can be used as proof of your emotional state.
How strong is your case?
A personal injury claim depends on facts. So, no matter how severe your injuries are, how much you will get from your car accident will be limited if you can’t prove your claims. A plaintiff who has witnesses to the car crash has a better chance of recovery than one who does not. Similarly, a person who doesn’t have or can’t find important documents, pictures, or medical records will make things more challenging for the personal injury attorney. Keep all documents related to the car crash in a safe, secure place before giving them to your personal injury attorney.
The strength of your case can also be affected by the things you did – or didn’t do – after the auto accident. Can anyone say that you told people at the scene that you were “fine”? Did you wait a long time to seek medical treatment? Did you post harmful information about your accident on social media? These mistakes and others can give the insurance company or the jury a reason to deny or limit your recovery. Talk honestly with your personal injury attorney. Make sure they know about any potential missteps so they can address them.
Did you cause the accident?
Sometimes, one person is clearly at fault for an accident. Other times, both drivers played a role in the crash. Some states allow drivers who contributed to the crash to recover. Unfortunately, Alabama is not one of those states.
Alabama follows an old law called contributory negligence. Contributory negligence rules prevent people who contributed to the accident in any way from recovering. So, in Alabama, if you are just 1 percent responsible for the accident, you get no damages. However, an experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to help you if possible.
Can you get punitive damages?
Compensatory damages aim to compensate you for the losses suffered in the car accident. On the other hand, punitive damages are designed to punish people for bad behavior. Alabama personal injury law states that punitive damages are appropriate when the other driver “deliberately engaged in oppression, fraud, wantonness, or malice.” In other words, the other driver must have engaged in intentional or extremely reckless conduct that led to the accident.
Punitive damages are rare, but if you can prove that the other driver behaved badly, the jury can award you up to three times the amount of your compensatory damages. (They cannot award more than that.) Be sure to tell your personal injury attorney everything you remember about the other driver’s actions.
Did you try to handle the case yourself?
If you want to maximize how much you will get from your car accident, hire a personal injury attorney. Even if you’re reluctant to hire an attorney, you’ll be glad that you did. On average, a person represented by an attorney in personal injury settlement negotiations will receive an accident settlement that is $60,000 more than a person who tries to handle it alone. Hire an Alabama personal injury attorney as soon as you can and definitely before giving statements to or negotiating with insurance companies.
More questions about damages in personal injury cases?
Hopefully, this post has helped you learn more about how much you will get from your car accident. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact Collins Law, LLC. April H. Collins is a Birmingham personal injury lawyer who strives to provide every client with excellent service. Collins Law handles car accidents, trucking accidents, and many other types of personal injury claims. If you’ve been injured, click here or call (205) 881-0403 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.