Car Accident Lawsuits: What Can You Actually Claim?

You are with your family enjoying a winter vacation in Florida. On your way to your favorite theme park, you are hit broadside by another driver who ran a red light while he was texting. Within hours you are on the phone with a car accident attorney. You want to know what you can actually claim in a personal injury lawsuit.

According to VG Law Group, a team of auto accident lawyers in Florida, car accident cases do not always get as far as court. Attorneys representing injured drivers and insurance companies do what they can to settle out-of-court. Only when they cannot reach some sort of mutually agreeable conclusion do cases end up in front of judges and juries. Often times outcomes are directly related to what plaintiffs are attempting to claim.

So what can you actually claim in a personal injury suit following a car accident? The different kinds of claims are divided into two categories. Those categories are discussed below. However, keep in mind that there are some variations by state.

Compensatory Damages

The more common of the two categories is compensatory damages. These are monetary awards intended to compensate victims for their injuries and property damage losses. They are easier to prove in court. Compensatory damages include, but are not limited to, the following:

Medical Bills – Health insurance may not cover all the costs of a serious injury. It definitely will not cover long-term care costs. Such medical bills can be claimed in a personal injury suit.

Loss of Property – Should an accident victim lose material property as a result of an accident, whatever is not covered by his or her own car insurance can be claimed in a lawsuit. In states with at-fault insurance models, accident victims can generally claim the entire amount of lost property irrespective of their own insurance coverage.

Lost Income – Accident victims can claim lost income if their injuries keep them from working for any amount of time. This sort of claim accounts for already lost income as well as future losses as estimated by doctors and attorneys.

Accident victims can also claim pain-and-suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of day-to-day hobbies and activities. These final three claims are a bit more difficult to prove because they are not so easily quantifiable. Still, they are options.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are claimed and awarded as a means of punishing defendants whose conduct leading to the accident has been deemed reckless, extremely careless, or particularly egregious. Punitive damages are designed to motivate the defendant to never engage in such behavior again. Know that most states have put a limit on the size of punitive damage awards so as to keep them reasonable.

States also have additional tools in place to keep punitive damage awards from getting out of hand. Three of the most commonly used tools are comparative negligence, contributory negligence, and failure to mitigate damages after an accident. As legal doctrines, all three tools take a good look at everyone involved in a crash and their roles leading up to, and following, the accident.

By utilizing the tools, states seek to prevent guilty drivers from being punished by juries beyond what is considered reasonable. This helps keep punitive damage awards in check.

Now you know what you can actually claim should you ever be involved in a car accident case. Hopefully you will never have need to contact a personal injury attorney after a car crash. It is far better to avoid a crash altogether than have to go through the legal process in hopes of recovering damages.