We all get hurt from time to time. While some injuries are barely noticeable, others can make navigating life seem impossible. Due to the extreme forces involved, injuries from car accidents can be particularly painful and debilitating. Treating them may require intensive medical intervention over several weeks, months, or years. And the psychological consequences of suffering injuries in a car accident can last far longer than the physical ones.
Yet many people do not realize just how financially costly these injuries can be. Medical treatment alone can cost tens of thousands of dollars. While receiving treatment and recovering, you may be unable to go to work and earn a living. Some injured people suffer disabilities that prevent them from ever returning to their jobs.
If your injuries happened because of another person’s negligence, you have the right to claim compensation for your losses. Car accident claims address the following categories of losses: physiological, psychological, and financial.
More practically, the compensation you could receive from a car accident claim could provide you with money for:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
Every case is unique, so consulting with an experienced car accident attorney can help you assess the amount you stand to recover based on your losses in each of these categories.
Current and Future Medical Expenses
After a car accident, medical expenses can accumulate quickly. Yet if you were not at fault for the accident, you should not have to bear the financial cost of the medical attention you require. As such, you have the right to claim compensation for any medical expenses relating to your accident-related injuries.
- Emergency room visits
- Ambulance rides and EMT assistance
- Appointments with your primary care doctor
- Appointments with medical specialists
- Diagnostic tests and scans (X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, etc.)
- Home health care
- Medical equipment (crutches, braces, wheelchairs)
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Mental health therapy
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Transportation and accommodation costs if you must travel to receive treatment
- Household assistance such as cleaning or childcare if you are unable to perform these tasks due to your injuries
Seeking medical attention immediately following an accident will improve your chances of effective recovery. It will also strengthen your accident claim because insurers will be more likely to recognize the severity of your injuries and the necessity of your treatments. Furthermore, you should consult a medical professional after any car accident, even if you do not believe you have suffered injuries. The effects of some injuries, like concussions and organ damage, are not immediately noticeable but can become life-threatening without timely attention.
You can also optimize your financial recovery by maintaining records of your accident-related expenses.
Retain paperwork such as:
- Records from emergency medical services, including emergency room visits and ambulance rides
- Diagnostic records of your injuries
- Lab and test results
- Visual images of your injuries (photographs, MRI, X-rays, etc.)
- Medical notes or reports from your physician and any specialists you visit
- Records that span the extent of any physical or occupational therapy you receive
- Coverage summaries from your health insurer
- Bills, invoices, and receipts connected to these documents
Injured people sometimes file a claim before their treatment is complete. In such cases, your personal injury lawyer can work with you to calculate the future costs of your injuries as well as the expenses you have already incurred. You have a right to claim these future costs too.
Many people are unable to return to work immediately after an accident. Some must miss a day or two while they seek care. Others have temporary disabilities that prevent them from returning to work for weeks or months. Some face a lifetime of impairment. Your car accident claim allows you to seek compensation for whatever income you have lost because of your injuries.
Succeeding in your compensation claim entails proving that the injuries you received from the accident kept you from working.
These documents can serve as evidence for your claim:
- Medical forms proving you cannot work (for example, a doctor’s note)
- Recent tax returns
- W-2 form
- Correspondence from your employer detailing your current employment and wages
Your car accident attorney can calculate your lost wages for you, but a little math can give you an indication of how much you could claim. If you earn money on an hourly basis, simply multiply your hourly pay by the number of work hours you have missed.
If you receive an annual salary, you will take an additional step. Divide your salary by 2,080, which is the number of work hours per year. Multiply the resulting figure by the number of hours you missed, and you will know how much money you should claim for your lost income.
Self-employed individuals have more complex calculations to make. You should work with your car accident attorney, who will assess your losses by reviewing your 1099 forms, invoices, and receipts.
Reduced Earning Capacity
Some disabilities from accident-related injuries can prevent a person from returning to their job. For example, a significant shoulder injury might prevent a construction worker from going back to work on a building site. Other injured people may have disabilities so severe that they are unable to return to work at all. Either of these situations might qualify you for compensation for the money you would have earned throughout your work-life expectancy if you had not been in the accident.
Lost earning capacity is a projection of future losses.
These losses are usually relevant to a claim involving serious injuries with long-term consequences, such as:
- Spinal cord/nerve damage resulting in paralysis
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Wrist injuries
- Severed limbs
- Third-degree burns
- Facial fractures
Lost earning capacity can be difficult to prove because it is, to some degree, hypothetical. Your attorney can calculate these losses by comparing your situation to similar cases in your jurisdiction. However, the insurance company might reject your claim. In such circumstances, you may need to file a lawsuit to recover your losses resulting from a reduced earning capacity.
If you go to court, your lawyer is likely to call on the services of a forensic accountant who can make a reasonable calculation of your likely future earnings before and after the accident. The forensic accountant can also assess whether you might be able to successfully transfer your skills to another line of work.
The expert will base their determination of your reduced earning capability on your:
- Residence and the location of your work
- Training and education
- Work history
- Talents, skills, and abilities
- Capacity to learn a new trade
- History of promotions, raises, and skill improvements
If your legal team can present a strong case on your behalf, a jury may award you significant compensation based on your reduced earning capacity.
Your car accident claim can help you recover compensation for your damaged property as well as your injuries. After your physical health, the most obvious source of concern after a car crash is likely repairing or replacing your vehicle. And items you had within your car might have sustained damage as well, from laptops and cell phones to jewelry and other personal items. If someone else caused a car accident that damaged it, you can pursue compensation to repair or replace it.
Further, you may have a property damage claim even if you were not an occupant of a vehicle. Car crashes that damage your home, fence, or landscaping may qualify you for compensation too.
Your settlement or verdict may address:
- Replacement value
- Repair costs
- Loss of use
- Subjective loss of sentimental value
Pain and Suffering
While many of the above categories involve dollar values, people who receive injuries in car accidents suffer non-economic losses as well. As such, you may be eligible to claim compensation for the pain and suffering you have experienced due to the accident.
These psychological losses include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of enjoyment of activities
- Physical pain
- Loss of companionship
As with all elements of your claim, you should gather evidence that can prove the amount of pain and suffering you have experienced.
For physical pain, this evidence includes:
- Photographs of your injuries
- Expert statements from medical professionals
- Bills from your prescription drugs
- A pain journal, where you present details of the levels of pain you have experienced each day since the accident
- Medical records demonstrating the nature and extent of your injuries
Psychological suffering can be harder to prove, but you can optimize your chances of recovery by providing:
- A daily journal where you present details of any changes of emotion or psychological anguish
- Expert testimony from mental health professionals that can provide more information about your psychological suffering
- Records of visits to counselors, psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists
- Records that indicate changes in your behavior, habits, or performance at work
Insurance adjusters tend to use a formula to determine compensation for pain and suffering. They will multiply your economic compensation by a number to reach a final settlement figure.
The multiplier they use will depend on:
- The clear and total fault of the other party
- Obvious medical injuries that medical documentation can support
- Catastrophic or serious injuries requiring surgical intervention
- The expectation of a prolonged recovery period
- Permanent consequences such as pain or disability
While your case will not need to fulfill all of these stipulations to receive compensation for pain and suffering, your multiplier will be higher if your injuries are more serious.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Car Accident Claim?
Many people believe they are capable of filing a car accident claim on their own. However, the process is complex and full of pitfalls. If you do not have experience navigating the world of personal injury law, you might not know the true value of your losses. A lack of understanding of how the process works can cause you to inadvertently devalue your claim.
Moreover, insurance companies are notorious for doing everything they can to avoid paying out large sums of money. Insurance adjusters are almost certain to question you in a way that may lead you to accept responsibility for the accident. You may not be fully aware of their tactics, but saying the wrong thing can cost you the compensation you deserve.
A good attorney will:
- Consult with you about your involvement in the accident, as well as how the injuries have affected your life
- Investigate the collision to determine how and why it happened and who is at fault
- Negotiate with the insurance company for a fair compensation package
- File a lawsuit if the insurer refuses to offer you the full compensation you deserve
These tasks can feel overwhelming or even impossible when you are recovering from life-altering injuries. When you hire the right personal injury attorney, you can rest assured that an experienced legal professional will handle every aspect of your case, allowing you to focus on regaining your health.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer for Your Car Accident Claim
Suffering injuries in a car accident can be both shocking and traumatic. Nobody should have to deal with the aftermath of an accident on their own. A seasoned car accident attorney will understand what you are experiencing because they have helped many people in similar positions. They will work to recover the compensation you deserve so that you can move on with dignity.
If have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, your Indianapolis personal injury lawyer can file a wrongful death claim. You may receive compensation for funeral and burial expenses, the pain and suffering your loved one experienced in their last moments, lost income for any dependents, and loss of companionship. While no amount of money can compensate for your loss, holding the at-fault party accountable can ensure that their negligence does not lead to further tragedy.