The Factors that Determine Damages in a Motor Vehicle Accident Claim
When you have been hurt in a motor vehicle accident because of the wrongful acts or carelessness of another driver, the impact can be immediate and devastating. You may have significant medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance. You may be unable to work because of your injuries. You may have to give up activities that you love because of the persistent pain caused by your injuries. The immediacy of your losses and your needs can make you receptive to a quick settlement offer. Unfortunately, many insurers and defense attorneys know that and may use that to try to get you to settle for less than you need and deserve. How can you know if a settlement offer is fair and whether it’s in your best interests to accept such an offer?
Before you can have any idea of the fairness of a settlement offer, you need to have a sense of what your case is worth. That requires an understanding of the types of losses for which you can be compensated. Here’s a general overview of the different types of “damages” available in a personal injury lawsuit:
- Compensatory damages — The bulk of damages available in a personal injury claim are referred to as “compensatory” damage, intended to represent the value of what you have lost because of the accident. Compensatory damages are further subdivided between “economic” damages and “non-economic” damages. Economic damages are those that are easily translated into monetary terms, such as lost income, unreimbursed medical expenses or property damage. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are less tangible, making it more difficult to determine their monetary value. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life (the inability to do those things that previously brought you enjoyment or happiness).
- Punitive damages — In limited circumstances, where the actions of the defendant were recklessly, egregiously or outrageously careless, an injured person may ask the court for punitive damages. The objective of punitive damages is primarily two-fold—to punish the wrongdoer and to act as a deterrent to others who might engage in similar behavior.
Additional Factors that May Have an Impact on a Settlement Offer
When evaluating a settlement offer, there are several other criteria to consider:
- Does the offer reasonably compensate you for past and future losses? — You have a right to compensation for future, as well as past, injury and loss. If you will need long-term physical therapy or rehab, the settlement offer should include that. If you won’t be able to return to work because of your injuries, you should also be compensated for that.
- Were you responsible in any way for the accident? — It’s not uncommon for both parties to an accident to have engaged in some degree of negligence. In Texas and in most states, the legal principle of comparative negligence serves to allocate financial responsibility to both parties when both have contributed to the cause of the accident. As a general rule, a comparative negligence approach determines the full amount of your loss, as well as the degree (stated as a percentage of fault) to which you were liable. The total damage award is then reduced by that percentage. Accordingly, if you are considering a settlement offer, but you expect that the defendant will be able to argue comparative negligence, you may need to discount the offer.
- What are your prospects for success at trial? – There are many factors that can have an impact on this determination. Were there witnesses to the accident (or will it be your word vs. the defendant’s word?)? How credible are your witnesses? Are there other evidentiary or proof issues that could affect a trial?
Contact the Proven Personal Injury Lawyers at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to anyone who has been hurt in a motor vehicle accident. To set up an appointment with an experienced car accident injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call us at 844-402-2992. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.