Types of Damage

Understanding How Damage is Defined and Calculated Following a Car Accident

After a car accident that leads to vehicular damage or physical injury, you will typically file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault party. Determining the cost of a car accident is a complex process that involves looking at a host of variables. The cost of property damage along with hospital and car repair bills are typically estimated by looking at receipts and quotes from similar damage or medical treatment. While there tends to be a monetary average associated with most kinds of property and vehicle damage, determining the cost of an injury is a substantially more complicated issue. From looking at how insurance adjusters and lawyers define different forms of damage to how you can calculate your own estimate, we answer your questions about how the value of accident compensation is determined.

What are general and special damages and how does one calculate pain and suffering?

Pain and suffering damages refer to any form of mental or physical distress incurred as the result of a car accident. A majority of states classify pain and suffering damages under noneconomic or general damages, and they are determined by the injury type and how much pain it caused. In contrast to economic damages (or special damages) that refer to quantifiable costs including lost wages and medical expense, determining the value of pain and suffering is far more intuitive. That said, when filing a claim for pain and suffering damages, you are required to provide a precise amount. The problem many individuals face when trying to calculate pain and suffering is that there is no one single method or equation to accurately estimate such damages. Rather, both the insurance company of the at-fault party and your lawyer will calculate different figures and attempt to reach a settlement amount during negotiations.

What types of damage can a plaintiff recover with a lawsuit?

While not every type of damage is listed below, here are the most common forms of legal compensation that a plaintiff usually seeks:

  • Consortium Loss - This refers to the loss of benefits a married couple may experience following a car accident. More specifically, it involves the loss of affection, comfort, companionship, relations, solace, and much more. Typically, the spouse of the injured party will file such a claim and if the other driver is found to be at-fault, the spouse will receive compensation for the loss of affection and companionship.

  • Disfigurement - If you have experienced scarring or other permanent disfigurement to your physical appearance, you may be able to recuperate damages for the mental suffering caused by your deformity. Disfigurement damages can also be added to other forms of damage, including mental anguish.

  • Ongoing Medical Expenses - A plaintiff may recover compensation for future damages if he or she can prove the injury caused by their accident requires continuous medical care. The jury will require adequate proof to estimate an approximate value, such as a professional medical opinion from the plaintiff's treating physician.

  • Household Service Expenses - If a plaintiff is required to hire a professional to manage their home while recovering from injuries that resulted from a car accident, and these expenses would not have been incurred otherwise, the costs can be recuperated.

  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life - If one experiences a substantially diminished capacity to enjoy the pleasures of daily life, loss of enjoyment of life can be factored into general or non-economic damages. This depends on the state though, because certain states treat loss of enjoyment as a special kind of damage, whereas others consider it a form of pain and suffering.

  • Loss of Companionship and Society - In car accidents that result in a loss of life, damages for loss of companionship and society can be recovered by the deceased’s immediate family members, who would have otherwise enjoyed positive benefits from their company. This includes love, comfort, companionship, and closeness.

  • Lost Earning Capacity - Following a severe car accident it’s common for the injured party or plaintiff, to miss work. In such a case, the plaintiff may be entitled to compensation for their lost earning capacity, as long as they can prove an impairment or diminished ability to earn money due to their injuries.

  • Lost Wages - Lost wages refer to the sum of money the plaintiff would have otherwise earned had they not been injured and forced to miss work. Additionally, someone who is unemployed can also recover lost wages as long as he or she demonstrates the amount of money they would have been able to earn had they not been injured.

  • Medical Expenses - A plaintiff may recover compensation for medical bills and related expenses if they can show the expenses were directly related to injuries caused by their car accident.

  • Mental Anguish - If a plaintiff endures mental suffering or emotional distress as a result of an accident, she or he can seek compensation for terror, PTSD, apprehension, anxiety, depression, embarrassment, grief, shock, humiliation and other forms of mental anguish.

  • Pain and Suffering - Damages for pain and suffering are among the most common damages that plaintiffs seek to recover compensation for. Pain and suffering damages refers to compensation for past and future physical pain stemming from a car accident.

  • Permanent Disability - Depending on the court in which one’s trial is held, permanent disability does not simply refer to those physical disabilities objectively determined by medical examination, but also disabilities subjectively perceived by the plaintiff. Special Damages - These refer to a general category of damages covering all monetary losses following an accident, such as medical expenses, as long as one shows detailed proof of their losses and an accounting of the money they spent.

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