Auto accidents are, by their very nature, traumatic events which have short-term and long-term consequences. In the immediate aftermath, there will be at the very least some damage to the vehicle or vehicles involved and minor personal injury, but in some cases the consequences can be extremely serious indeed. Motor vehicles can be profoundly damaged or even totally destroyed. Drivers and passengers may be injured, crippled, or even killed. In cases where accident-related injuries are not life-threatening, victims of a car accident often lose wages due to absences from work caused by hospital stays or outpatient medical treatment.
These negative effects of a car accident are, of course, taken into consideration during the legal process of seeking fair compensation in a civil court. Issues such as the value of the vehicles which were destroyed or damaged, medical expenses incurred, or the wages lost by the victim due to the accident are measured. However, in determining financial compensation after a car accident, there are other factors that need to be considered by attorneys and insurance companies.
In cases related to car accidents, there are several kinds of damages which insurers have an obligation to pay compensation to the injured party for, including damage to property, medical costs incurred, emotional damages, “loss of enjoyment” issues (caused by missed family activities, time out from school, or a missed pleasure trip), and loss of wages due to time out from work.
In accident cases where another driver’s carelessness or reckless behavior is an aggravating factor, typical compensation is supplemented by punitive damages. Punitive damages, as the term implies, are intended to punish individuals who act with gross indifference to others’ lives and property by engaging in such activities as drag racing, speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and more. These damages have two purposes: to castigate the defendant for acting (or not acting) in such a manner that an accident occurred, and to discourage other drivers from engaging in reckless behavior or not maintaining their vehicles. Most states have set caps on punitive damage awards as a result of past multi-million dollar awards being given in court cases involving auto accidents.
The amount of any compensation, including medical reimbursement and those obligations that insurance companies are legally bound to pay, depends greatly on a plaintiff’s actions both during and after the accident. In most jurisdictions, the legal concept of comparative negligence is applied to car accident cases, meaning that if a plaintiff is found to be at least partially at fault, the amount of compensation can be reduced depending on the levels of the plaintiff’s personal contributing factors in the accident. Be aware; however, that some states have laws based on contributory negligence. These laws bar plaintiffs from receiving any compensation at all even if they were only partly to blame in the accident which resulted in personal injury. Additionally, failure to promptly seek medical treatment immediately after a crash and allowing injuries to worsen over time will reduce the amount of any compensation award.
CarAccidentLawyer.org advises retaining an attorney for representation for medical and financial claims.