There are multiple different types of damages you may claim in a personal injury lawsuit if you have suffered injuries in a car accident (or in a bus, truck or motorcycle accident). The primary form of damages is for medical expenses, but you may also claim damages for lost wages, lost earning capacity (which is your lost ability to earn future wages), pain and suffering, and/or loss of affection (which is commonly referred to as “loss of consortium”).
This article focuses on the basic types of damages that one injured in a car accident may seek as compensation for one’s losses.
Medical expenses are for your medical care and treatment, including the reasonable value or expense of hospitalization and medical care and treatment necessarily or reasonably obtained in the past or to be so obtained in the future.
Injuries in a car accident may be as minor as a few cuts and bruises or as serious as paralysis (or some other permanent disability). Keep in mind that some injuries may not evidence symptoms at first. In other words, it may take several days or weeks for you to feel the full extent of y our injuries. Thus, it is extremely important to undergo a thorough medical examination immediately following a car accident to try and determine the full extent of your injuries.
Medical expenses that can be claimed as damages due to a car accident may include (but are not limited to) any of the following:
- Physical therapy;
- Cognitive therapy (if a brain injury);
- Ambulance fees;
- Medical bills for treatment with doctors, hospitals, chiropractors and other health care professionals;
- Medical Devices and Accessories, such as a TENS unit, crutches and heating pads;
- Disfigurement (see Pain and Suffering, below);
- Permanent disability;
- In-home services (even if non-medical).
If your doctor believes you will need additional future medical treatment or therapy, your attorney may assist you in trying to calculate an estimate of the cost of your future care. Your doctors and other health care providers can also help with these estimates.
Note: If a negligent driver is liable for the death of another, the surviving family of the decedent may have a legal claim for wrongful death in addition to any medical costs the decedent incurred between the accident and time of death.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages are meant to compensate one for mental or physical distress. The amount of these damages is based on: (1) the severity of injury, (2) the seriousness of the pain suffered, and (3) the likelihood of future pain associated with the injury. Pain and suffering may also include any mental and/or emotional damage from the incident, such as resulting anxiety or stress. In short, in Florida, pain and suffering damages include losses due to disability or physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience and/or loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.
Note: in order to qualify for pain and suffering damages in Florida, the injured party must have suffered a permanent injury:
“In any action of tort brought against the owner, registrant, operator, or occupant of a motor vehicle with respect to which security has been provided as required by ss. 627.730-627.7405, or against any person or organization legally responsible for her or his acts or omissions, a plaintiff may recover damages in tort for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of:
(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
(b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
(c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Lost Wages, Lost Time, and Lost Earning Capacity
After a car accident, your injuries may cause you to miss work and lose wages. You may be too sore to go to work. Or you may be unable to work due to attendance at physical therapy sessions, time spent in the hospital, problems with mobility, or other factors.
For example, if you earn $20.00 an hour and you missed a week of work, you may lose out on $800.00 in compensation ($20.00*40 hours = $800.00). You should seek compensation from the at-fault driver for your $800.00 in lost wages.
Lost Earning Capacity
Lost earning capacity means the loss of ability to earn money in the future. You must be able to establish that your injuries have impaired or diminished your ability to earn money in the future. These calculations are largely based on your past earnings. An insurance adjuster or jury will consider multiple factors such your age, occupation, skill, experience, and life expectancy.
Spouse’s Loss of Consortium and Services | Loss of Affection or Companionship
If you are married, an injury sustained in a car accident could deprive you and your spouse of the ability to show affection, including sexual activity or intimacy. In legal terms, this is referred to as a “loss of consortium.” Interestingly, these types of losses are not claimed by the spouse injured in the accident. Instead, the loss of affection, companionship, and/or consortium are claimed by the uninjured spouse. A sample jury instruction in Florida would read: “On the claim brought by the wife, you should award the wife an amount of money which the greater weight of the evidence shows will fairly and adequately compensate the wife for any loss by reason of her husband’s injury, of his services, comfort, society and attentions in the past and in the future caused by the incident in question.”
Get a Free Analysis of Your Legal Damages Today
You may be entitled to one or more of the above damages in a personal injury claim or lawsuit if car accident injuries have impacted your life or the lives of those closest to you. Do not delay. Have your claim reviewed by an experienced attorney with a free case evaluation. You will then have a better understanding of how you may be fully compensated for the harm you or your family has suffered. Call us today at 850-898-9904.