Being involved in a serious car crash can be a harrowing experience for car accident victims. Unfortunately, for some of these victims, the personal injury lawsuit process can be just as distressing. But the legal process to pursue compensation for your accident-related injuries doesn't have to be prohibitively intimidating. Learning about what you can expect during a car accident lawsuit can help assuage or address your concerns, as can sitting down with a trustworthy and experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your case.
Sources of Compensation for Damages
In personal injury cases, the damages that accident victims can seek fall into two categories: special or general damages, also known as economic or non-economic damages, respectively.
Special damages, sometimes called out-of-pocket losses, are those that are both specific and well-documented, and for which money is an appropriate form of compensation. This category of damages can include:
- Medical costs, such as bills for trips to the emergency room, urgent care or other doctor visits; related tests and treatments; and physical therapy.
- Long-term medical costs, such as extensive treatments and rehabilitation related to injuries sustained in the accident.
- Necessary supportive care, such as nursing care or other in-home assistance needed while recovering from your injuries or permanently.
- Property damage costs, including reimbursement for vehicle repairs.
- Lost wages if your injuries, treatment, or rehabilitation causes you to miss work.
- Loss of future earning potential if you're no longer able to perform your job duties and, as a result, are required to accept a lower-paying position.
Unlike special damages, general damages are those for which a financial award can only serve as an approximation of the losses incurred. Thus, these non-economic damages are more subjective and harder to quantify. In personal injury cases, general damages can include:
- Physical pain and suffering caused by your accident-related injuries
- Mental anguish caused by the accident and related injuries
- Emotional issues following the accident, such as distress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of society and companionship
- Lifestyle changes or loss of enjoyment of life
Sometimes settlements can also include punitive damages, which are those intended to punish the defendant for the purpose of deterring future reckless or malicious behavior.
Understanding the Value of Your Case
Each case is unique, which can make estimating the value of a personal injury case difficult. However, using a personal injury damages formula can give you an estimate of what your car accident case is worth.
To determine the approximate value of your case, begin by calculating the economic damages to which you may be entitled. Once you've totaled those special damages, multiply them to estimate your non-economic or general damages. In most personal injury cases, the used is between 1.5 and 5; however, in particularly egregious cases, a higher multiplier may be used. Add the economic and non-economic damages, and you have an idea of what your case might be worth.
Time Frame for Resolving a Case
In most states, accident victims have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue compensation for their injuries. Failing to file during that two-year period may result in your case being thrown out, no matter how strong it may be.
Once the personal injury process is started, it can take anywhere from weeks to years to resolve your car accident case, depending on whether you accept a settlement offer during the negotiations process or decide to take the case all the way to trial.
How Settlements Work
During the negotiations process, attorneys for both sides present alternating offers until they can come to an agreement. If the defendant's legal counsel fails to make an appropriate or fair offer, the case may go to trial, where the financial award, if any, is decided by a judge or jury.
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you were injured in a car accident, the skilled legal team with the McGartland Law Firm is eager to use its 30 years of experience handling personal injury cases to fight on your behalf. To schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case, call our law office at 866-957-5141 or complete our online contact form today.