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Car Accident Compensation

A car accident can change your life in just a few seconds, whether it’s a head-on collision or a rear-end fender bender.

Some impacts of a car accident are easily quantified—the cost of repairing or replacing your car, the fee for an ambulance ride to the hospital, or a doctor’s bill. But other impacts are harder to calculate and may last a lifetime.

Perhaps you’re dealing with a common car accident injury. A broken bone mends in a few weeks; cuts and bruises heal; your car comes back from the body shop looking like new. Car accident compensation covers these kinds of things and, with time, they fade from memory.

But money can’t restore a lost limb and all the effects that an accident has on your lifestyle; it can’t rewind the trauma of your car spinning out of control; it can’t bring back a spouse or child killed in a crash; and it can’t change the grief and loss you feel.

What compensation for a car accident can do is cover your expenses as you try to recover and move on with your life.

In this article, we’ll cover the various kinds of car accident compensation you can pursue, regardless of the car accident’s cause. In many cases, you can benefit greatly from having the help of an experienced car accident lawyer in negotiating a fair settlement for the damages you’ve suffered.

Types of Car Accident Damages

There are two broad categories of car accident damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Most of the time, you’ll only be able to seek compensatory damages. In most car accident injury cases, punitive damages are not an option.

Compensatory Damages

The phrase compensatory damages refers to money awarded to compensate you for out-of-pocket costs you incur as a result of a car accident, or for the pain and suffering you experience as a result of an accident.

Any accident damages that are granted to you to reimburse you for money you spent are known as economic damages. Accident damages for pain and suffering are known as noneconomic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are fairly straightforward; because they’re compensation for money you’ve spent, it’s not hard to calculate the dollar amount you’re owed.

Under economic damages, you can seek reimbursement for virtually anything you’ve had to pay for as a result of your car accident. The key is providing documentation that links each cost to the accident.

Below are common items that fall under economic damages.

  • Property damage: Primarily, property damage compensation covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle. It can also cover property that was inside your car and was damaged or destroyed during an accident—typically higher-value items. In other words, not your coffee mug or your breath mints, but perhaps your new laptop or your favorite guitar.
  • Medical expenses: Compensation for medical expenses encompasses any and all things related to the treatment of injuries you sustained in a car accident. This can include money spent on:
    • Ambulance rides
    • A hospital stay
    • Doctors’ visits
    • Transportation to doctors’ visits
    • Medical devices (e.g., a prosthetic leg, a portable oxygen tank, or a wheelchair)
    • Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter
    • Rehabilitation or occupational or physical therapy
    • At-home nursing care
  • Lost wages: The phrase lost wages is used to refer to financial losses you incur due to not being able to work while recovering from an accident-related injury. It also applies to:
    • Bonuses you could have earned if you were able to work
    • Reduced capacity to work—for instance, perhaps you used to work as an executive, but your accident-related injuries forced you to take a lower-paying job
    • Permanent disability, in cases where the severity of your injuries renders you unable to work
  • Funeral and burial costs: If a family member is killed in a car accident, you can seek compensatory damages for costs related to their funeral and burial.

Noneconomic Damages

Noneconomic damages, which are compensation for pain and suffering you’ve endured as a result of a car accident, are difficult to estimate because they have no direct link to a dollar amount. Generally, noneconomic damages increase with the severity of an accident.

Here are a few things that can be considered for noneconomic damages:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress—for example, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Disability and disfigurement
  • Loss of consortium—a fancy legal term to describe changes in the benefits you enjoy in a relationship; for example:
    • If you were supporting your spouse financially but you’re no longer able to do so because of your injuries, your spouse is experiencing loss of consortium.
    • If you’re in constant pain because of your injuries and unable to emotionally support your spouse or child, they’re experiencing loss of consortium.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages refer to auto-accident compensation that penalizes someone whose egregious negligence was responsible for an accident that caused harm to others.

According to Section 3294 of the California Civil Code, in order for punitive damages to apply to a civil liability claim, the defendant must be “guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice.”

The only one of these three descriptors that is likely to apply to an auto-accident compensation case is malice, which the law defines as “conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.”

In other words, punitive damages only apply to compensation after a car accident if the person who caused the accident deliberately set out to hurt others or showed extreme disregard for others’ safety.

What kind of accident fits that description? Suppose you’re the victim of a drunk driving accident. Drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs can be seen as extreme negligence. Another example might be a road rage incident in which a driver deliberately used their vehicle to hurt someone.

Can I Afford a Car Accident Attorney?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident and are seeking compensation, you might be looking at your mounting medical bills and assuming that you can’t afford an attorney’s help. But before you plunge fully into settlement talks with the insurance company, there are a couple of things you should know.

First, the Bakersfield car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark (and many other personal injury lawyers) work on a contingency basis. This means that their receiving payment depends on them winning a settlement or trial for you. You won’t need to pay anything upfront. Your lawyer will be paid a small percentage of your final settlement. So if you don’t receive a settlement, you won’t owe us anything.

Second, some aspects of seeking compensation for a car accident in which you were injured or someone was killed are complex. How do you prove that a car accident caused your pain and suffering? What dollar value is fair compensation for a facial disfigurement or the loss of your spouse?

Insurance companies know that when they’re negotiating directly with a plaintiff, they can probably get away with a lower settlement. Enlisting the help of a car accident attorney is almost always a good value because your final settlement amount is likely to be much higher than if you represent yourself. Your lawyer knows whether you’ve been offered an appropriate amount of car accident compensation and won’t let you get snookered by the insurance company.

Reach Out to a Bakersfield Car Accident Lawyer

If you’ve been injured or have lost a family member due to a car accident, the Bakersfield car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark can help you get fair car accident compensation through an insurance settlement or, if necessary, through a lawsuit. 

Recovering from a car accident is hard enough; with appropriate compensation for your injuries, you can at least put your financial worries to rest. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.

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