If you were involved in a car accident that left you seriously injured, you may be considering filing a lawsuit to help recover damages. But just exactly what are “damages,” and which ones may apply to you?
What are Damages in a Car Accident Lawsuit?
The term “damages” refers to monetary compensation that a plaintiff may be awarded in a lawsuit. A court awards damages to help make an injured party “whole,” or to restore him or her to the position he or she was in (or as close as possible) before the injury occurred.
In a car accident lawsuit in particular, if you’re asking the court to award you damages, you’re usually asking them to order the other driver—whom you may believe was at-fault for the accident—or another potentially liable party, to pay these damages to you.
All damages are not the same, though, and the court usually distinguishes between several different types. You, as the plaintiff, may be eligible to receive some or all of these damages. In general, there are three major types of damages:
- Compensatory: These are the most common and the most easily identifiable of the three damages, and are paid to “compensate” you for losses like medical expenses, lost wages, and property replacement.
- General: These are damages that cannot be readily tied to a dollar amount, and include pain and suffering, a shortened life expectancy, and mental anguish.
- Punitive: These are awarded for the sole purpose of punishing the defendant for his or her conduct.
Recoverable Damages in Your Car Accident Lawsuit
We can break it down further to see exactly what damages you could recover in a car accident lawsuit. The court may order the defendant to pay you for:
- Property damage: Most likely your vehicle was damaged in the car accident. These damages would help pay to restore or replace that vehicle. If you had other property in the car that was damaged, those costs may also be figured into this award.
- Medical expenses: If you have proof of your medical expenses, the court may order the defendant to pay those back. If you’re expecting to have to pay for more surgeries, treatments, therapies, and prescriptions in the future, the court may figure an estimated cost for these as well.
- Lost wages: If your injuries left you unable to work, the court may order you to be compensated for lost wages. If you can’t return to work in the future, your future lost wages may also be recoverable.
- Pain and suffering: This refers to any physical pain and discomfort that you suffered during and after the accident, but it may also include emotional or psychological suffering as well, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Loss of consortium: This is a legal term used to describe the loss of a partner or spouse’s physical companionship, including a sexual relationship. If you or a passenger in your vehicle was injured in such a way that it affects your relationship, you could be eligible for these damages.
- Loss of enjoyment: A car accident can change your life. You may find that your injuries make it more difficult to enjoy the activities you once enjoyed, or to go about your life as you did before. If you can no longer take part in your day-to-day activities, or in the hobbies that you used to enjoy, you may be entitled to compensation for these losses.
Your car accident lawyer can help you determine which damages you’ll be most likely to prove in court, which can help you determine whether or not to move forward with your case.