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Accident Damages is probably the easiest element to prove. I say this because if you are in a car accident, you can simply point at your car and you are done.
There are some more details that you need to be aware of. For negligence or fault to exist, damages must occur to either the car or to you (injuries).
Proving damages will get harder and harder if you wait to report a claim or if you delay going to the doctor. Calling your adjuster and complaining of headaches will not provide documentation of your injury, however if you go into the emergency room, you can have your damages and symptoms documented. This is true even if you are just getting a checkup.
If you have no damages, it does not matter how negligent the other person was. You will be entitled to nothing. So if there is a 1 MPH accident and there is no damage to your bumper, you will not be compensated.
When I talk about accident damages, I am really talking about compensatory damages. What does this mean? This means that you will be put in the same situation you were just before the accident (as defined by case law). That is the objective of tort law (and insurance). Note that the objective is to compensate and NOT to punish the person that caused the accident.
This is a rather bad approach to damages. You will NEVER be back to the same position you were in just before the car accident. Your pain will not go away, your bones will not be the same, and your car will be fixed with used parts or non-manufacturer parts (if it is fixable). So what are they compensating then?
The insurance company will try to compensate you by making monetary payments. The monetary payments can help you recover and feel better, but they will not achieve what they are supposed to achieve (put you back on the position you were in prior the accident).
This is why I believe websites like this can help you maximize your recovery. You are not compensated for hassle and for time lost when dealing with the claim, therefore you must learn how to document all your damages to minimize your loss.
There are several types of damages, but damages in car accidents are generally divided into two main categories (the easy and the hard one, you will see why), Special and General Damages.
These accident damages encompass recovery of all economic losses and expenses that you have suffered because of the car wreck. The key here is the word EXPENSES.
How will the insurance company know what expenses you had incurred? They will look at receipts and written documents. These damages are easier to calculate because you can add up the damages to your car, the emergency bill, medicine, loss wages, and so on.
In most cases, there is not much of a dispute regarding your emergency bill. It is what it is. Typically, the problems and issues arise when you have loss of wages or loss of business income.
If you are self employed or an independent contractor, then you are going to need large amounts of documentation to justify your income.
The situation really gets ugly (an attorney is already necessary) when the accident has incapacitated you from future wages. If you are going to lose future income, then you need to account for those losses before you settle your claim (this can be difficult to do).
The majority rule in the United States is to compensate your lost wages BEFORE tax dollars. Most jurisdictions will allow you to keep your accident damages award without taxing you.
If you do have to calculate future lost wages and future medical care (a nurse, or more chiropractic care) then the insurance carrier will discount those payments to present value. They will pay you what your award is worth in the future with today’s dollar value, meaning they will discount the interest you would earn on the future day of the settlement.
Special damages are tangible and in most cases can simply be added. General Damages are much more complicated (litigated).
They are called this because the law assumes that if you were wronged (someone is negligent to you), then damages generally flow out of their conduct. The most known term for compensatory general damages is “pain and suffering.” This is just one small category within a bigger one.
General damages are those that we cannot account for. How much is your pain worth? Is a three-day headache worth more than a day of knee pain? These are questions that only a jury can answer.
This is why the way insurance companies evaluate injury claims is directly related to jury awards in your local jurisdiction.
The insurance carrier will try to “buy” your lawsuit for less than they would have to pay if they got in front of a jury. Some adjusters will however try to decrease those payments so they earn a bonus at the end of the year.
So what general damages are you entitled to?
Pain and Suffering
Loss of Consortium (loss of companionship)
Hedonic damages (reduced quality of life)
Future pain and suffering
Because these categories are hard to evaluate, hiring a good attorney will be critical to your claim.
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