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What Damages Can I Collect From A Car Accident?



Very few people likely make it through life without having a car accident. While most of these are minor, resulting in damage to vehicles and leaving vehicle occupants unharmed, a significant number are more serious. Of the 5,250,837 police-reported car crashes in 2020, 1,593,390 led to injuries, and another 35,766 resulted in fatalities.

Like many others, you may be uncertain about what kind of damages you could collect after a car accident, especially if you sustained injuries in the crash. The damages you are eligible for will depend on who is at fault and your state’s laws for car insurance and personal injury claims.

The Role of Fault in Determining Damages

While most believe that the person who caused a car accident pays for the damages, the reality is less clear-cut. More than one person may be responsible for a collision, even when it appears otherwise. Sometimes joint responsibility is logical. At other times, assigning blame to multiple parties is a tactic used by insurance companies to lower their costs. If a car crash leads to a lawsuit, the courts may attribute liability to more than one party.

If you are in an accident, your role in the collision is vital in determining the damages you can collect. When seeking compensation, you must demonstrate that the other driver caused the accident before the at-fault driver’s insurance company will offer a settlement. However, if you don’t have solid evidence, you may find that the insurance company leaves you on the hook for all or part of the damages.

When a crash leads to serious injuries, most states allow the injured party to seek damages through the legal system. If you were hurt in a car crash, you might wish to file a personal injury claim to recover your losses. Though most lawsuits settle out of court, both sides negotiate a settlement based partly on evidence of liability. If you have any liability in the accident, it can significantly impact the outcomes of your case, though how much depends on your state’s negligence laws.

The Impact of State Laws

Two types of state laws impact the damages you can collect. The first is your state’s car insurance laws, and the second is the personal injury laws.

Understanding Auto Insurance Laws

Every state establishes laws governing financial responsibility for drivers. These laws stipulate what residents need to do to demonstrate that they can pay for damages when they cause an accident. Most require drivers to carry liability coverage.

In at-fault car insurance states, the at-fault driver’s insurance covers property and bodily injury damages up to the policy’s limits. Physical injury damage includes medical bills, a per diem for household help and a portion of lost wages. However, the insurance company may only pay a percentage of the total covered damages if the claimant is partially responsible.

In no-fault car insurance states, drivers file claims with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for property damage but their own insurance provider for bodily injury damages. No-fault states require drivers to have personal injury protection. PIP coverage pays for medical expenses, household help costs and a portion of missed wages, regardless of who is to blame for the accident. If you live in a no-fault state, your insurer is supposed to cover your injuries sustained in a car crash.

Understanding Personal Injury Laws

Several laws come into play in determining whether and what damages you can collect for a car accident. These laws are relevant when filing a lawsuit to recover your losses.

Serious Injury Threshold

If you sustained serious injuries in a car accident due to another person’s negligence, you might be able to recover more damages using legal avenues than you can file an insurance claim. The first hurdle in filing is proving that you have a valid lawsuit. Most states set an injury threshold that you must pass before the state allows you to sue the other party. Though each state words its definition of serious injuries differently, they all generally include the following types:

If your injuries meet the criteria, you can file a lawsuit to pursue damages. A car accident lawyer can help you determine whether your injuries qualify in your state.

Recoverable Damages

State laws vary on their laws for recoverable damages. However, most include both economic and non-economic costs. Monetary damages are those you can put a definitive dollar amount on, even if you have yet to incur the costs. You can recover past and future medical, rehabilitation and therapy expenses. You can pursue compensation for all lost wages past and future and a loss of future earning potential. Economic damages also include property damage.

Non-economic damages are those you can’t link to a direct monetary expense or loss. Instead, this form of compensation is subjective. The most well-known form of non-economic damage is pain and suffering. Still, other types include disfigurement, disability, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of community or companionship, loss of consortium and reputational harm.

Some states also allow plaintiffs to pursue punitive damages. Recovering an award for punitive damages is rare, as states limit the right to collect them only to cases involving egregious or intentionally harmful behavior. Many states place caps on non-economic and punitive damages. A car accident lawyer knows how to determine which damages you are eligible for and how to calculate your total losses.

Negligence Rules

Another type of state law that impacts the outcome of your legal claim is the negligence rule your state follows. The two primary forms of negligence rule most states follow are pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence (also referred to as modified contributory negligence). In both cases, the percentage of awarded damages you are eligible to receive depends on your role in the accident.

If you live in a pure comparative negligence state, you can recover damages even if you were 99% at fault in the accident. However, you can only get a portion of the awarded settlement. The amount you receive equals the award minus your percentage of fault.

Modified comparative fault states work similarly up to a liability threshold. In these states, once you pass an established point, you forfeit your right to receive compensation. Some states set the threshold at 50%, and others put it at 51%.

The Benefit of a Car Accident Lawyer

Though you may be eligible to receive damages for a car accident through an insurance company or legal claim, recovering a fair settlement is not always easy. A car accident lawyer can help you through the process and may improve your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve.

An experienced attorney understands the laws and how insurers and defense attorneys operate. The legal team can also help you build a solid case, gathering evidence and professional testimony. They will protect your rights and go toe-to-toe with claims adjusters and defense lawyers. When you have a lawyer on your side, you can let legal professionals handle the heavy lifting while you focus on your recovery.

The Lawyers Who Can Help You Obtain a Fair Settlement

If you sustained injuries in a car crash, you may be eligible for more damages than the insurance company would lead you to believe. The car accident lawyers at Big Auto are here to help you recover your losses. We have the experience and knowledge you need to fight for fair compensation. Get in touch with us today to schedule a free case review.