There are three categories of damages that an injured person can potentially recover: (1) Economic damages; (2) Non-Economic damages; and (3) Physical Impairment damages.
a. Vehicle Damage
i. Car “Totaled”: If the insurance company declares your car a total loss, then you can recover the fair market value (FMV) of the car (minus the deductible if you are recovering from your own insurer). Insurers use valuation programs that often understate the FMV, so be sure to document and prove overlooked or undervalued elements of value.
ii. Car Not “Totaled”: You can recover the cost of repair plus the decrease in the FMV of the vehicle as repaired. However, if the cost of repair plus the decrease in the FMV of the vehicle as repaired is more than the FMV of the vehicle prior to the crash, then you can recover the pre-crash FMV of the vehicle.
b. Other Property Damage: Property inside the car is sometimes damaged in the car crash. You can recover the pre-crash FMV of destroyed property. You can recover the repair cost of damaged property (unless the cost of repair is more than the FMV, in which case you can recover the FMV).
You can recover the value of the loss of use of your car. Usually, the at-fault driver’s liability insurer provides a rental car. The provision of a rental car often covers the value of the loss of use of your car, but sometimes it doesn’t; e.g., they provide a rental car for less than the time you are deprived of your car; they provide a car of lesser quality than your car.
A car that has been in a wreck and then repaired is not worth as much as a car that has never been in a wreck. You can recover damages for the diminished value of your car.
a. Past Medical Expenses: You can recover your medical expenses incurred to date.
b. Future Medical Expenses: If you will need medical treatment in the future, then you can potentially recover the estimated cost of the future medical care.
a. Transportation: You can recover the costs of driving to and from medical appointments.
b. Other incidental/out of pocket expenses: You can recover incidental and out of pocket expenses such as the costs of non-prescription medicine.
a. Physical Pain and Suffering: You can recover damages for the physical pain and suffering caused by your injuries.
b. Mental/Emotional Distress: You can recover damages for the mental and emotional distress caused by your injuries.
If your injuries have prevented or reduced your ability to engage in activities of daily living (e.g., hobbies, sports, recreation, social activities, family activities, etc.) that make life enjoyable, then you can recover damages for the decrease in your enjoyment of life due to your injuries.
If you have suffered a permanent injury, then your body, or a part of your body, is physically impaired. You can recover damages for the physical impairment of your body.
The most common form of disfigurement is scars from wounds or from surgery. Other forms of disfigurement may include loss of muscle tone or a limp. You can recover damages for disfigurement.
Some of these elements of damages will apply in your case and some may not. And, the injured person has the burden of proving the existence and extent of his or her injuries and damages. Proving damages is a complex process. It involves not only the injuries suffered, but also an evaluation of the liability (fault) of the at-fault party and causation of the injuries (e.g., some symptoms may have been pre-existing; some pre-existing conditions may have been aggravated by the crash). Attorney Mac Hester has handled personal injury claims for over 30 years and is particularly knowledgeable and experienced in the evaluation of damages.