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What are damages in a car injury case?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you could be entitled to damages. But what are “damages” exactly?

There are entire libraries full of books about the different kinds of damages that injured people can claim for any number of reasons. In a car accident case, the two most common kinds of damages are for medical expenses and for pain and suffering.

Even then, those two general damages categories can be broken down into two categories, past and future. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Damages for past medical expenses is pretty easy to explain and understand. If you’re injured in a car crash and you got medical treatment to try and heal your injury or injuries, that treatment cost you or an insurance company money. You (or your insurance company in some cases) are entitled to get that money back. That’s money that you (or an insurance company) wouldn’t have had to spend if you hadn’t been hurt.

Future medical expenses is much less concrete. It’s more of an educated guess that your doctor or doctors make about whether you will need to keep getting medical treatment for your injury in the future, what kind of treatment that is, how long you’ll need it, and how much it will cost. Future medical expenses are much more speculative, but if you’ll need continuing medical care in the future, you’re entitled to make a claim for it.

Slightly more speculative are damages for past pain and suffering and future pain and suffering.

Lots of people scoff at the idea that you can put a price tag on pain and suffering. The honest truth is that no amount of money can truly compensate you for the pain, anxiety, stress, and general inconvenience that a injury could cause. But it’s also true that the time you spend going to see the doctor, resting, rehabbing, and doing whatever else you need to do to try and get better after a car accident injury has value.

There’s no question that you’d rather be doing anything other than going to see doctors multiple times per week if you could avoid it, right? And how much money would you pay NOT to be in pain, or lose sleep because you’re uncomfortable, and deal with the preoccupation that trying to recover from an injury entails? I bet it’s a lot.

THAT’S what pain and suffering damages represent. Partly, anyway.

Another way to look at pain and suffering damages, or what are sometimes called “general damages,” is to turn the focus away from what actually happened to you, the injured person, and put it on the person who changed your life for the worse when they hurt you in the car accident.

About that term, by the way – “car accident.” It’s really a crash, or a wreck. To call it an “accident” really removes the blame from the person who caused it, right? If you’re ever around kids (I have three), you know that when they do something wrong, they try to get out of trouble by saying “it was just an accident!” But that doesn’t change the fact that they did something wrong.

The same thing applies to car crashes. It’s very unlikely that the driver who rear-ended you or T-boned you in that intersection meant for it to happen. But the reason the crash happened at all is because that driver was doing something unsafe, whether it was speeding, messing with his phone, talking to his friend in the car, or not understanding how close she was to you before it was too late, or being so distracted that he didn’t see you at all until the crash happened.

That person’s unsafe behavior is what hurt you. It doesn’t matter whether you were just sore for a couple of days or if you had to go through a back surgery and three years of traction – those are all conceivable outcomes of the failure to drive a car safely. There are rules of the road for a reason – because if you don’t follow them, really bad things can happen.

There are literally hundreds of motor vehicle related deaths in Kentucky every year, and next to none of them happen because the at-fault person intended to hurt someone. It’s because they weren’t driving safely. That failure to be safe is what should concern a jury when they’re deciding how much money your pain and suffering damages are worth, too.

There are several other categories of damages that are related to car crashes, too, including loss of consortium or companionship of the injured person, in some cases punitive damages, and damages for certain things the liability insurance company could have done while handling the case.

I’ve handled claims and questions about car crashes my entire career. If you or someone you love is looking for quality, trusted legal advice, give us a call at 502-633-6002 today for a free consultation.