Car crashes often result in both immediate and long-term harm for those involved, as well as for wider society. According to a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical expenses and productivity losses due to motor vehicle accidents exceeded $99 billion.
While the cost to an individual accident victim is unlikely to number in the billions of dollars, many suffer substantial financial and other losses. Filing a lawsuit is one way to seek legal compensation for economic and other types of harm.
Financial losses compose the bulk of many damages awards in car accident cases. Crashes can cause victims to lose money in a number of ways. Many people spend money on medical treatments, medications and assistive devices. They may need to hire help for performing daily tasks they can no longer do themselves. Injuries can cause missed days at work and even job loss. When calculating economic damages, plaintiffs also need to take into account likely future losses. This can involve projecting how much money he or she would have earned in the future if not for the injury, as well as likely future medical expenses. Expert testimony on these topics can serve to back up the plaintiff’s demand.
Physical and emotional harm
Most people understand that suffering a car wreck does not only cause you to lose money. Damages for pain and suffering compensate for physical pain, humiliation, emotional distress and other non-financial factors that can decrease ability to live a full life.
The majority of car accident cases will not include a demand for punitive, or exemplary, damages, although such a demand can be appropriate in a few instances. Generally, if the at-fault driver caused the accident because he or she was intoxicated or otherwise engaging in outstandingly bad behavior. In many such cases, that driver may also face criminal charges. A conviction can serve as support for a punitive damages demand, but is not required, as a civil case demands a lower level of evidence than a criminal one.