You’ve been injured and it wasn’t your fault. Now you have medical bills, you’re missing work, and you’re in pain. You probably know that you may be entitled to accident compensation. You may try to settle with the insurance companies, but you also have the option to sue.
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How can you value your case to estimate the compensation you’re entitled to?
Car Accident Personal Injury Claim: When can I Sue?
When you’re hurt and medical bills start rolling in, it’s tempting to pursue litigation right away. You may be able to sue at an early stage in your recovery process, but at this time, you can expect to get a very small settlement offer.
Insurance companies typically wait until you’ve received all necessary medical treatment to pay claims. In legal terms, the point at which you’ve seen all your doctors, and undergone any necessary procedures, is called the point of “maximum medical improvement.”
In other words, you’ve healed as much as you’re ever going to heal. That way, they can deal with all the costs at once and close the issue rather than write several checks as you incur treatment costs over time.
Lesson one in valuing a personal injury claim is to be patient. It’s not easy, we know from experience, but it’s what’s best for you and your family.
Once you’ve reached the point of maximum medical improvement, it’s time to figure out the value of your personal injury claim.
Calculating your costs
How much money are you entitled to? One way courts calculate damages is based on the costs you’ve incurred as a result of your accident. These are typically fairly easy to calculate; you can keep track of them yourself to get an idea of what you’ll need to claim.
These are the easiest to track and calculate. They include all of your visits with doctors and specialists, any hospital stays, testing expenses, and the cost of any medication. If you are going to need regular ongoing care as a result of the injury, you will also be able to claim compensation for the cost of that care.
You can claim the value of any property that was destroyed and the repair costs of any damaged property. If you were injured in a car accident and your car was totaled, you’re entitled to compensation for the value of your car. If the accident destroyed your personal belongings, you’re entitled to those, too.
In addition to medical expenses and property damage, you can claim lost wages. Your injury put you out of work, meaning that you were prevented from earning the wages that you otherwise would have. If you missed a month of work, you’re entitled to a month of wages. If your injury is such that you won’t be able to do your job anymore and will have to take a lower-paying position, you can claim compensation for the money that you would have been able to earn in the future had it not been for the accident. This is called loss of earning capacity.
Additional methods for calculating compensation
The costs listed above are relatively concrete and relatively easily measurable. You may also be able to claim accident compensation for certain other reasons that are more difficult to measure. Because the measurement of these issues is so difficult, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney about what you can claim and in what amount.
Pain and Suffering
Your accident didn’t just leave you with medical expenses, property expenses, and lost wages. You had to deal with the pain from your injuries and you may experience ongoing pain for the rest of your life as a result of those injuries. The law may entitle you to monetary compensation for your suffering.
Compensation for emotional distress
In addition to your physical pain, you may be entitled to compensation for the emotional distress experienced as a result of the accident. That may include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, or other disorders. A serious accident can cause serious mental and emotional side effects and the law recognizes your right to compensation.
Loss of Enjoyment
If your injuries are going to prevent you from doing something you love, you may be entitled to compensation for that loss. If your injury is going to prevent you from participating in your hobbies and interests, you should receive compensation for that loss.
Loss of Consortium
Finally, your injury may prevent you from fully enjoying your relationship with your spouse and children. You may not be able to pick up your child anymore. You may not be able to maintain a physical relationship with your spouse. These are important parts of your life and you may be able to claim compensation for their loss.
If the activity or behavior that caused your injury was particularly careless or unreasonable, the court may choose to award punitive damages on top of any actual damages. Punitive damages are usually awarded in order to deter such behavior or activity in the future. For example, a court in Texas just gave a huge punitive damage award to a woman injured by transvaginal mesh surgical implants — her actual damages were over $20 million and the punitive damages were $50 million.
In Ohio, punitive damages are capped at either twice the compensatory damages or 10% of the net worth of the individual (up to $350,000) at the time of the accident, whichever is less. In Ohio, punitive damages will only be awarded if the defendant acted with malice or “aggravated or egregious fraud.” In Indiana, punitive damages are capped at the greater of $50,000 or 3 times the compensatory damages. In addition, a large portion of any punitive damages awarded in Indiana go to the state rather than to you. As in Ohio, you can only receive punitive damages if the defendant acted with malice, fraud, or gross negligence. Kentucky, on the other hand, has no limit for punitive damages and none of the proceeds go to the state. However, you can only claim punitive damages if the defendant acted with “oppression, fraud, or malice.”
Other Factors Affecting Your Personal Injury Claim
You can claim any or all of the compensatory or punitive damages listed above, but some factors may decrease the amount you can claim. First, your damage claim will decrease if you’re partially at fault for the accident. In Ohio, the court will determine the percentage of fault of each party. If you go to a jury trial, the jury will decide how to divide up the fault. Otherwise, the judge will decide. Imagine the court found that you were 30% at fault and the other party was 70% at fault. If that’s the case, you’ll still calculate your total damages in all the categories above, but you’ll only be able to claim 70% of that number. Indiana has the same rule, as does Kentucky. You can only get accident compensation to the extent that it wasn’t your fault.
Finally, you have a legal obligation to “mitigate” the damages. That means you have to try to keep the total amount of damages as low as possible. If, for example, you refuse medical attention and later have to have more expensive care because of the delay, you won’t be able to claim compensation for the more expensive care.
Personal Injury Claim Examples in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky
Now that we’ve gone over the theory and process of personal injury claims, let’s take a look at some real cases. For example, one Ohio woman is suing a casino after she fell and injured herself in the bathroom. The floor, the suit alleges, was wet and slick, meaning that the casino failed to maintain safe premises for its customers. She’s claiming at least $50,000 in damages. In a much larger Ohio suit, thousands of residents are bringing claims against DuPont. These claims allege that DuPont knowingly released dangerous chemicals into the air and water supplies in Ohio. The most dangerous chemical has been linked to multiple kinds of cancer, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy complications.
In Indiana, a man is suing the Muncie Police Department, alleging that an officer blinded him in one eye during his arrest. In Kentucky, two nursing home residents are suing their medical care providers for failing to take care of them — they developed serious health problems including abscesses and infections.
In other words, personal injury claims aren’t just about car crashes. They’re used whenever someone else’s negligence causes an injury. The damage is accidental, but you may still receive accident compensation so you don’t have to bear the costs.
What to Do if you’ve Been Injured
If you’ve suffered injury through the fault of another person or corporation, contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys immediately. We’ll help you track both your specific expenses and the costs that are harder to calculate. The insurance companies will try to attack your claim and lower it — we’ll fight to make sure you get what you deserve. The law limits the amount of time you have to make a claim, so act quickly.