The simple privilege of driving is a wonderful freedom. If we didn’t have automobiles, think of how it would limit the enjoyment of life as we now experience it. We drive to and from work, to take our children to school, to entertainment venues, and especially in our beautiful state of Colorado, just to sightsee along our beautiful roadways.
With the privilege of driving comes a great responsibility to adhere to the rules of the road. When that doesn’t happen, accidents occur, and they are incredibly costly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2010, the cost of motor vehicle crashes in loss of productivity and medical expenses was more than $99 billion. That equates to almost $500 for each licensed driver here in the United States. Here are some averages from 2013, as reported by ISO, a risk analysis company:
When accidents happen, everyone pays, in dollars and cents and in the effects an accident can have on your day to day life. After an accident, you suffer pain, anguish, mental and emotional after-effects, reduced mobility, and time off work needed for healing. You may not be able to care for yourself, and your stress level is through the roof wondering when you’ll be able to return to work and start earning a living again.
One way to assuage this stress is to bring a claim against the person or entity who was at fault for the accident that caused your injuries. In this article, we’ll discuss the factors that influence how much your auto accident claim may be worth.
Personal injury law is the area of legal expertise that governs, among other things, auto accident injuries. In every personal injury claim, there are two important aspects: liability and damages. Liability means who is responsible for the accident – the at-fault party. In order to be compensated for your injuries, it is your attorney’s responsibility to prove that it was the at-fault party’s negligence that caused the accident that resulted in your injuries.
Once your attorney has proven whose negligence caused the accident, they must also prove that there were damages suffered as a result of the accident that warrant compensation. Without the proof of both liability (who was at fault) and damages (the result of the negligence), there can be no money recovered as compensation.
Let’s say you’re driving in your car, and you slow down and stop to wait for traffic to make a left-hand turn. The driver of the car behind you is looking down at their phone and doesn’t see that you’ve slowed to a stop. They run into your car, and you suffer whiplash, severe bruising, and a broken arm. To establish liability in this instance, you would need to prove that the driver was not paying attention to the road. Damages would be proven because the injuries you suffered were solely due to the accident that the other driver’s negligence caused.
Let’s change a few of the details to the above scenario. You’re slowed to make a left-hand turn, but the driver behind you looks up in time to brake, and he or she slightly taps your bumper. You aren’t in any way injured, and your car does not have any damage but a small scratch that can easily be buffed out. In this particular scenario, you would still be able to prove liability, but without any damages to your or your vehicle, you would not have a valid personal injury claim.
There are two possible avenues by which you can recover compensation for damages after a lawsuit has been filed – a settlement or a judgment. With a settlement, you and the at-fault party’s insurance company agree on a lump sum payment amount that is paid by the insurance company to you in exchange for a release of liability. When you accept this payment, the claim is dropped, and you absolve your right to bring suit against the negligent party for damages resulting from this accident. The settlement amount the insurance company initially offers is almost always going to be far lower than a fair settlement, and this is where you need a highly experienced attorney who can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
If a settlement cannot be agreed upon at the claims stage, the claim may proceed to a lawsuit and, if settlement negotiations continue to fail, to trial. If the judge or jury in the trial finds in favor of the plaintiff (the accident victim), the court will enter an order for damages called a judgment that the defendant (at-fault party) must pay.
While a settlement avoids the risk of a lawsuit (the judge or jury may not find in your favor in the amount that you’d like, or at all in some circumstances), the elimination of risk comes with a price – sometimes a smaller compensation amount than you would receive if you won a jury trial. The damages received in a settlement are guaranteed; a jury trial does not guarantee anything. As you can see, it is a trade-off, and one best weighed by a skilled attorney, such as those at Marathon Law.
Once your attorney has established liability, there are two types of damages that you can claim: specific and non-specific damages. In a nutshell, specific damages are those with a set value, and non-specific damages are those without a set value.
Specific damages cover things such as medical bills, lost wages due to time off work, future medical treatments, and rehabilitation costs. Specific damages also come into play regarding the property damage your car sustained due to the accident. As you can see, all of the above have a set value attached to them. For instance, your property damage is worth $2000, and your medical bills amount to $8435. These are exact values.
Non-specific damages are those that don’t have an exact value attached to them. The inconvenience you suffer due to the injuries from your accident is a prime example, as is the pain and suffering you endured. Some other examples of non-specific damages are the loss of enjoyment of life, changes in personality due to a brain injury, or post-traumatic stress that you feel due to the accident you were involved in. There are no specific values that can be attached to these damages and, therefore, are more difficult to quantify.
If you’ve suffered injuries due to an accident that was not your fault, you need to consult with the attorneys at Marathon Law to get a realistic estimate of what your claim could be worth. You can contact us at by phone at 303-704-1222, or via our online contact page.