Damages in car accident claims usually fall into one of two broad categories: special and general damages. Special damages lend themselves to exact calculation, like lost wages and medical expenses. General damages, on the other hand, cannot be exactly estimated. Pain and suffering and loss of affection are both examples of general damages claims.

Special Damages

Medical expenses are the most common type of car accident damages claim. The severity of injuries suffered during a car accident varies widely, and some injuries are not apparent until days, weeks, or months later. For these reasons, it is imperative that all victims involved in a car accident undergo a medical examination as soon after the accident as possible. Medical expenses can include physical or cognitive therapy, transport fees for emergency medical vehicles, medical consultation fees, medical supplies such as walkers or wheelchairs, and wrongful death—a claim filed by the families of a motorist or passenger who is killed in an accident.

You may claim lost wages or lost earning capacity damages if you encounter conflicts between your job and accident-related medical appointments, issues with mobility, or if you stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. In order to claim lost earning capacity, you must prove that your injuries will partially or fully prevent you from earning future income. “Work life expectancy,” or the length of time you expect to continue working in the future, age, area of employment, skill and level of experience will all influence the estimation of lost wages claims.

Lost earning capacity must be calculated based on your income’s present value. Economists often perform the difficult task of estimating your total yearly income for your predicted work life expectancy. Estimations of future earning capacity damages, therefore, should not only include your estimated future income, but also an estimate of lost benefit accrual, as well as an estimation of current and future medical costs.

General Damages

General damages are more difficult to estimate because they cannot be assigned a specific dollar amount. Pain and Suffering, often described as the “mental or physical distress for which one may seek damages as a lawsuit”, is a common general claim.  Pain and suffering damages are calculated based on the degree of pain suffered, the kind of injury sustained, predictions of future pain due to a victim’s injuries and emotional or mental damages sustained as a result of the accident. They are most often calculated using one of two approaches: using a multiplier, or the ‘per diem’ method.

You can calculate pain and suffering damages by multiplying the known financial amount of out-of-pocket expenses known as special damages by a predetermined multiplier. Special damages are typically multiplied by a multiple between 1.5 and 4 if the victim does not sustain any permanent or serious injuries.

If you are using a multiplier to calculate your general damages, you must factor in aggravated circumstances such as driving under the influence of an illegal or controlled substance, injury severity and recovery time, and the probability of total recovery. If a victim is permanently disabled as a result of an accident, the multiplier should increase. In general, the lower the out-of-pocket expenses, the higher the multiplier.

General damages may also be calculated using the ‘per diem’ method. This method assigns a daily value to pain and suffering, and adds in special damages. Per diem is calculated by determining how many days of work are affected by the injuries you sustain from an accident, factoring in the severity of your pain. You should use your hourly wage as the base of calculation because it can be argued that your recovery is more difficult than your current job.

Victims may also claim loss of affection or companionship. If you are married, resulting injuries or trauma from a car accident could potentially prevent you from partaking in your normal physical affection or sexual activity. The loss of the ability to enjoy normal sexual activity is specifically referred to as loss of consortium. Unlike the other damages described thus far, loss of consortium is claimed by the uninjured spouse of the injured party. It will not apply, however, unless damages from other categories are awarded to the plaintiff.

A judge and jury in court will estimate a reasonable amount when awarding damages, but any calculations you provide will assist with their estimates. Use both the multiplier and the per diem methods to calculate your damages in order to prepare the strongest argument for the amount you are requesting. Factors that may affect the award of damages include state laws, the involvement of insurance companies, the jury’s opinion of the plaintiff, their perception of the plaintiff’s or defendant’s veracity, whether either party has a criminal history and how easy the details of the accident are to understand.

If you have been a victim of a car accident and have sustained injuries as a result, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is familiar with automobile accident law and damages claims. Contact the Law Offices of Eldridge and Nachtman to have your individual claim reviewed by an experienced attorney.