When you get into a car accident, a million thoughts run through your mind. How did this happen? The other driver better pay for this! Will this make my insurance go up? And, depending on the severity of the accident, you may or may not have gotten hurt. You can’t make that determination yourself, however, since adrenaline is likely rushing through your body — making the aches and pains appear to be non-existent.
As the nerves wear off, you may be wondering what type of compensation you are entitled to for your hellish experience. But, in a comparative negligence state, the answer isn’t always clear. In fact, compensation will depend on the totality of the circumstances.
What are special damages in personal injury?
Special damages are those you can quantify with documents reflecting the amount you are claiming — such as medical bills, repairs to your car, and lost wages. These can be recovered in different ways depending on your circumstances. They can also vary depending on the state where the accident took place.
6 Types of Special Damages
1. Personal Injury Protection
- The named insured
- Relatives residing in the same household
- Persons operating the insured motor vehicle
- Passengers in the motor vehicle
- Other persons struck by the motor vehicle
To receive these benefits, the insured has to file a claim with his or her own insurance company and seek medical attention within 14 days of the accident. PIP also covers 60% of gross lost wages, to be payable every two weeks. But, this type of coverage has a cap of $10,000 and doesn’t apply if the accident happened while the driver was trying to hurt himself or herself intentionally or while the driver was committing a felony. In all other cases, your insurance coverage will provide these benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
If your damages are more than $10,000 and the other party was at fault, you’ll have to file a lawsuit and a claim against the other driver’s insurance company to help pay for the remaining bills. But, it’s not the only method to recover full compensation.
2. Medical Payment Coverage
Since PIP only covers 80% of your medical bills, you would still have to find a way to pay the remaining 20%. While PIP coverage is mandatory in Florida, car insurance carriers may offer optional coverage for the uncovered portion. This is called Medical Payment Coverage — also known as Med-Pay. How it works is, for example, if your medical bills are $5,000, PIP would cover $4,000 of that amount. If you have Med-Pay, it will cover the additional $1,000. If you don’t have Med-Pay, you would have to pay the remaining balance out of pocket.
3. Damages to Your Car
If capable, take as many pictures as possible of all angles of your car. However, if no one was visually hurt at the scene, keep in mind that Florida law requires that you move the car out of oncoming traffic. Take photos of your vehicle, any other vehicles involved, and any objects that could have contributed to the accident. Make sure to keep copies of all estimates and receipts from auto repair shops.
4. Medical Bills
In theory, these should be fairly simple to prove. In practice, the other party’s attorney or insurance company will bring into question the severity of damages. Could a condition have been caused by something other than the accident? Has the person claiming medical issues been involved in previous car accidents? If so, could their current injuries be a result of those?
These are just a few of the reasons why it’s so important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. You don’t want the other party’s attorney — or their insurance company — to claim that an event before or after the accident caused your injuries.
5. Lost Wages
If injuries sustained in the accident are keeping you from working for a while, you can file a claim to recover wages for the time you have to be hospitalized or recovering at home. However, you’ll need to provide evidence that your injuries prevent you from working. If you have a white-collar job that requires sitting behind a desk most of the day, then a broken leg probably won’t prevent you from working.
6. Loss of Earning Capacity
Earning capacity is based on your age, health, education level, past experience, and the job you had at the time of the accident. You’d have to prove that the requested amount can be estimated as a reasonable certainty. So, if you played basketball in high school five years ago and haven’t touched a ball since then, saying you could’ve gone on to play for the NBA is not going to count.
What are general damages?
General damages are those that you can’t quantify but that you experience as a result of a serious car accident. The most common include:
1. Pain & Suffering
Sometimes, even after receiving medical attention, a person will experience ongoing issues resulting from a car accident. This comes with all kinds of inconveniences and mental anguish. The law recognizes a person’s right to receive compensation for these damages.
The amount to claim is harder to calculate since it’s not as simple as providing documentation of medical bills or car repairs. However, certain factors will be considered, such as:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury with a reasonable degree of medical probability
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
2. Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is the legal way of saying that as a result of the accident, you can’t have sex with your spouse. It also includes usual activities related to the companionship associated with marriage — such as cuddling, helping around the house, taking care of children, and doing activities together.
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are the ones requested as a punishment to the person at fault for the accident. And, while you may want to punish whoever was at fault for your accident, it’s not as simple as saying that you’re angry at all the hassle the crash has caused you.
To receive compensation for punitive damages, you would have to prove that the other party was either engaged in intentional misconduct or was grossly negligent. Typically, the court will look at factors such as:
- If the driver was driving at a reckless speed
- If the driver was racing
- If the driver was drunk or under the influence of drugs
- If the driver was committing a crime at the time of the accident
- If someone dies and the driver is charged with manslaughter
- If the driver was driving a company vehicle and it can be proven that the company failed to provide proper maintenance to the vehicle — such as testing or repairing brakes, headlights, and tail lights
Florida law places a cap on the amount of punitive damages a person may recover. This limit is either three times the amount of compensatory damages (special and general damages) or $500,000.
How an Attorney Can Help Maximize Your Compensation
Receiving full compensation after an auto accident isn’t as simple as proving injuries. There is a lot of information you’ll need to collect, and even one wrong word to the other driver’s insurance company can leave you with less than you deserve. That’s why it’s crucial that you call an attorney specializing in personal injury. They’ll be able to collect all the information you need during the discovery process and give you the best chance of making your hellish experience a not-so-terrible one.
Contact Clark Law Today for a Free Consultation
If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. The longer you wait, the higher the chances that you may lose out on your ability to file for certain types of damages or on your ability to obtain reliable evidence for your case.