If it seems that driving has almost become a contact sport, you’re not far from wrong. More than 6 million crashes occur each year on America’s roads and highways. However, “sport” is hardly the proper word to describe the 3 million injuries resulting from these crashes, 2 million of which are catastrophic.
When you become involved in a crash caused by someone else’s negligence or misconduct, you have the right to see that person for damages sufficient to cover the following types of losses, called damages, you sustain:
- Economic damages
- Noneconomic damages
- Property damages
- Punitive damages
Your economic damages are those that pertain to your ongoing medical expenses and loss of income resulting from your injuries.
Your current medical expenses are relatively easy to calculate because they are the costs for which you receive bills, such as for the following:
- Ambulance, life flight or other emergency transport from the accident scene to a hospital
- Emergency room assessment and treatment
- Diagnostic tests
- General hospital costs
- Surgery and other specialized hospital treatment costs
- Prescription drugs
No less important, but somewhat more difficult to calculate, are the estimates of medical costs you can reasonably expect to incur in the future as a result of your injuries. These expenses can include one or more of the following:
- Rehabilitation services
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Ongoing appointments with your doctors and therapists
- Medical equipment, such as crutches, a wheelchair, a prosthesis or an in-home hospital bed
- Home renovations to accommodate your new physical limitations
- In-home care
Loss of Income
If you sustain serious injuries in your accident, you likely will be off work for a significant period of time. The income you consequently lose is part of your economic damages. Keep in mind that your damages in this category include not only the amount you lose while in the hospital and recuperating at home, but also an estimate of the amount you can reasonably expect to lose in the future if your injuries are such that you can’t perform your current job or, worse yet, can’t do any work whatsoever.
Your noneconomic damages are those that pertain to the subjective effects of your injuries. They include such things as:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of identity if you now must use a wheelchair, prosthesis or white cane in order to navigate your new world
- Embarrassment over your disfiguring scars
- Loss of your ability to live the full, active life you did prior to your accident
- Psychological after-effects like PTSD, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, sleep disturbances, etc.
- Loss of your overall enjoyment of life
When you think about the property damage your accident caused, the damage to your vehicle likely is the first thing that comes to mind. Your property damages, however, likewise include damage sustained by personal property within your vehicle, such as to:
- Your custom radio or stereo system
- Your expensive headphone set
- Your GPS system
- Your laptop or tablet
- Your cell phone
Finally, you can also sue for punitive damages if the actions or inaction of the defendant rises to the level of egregious behavior or careless disregard for human life. While juries seldom award punitive damages, when they do, this amount can exceed the amount awarded for your other damages combined.
That’s because awards for economic, noneconomic and property damages are meant to compensate you for your losses. Conversely, the purpose of punitive damages is to financially punish the defendant for causing the accident that resulted in your injuries. For instance, if the driver of the vehicle that hit you was speeding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the jury could well find that such behavior was egregious enough to warrant the award of punitive damages.
Proof of Negligence
Most personal injury lawsuits arising from a motor vehicle accident proceed under the theory of negligence. While state laws vary as to precisely what constitutes negligence in their respective jurisdictions, you must produce clear and convincing evidence at trial to prove that the following elements existed in your case to win your lawsuit:
- That the defendant owed you a specific duty of care, such as the duty to drive safely and not cause an accident
- That he or she breached this duty of care by driving carelessly or while distracted
- That had he or she not breached this duty, no accident would have occurred
- That his or her breach of duty was the proximate, i.e., direct, main or most important, cause of the accident
- That his or her breach resulted in your sustaining compensable damages for which he or she should pay you
Most states have some type of contributory or comparative negligence law. Utah, for instance, follows the 50% negligence rule. What this means in terms of your car accident case is that, to recover damages, your own negligence must not have caused 50% or more of the accident.
Determining fault is ultimately the job of the jury. After considering all the evidence you presented and all the evidence presented by the various defendants, the jurors then assign percentages of fault, if appropriate, and make your final award accordingly. Should the jury, for example, determine that you were 50% or more to blame for the accident, you will recover nothing. On the other hand, should the jurors determine that you were 20% at fault, you will recover 80% of what you would have received had you been completely blameless.
This is why it’s so critical that you have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side, one who can not only thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding your accident and determine who and what caused it, but one who can then present the most compelling case to the jury as to your blamelessness.
Siegfried and Jensen, Your Utah Personal Injury Law Firm of Choice
At Siegfried and Jensen, that is exactly who we are and what we do. We have been helping people who suffered injuries in a Utah car crash or other accident since 1990, and our record of success speaks for itself. To date, we have recovered more than $1.2 billion for our injured clients.
We see it as our duty and privilege to relieve you of your financial worries so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries to the greatest extent possible, however long that may take. To this end, we handle all of the investigation, phone calls, paperwork, legal work and insurance company negotiations that your case requires.
You will also find our attorneys and staff to be approachable and empathetic. We will always treat you with the respect and dignity you deserve, answer your questions, advise you of your options going forward, and keep you updated on the progress and status of your case.
All in all, Siegfried and Jensen is here for you. We will guide you through every step of the process from beginning to end. We help you understand the complexities inherent in a personal injury lawsuit and act as your relentless and aggressive advocate, whether at the negotiation table or in the courtroom. So contact Siegfried and Jensen today and let us help you. We give you a free case evaluation, and we never receive compensation unless and until we successfully resolve your case.