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Ask a Car Accident Lawyer: What Are My Rights if I Was Hit By a Distracted Driver?

by | Nov 3, 2021 | Car Accidents |

Accidents caused by distracted driving have become an all-too-common occurrence. In fact, about a fifth of all 2020 Texas car accidents were caused by a distracted driver, resulting in over 300 deaths and 2,200 serious injuries. If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver, it is important that you know what relief is available to you. Let’s look at some things you should discuss with a San Antonio car accident lawyer if you’ve been hurt due to distracted driving.

Ask a Car Accident Lawyer: What Are My Rights if I Was Hit by a Distracted Driver in San Antonio?

What Does the Law Say?

Injuries that result from distracted driving fall under the rules of personal injury law. Basically, you are able to recover all the expenses you have been forced to incur due to your injuries if those injuries were caused by the careless actions of someone else. These are vanilla negligence cases. It seems pretty straightforward in theory, but in practice, it’s a bit more complicated.

Before you can seek recovery for your injuries from the other driver, you must prove that the driver was acting negligently behind the wheel and that their negligent behavior directly led to the injuries you sustained. Once you have the necessary evidence to show this, you will usually enter settlement negotiations with the other driver’s insurance company before you go to court (if you ever do). Insurance will often want to settle the matter as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

What Compensation Am I Entitled To?

Compensatory Damages

The first category of damages you have the right to seek is compensatory damages. These are meant to reimburse you for the current and future losses you have sustained or will sustain as a result of the accident. Compensatory damages can be either economic (monetary) or non-economic (don’t involve money).

The economic damages you may recover are the costs to repair or replace your car, any medical costs resulting from your injury, and any lost wages (current or future) you have sustained if your injury prevents you from working. Non-economic damages you may recover include pain and suffering, mental distress, and the effect of any disfigurement or loss of a limb among other things. We’ll talk about how these damages are calculated later.

Punitive Damages

The second category of damages you may be able to recover is called punitive damages. These are meant to punish the person causing the injury if that person acted outrageously or extremely recklessly and that outrageous conduct led to the accident. Punitive damages are relatively rarely awarded, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek them.

Distracted driving could very well be considered “gross negligence” and warrant punitive damages depending on the circumstances. Such an award depends on a range of factors, so it is often difficult to know if they will be awarded in your case. It’s important that you speak with an attorney so they can advise you on how likely you are to receive a punitive damages award based on the specific circumstances surrounding your accident.

How Are My Damages Calculated?

Monetary Damages

The total amounts of some types of damages are simple to calculate, such as the cost of medical bills, car repairs or past lost wages. Others, however, aren’t quite so easy to determine. Future lost wages, for example, take into account the nature of your injury, whether you are able to work at a similar job, and whether you are able to do any other type of job even if it isn’t related to your current employment.

What’s more, lost future wages cannot be accurately be determined unless a doctor has concluded that you have recovered as much as you ever will from your injury. So, never take a settlement before you have medically recovered to the maximum extent possible.

Non-Monetary Damages

Non-monetary damages like pain and suffering and mental distress (among others) are even more tricky to determine because they are subjective. For example, under Texas law, pain and suffering is calculated by multiplying the total cost of your monetary damages by 1.5 to 5 times, depending on the severity of your injury and its relative impact on your life overall. There is no hard-and-fast rule for which multiplier should be used, as circumstances can differ wildly.

Punitive Damages

As we discussed earlier, punitive damages are meant to punish, so what dollar value is the right “punishment”? Again, there is no specific rule to follow, but punitive damages are usually calculated with the total amount of monetary and non-monetary damages as reference, and there are limits to how much total punitive damages can be.

As you can see, damages calculations can be quite complex, and often require knowledge of how much compensation is awarded in similar injury cases. It is recommended that you talk to a lawyer to get an accurate idea of what your damages might be.

How Do I Get My Compensation?

Preserve All Possible Evidence

The first thing you should do to start the process of recovering your damages is to call 911 and have a police report made. Next, document everything you can at the scene of the accident if you’re not too injured to do so. Take pictures of the vehicles, collect contact information from any witnesses, and make sure to get the other driver’s insurance information along with the details of the vehicle they are driving. These items are crucial.

Third, be sure to see a doctor and get a comprehensive medical evaluation immediately. You will need to be able to show that any injuries you have are directly related to the accident. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the insurance company for the other driver will try to claim your injuries happened after the accident took place and be less likely to settle before a lawsuit is filed.

Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

One of the most important steps you can take is to speak to an experienced attorney. Personal injury attorneys know exactly what kind of information and evidence is needed to present a solid case and give you the best chance to get all the money owed to you. They also know how to acquire this information and evidence and can give you an educated opinion of how strong your case is and how much compensation you are likely entitled to.

Attorneys know the process and are a vital asset to your recovery efforts. They will communicate with the insurance company on your behalf and handle the negotiation process to extract the best settlement offer. They will also prepare your case and represent you in court if the insurance company refuses to offer you an acceptable settlement amount. Insurance companies are usually more willing to reach a mutually agreeable settlement once suit has been filed.

Unfortunately, securing the compensation owed to you if you’ve been hit by a distracted driver is not always easy. Going up against insurance companies is no small task, but you can let someone do the heavy lifting for you. Contact Gamez Law Firm if you’ve been in an accident in San Antonio, and rest assured knowing that your case is in the hands of an experienced car accident lawyer who will fight for you.