If you have sustained injuries in a car accident, we understand that getting compensation is about more than just paying medical bills and recovering lost wages. Injuries are physically painful and emotionally difficult to deal with, especially if they impact the quality of your life. A car accident attorney in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, or Austin can help you fight for a settlement that reflects all of your losses, including the ones that don’t have an objective monetary value.
How Are Trauma, Pain, and Suffering Handled in a Car Accident Case?
When you have sustained an injury due to another driver’s negligence, your case might end in a settlement offer from the insurance company. Alternatively, you might need to take the matter to court by filing a lawsuit.
While calculating your medical expenses and lost wages is relatively intuitive, the question of how to put a value on losses like pain, suffering, and trauma is a little more subjective. In order to be able to estimate the value of pain, suffering, and trauma, it is important to understand the difference between how insurance companies and courts view noneconomic damages. In this article, you will learn:
- What kinds of pain, suffering, and trauma are eligible for compensation
- How the value of non-economic damages is calculated
- How to successfully build a case involving pain, suffering, and trauma
What Are Non-economic Damages?
Aside from punitive damages, which are rarely awarded, the kinds of losses one might incur in a car accident fall into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages have a straightforward dollar value that does not need to be translated into financial terms. For example, medical expenses are considered economic damages because you can understand how much they are worth by adding up the medical bills.
Pain, suffering, and trauma are all considered noneconomic damages because there are no price tags attached. From the claimant’s perspective, however, they can be very costly and might even be more difficult to sustain than the economic damages.
What Qualifies as Pain and Suffering?
Legally, the physical discomfort you experience as a result of your injuries constitutes pain and suffering. For example, if you had a spinal cord injury that left you unable to walk, any physical pain associated with the injury or the treatments could be expressed in legal terms as pain and suffering.
What Qualifies as Trauma and Emotional Distress?
Trauma and emotional distress refer to the mental suffering you might experience along with an injury. Taking our example of a spinal cord injury, the stress you might feel as a result of accommodating your life to an inability to walk would constitute trauma. In this example, you might be able to strengthen your claim by referring to the fact that your injury caused you to give up activities you once enjoyed, such as long-distance running.
In any personal injury case, you can seek further compensation for disfigurement if your injuries changed your physical appearance. Examples of disfigurement include scarring and burning.
How Do Insurance Companies Calculate Pain, Suffering, and Trauma?
In Texas, insurance companies use a technique called the multiplier method to calculate noneconomic damages. In the case of pain, suffering, and trauma, the insurance company will take the value of your economic damages and multiply it by a factor between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of your injuries. For example, a broken arm might be assigned a factor of 2, while a spinal cord injury might warrant a 5.
How Do Courts Value Pain, Suffering, and Trauma
Courts tend to place a higher value on noneconomic damages than insurance companies because insurance companies are for-profit entities that are incentivized to pay as little as possible for every claim they receive. The subjective nature of noneconomic damages leaves room for the insurance company to undervalue these types of losses.
Despite the fact that insurance companies try to pay as little as possible, most claimants choose to settle rather than spend time and money on a trial. So, how can you push the insurance company to award you the full value of your noneconomic losses?
Building a Case Around Pain, Suffering, and Trauma
If you have the potential to recover a large amount of money via your car accident claim, hiring a qualified car accident attorney in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, or Austin is key. Insurance companies are very experienced with personal injuries, and they will be quick to reject or undervalue your claim if they sense that you are unfamiliar with the laws that protect you. Once you sign off on a settlement offer, you forfeit the right to initiate a lawsuit.
Our lawyers utilize various proven legal strategies to hold negligent drivers and their insurance companies accountable for the damages they cause.
Demonstrating Fault in the Accident
Before you can demand compensation for noneconomic damages, you must show that the other driver caused the accident. Our lawyers will conduct a thorough investigation to get a clear picture of the events that led up to the crash. Sources of evidence can include:
- Photos and videos of the two cars
- Surveillance footage
- Witness testimonies
- The input of expert witnesses
- Physical evidence
Documenting the Severity of Your Injuries
Due to the subjective nature of noneconomic damages, your claim will increase in value if you can clearly demonstrate the extent of the pain, suffering, and trauma you experienced. First, it is important to go to the hospital and be seen by medical professionals immediately after the accident. Your medical records can be used as evidence in your favor. Second, you should keep a journal to record how your injuries affect your life physically and emotionally.
Communicating With the Insurance Company
If you submit a claim against the other driver’s insurance company, you can let your lawyer handle all of the communications. We encourage our clients not to make any direct statements because their words can be used as evidence against them.
During our negotiations with the insurance company, we will reference the amount of money your case could bring in if you went to trial. When faced with the prospect of going to court, many insurance companies are willing to increase their settlement offer.
Fighting for Your Rights in Court
Our goal is always to persuade the insurance company to issue a fair settlement offer. However, there are times when it is necessary to go to court to obtain the amount of money you need to cover your losses.
Your lawyer will help you decide whether or not going to court could be beneficial, given the extent of your losses and the size of any settlement offers you have received. If you do decide to go to court, we will employ the full extent of our litigation skills and legal knowledge toward winning your case.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, or Austin
Sustaining a severe injury in a car accident is an experience that no one should have to go through. While no amount of compensation can truly undo the damage, you deserve to receive a settlement offer that can cover your losses and help you recover. To speak with one of our attorneys, contact Joe A. Gamez Law Firm, PLC.