Factors Influencing Compensation in Car Accident Claims

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Car accidents occur quite frequently across roads and highways in the U.S. According to recent car accident statistics, 5,250,837 collisions happened in 2020, with 1,593,390  crashes resulting in injuries and 3,621,681 in property damage. In many cases, the people involved sustain bodily injuries and various types of losses.

 

In addition to the physical pain and suffering they may be left with, individuals are often faced with large medical bills, rehabilitation costs and other financial pressures following a car accident. For such individuals, personal injury laws can provide a legal framework under which they can seek compensation for these losses and claim a financial payout to help reimburse them for the various costs they have incurred and may continue to do in the future.

 

In this article, we will take a look at some of the factors law courts and insurance companies take into account when considering the amount of compensation to award to plaintiffs in a car accident personal injury claim.

Severity of Injuries

The more severe the plaintiff’s injuries, the higher level of compensation typically awarded in a personal injury case. The nature  and extent of the injuries sustained will determine how much medical treatment is needed and the subsequent cost of that treatment. 

 

In some cases, the injuries an individual sustains could leave them permanently disabled or  impair their ability to work or carry out many of their daily activities or hobbies. This can potentially impact their future earning capacity as well as their quality and enjoyment of life. When assessing the nature and extent of injuries in personal injury claims, insurance companies generally categorize them as  as follows:

  • Soft tissue injuries: These injuries involve the muscles, tendons or ligaments of the body. They include things like sprains, strains and bruises and usually only cause temporary damage to the body. As a result, they are considered less severe or damaging than hard injuries and are awarded a lower sum in damages.
  • Hard injuries: These  injuries are usually more serious and include damage to the bones or skeletal system, potentially leaving individuals with chronic pain or permanent disabilities. In contrast to soft tissue injuries, hard injuries can be detected quite easily with diagnostic tools such as CT scans, X-rays and other medical equipment making them less open to speculation or subjective opinions from medical professionals. As they can be objectively proved, and often involve extensive medical treatment and recovery time, these types of injuries tend to be awarded higher sums in compensation than soft tissue injuries.

 

If you have been involved in a car accident and would like legal advice on pursuing a potential personal injury claim, it is best to contact an experienced attorney such as this car accident lawyer in Oklahoma City, OK who can advise you further and help you navigate your claim.

Age of the Plaintiff

The age of the plaintiff can also impact the amount of damages they receive in a personal injury claim. Courts will typically award younger plaintiffs who have been left with life-altering injuries or in chronic pain higher awards in damages compared to those who are older. 

 

The reason for the decision is based on the life expectancy of the younger person and the number of years they will have forfeited potential earning capacity and have to endure physical pain and suffering or emotional distress. They may incur additional costs in terms of medical and in-home care and generally incur higher financial losses in total compared to someone who is nearing the end of their life. As a result, courts will generally award them a higher compensatory amount following their accident.

Shared Liability

The total amount of damages a plaintiff will receive  in a car accident personal injury claim also depends on the level of responsibility they share for causing their accident. In some cases, both the plaintiff and defendant contributed to varying degrees to the accident. A defendant will often argue that the plaintiff’s award of damages should be reduced in recognition of this fact.

 

This is done by raising the defense of comparative or contributory negligence which works to reduce the level of compensation owed to the plaintiff in proportion to the level of fault assigned to them, or preclude them from recovering damages at all. The outcome will depend on whether the state in question follows comparative negligence laws or contributory negligence laws. These are defined as follows:

 

  • Comparative negligence: Here the plaintiff is entitled to a reduced  sum in proportion to their degree  of fault. Under the pure comparative negligence rule, a plaintiff who is 99% at fault for an accident may still recover damages for the 1% they were not at fault.
  • Contributory negligence: Here a plaintiff is barred from receiving any compensation at all, irrespective of their degree of fault.

 

Courts and insurance companies will consider these  factors when determining a fair level of  compensation for an  injured party following a car accident.