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Damages in Catastrophic Injury Cases

The question of what damages car accident victims can seek is unique to every client’s case. The term “damages” refers the various forms of compensation an accident victim is entitled to after an injury.    Of the many Western North Carolina residents who suffer catastrophic injuries in car accidents every year, everyone’s case is different. In this article, the fourth in our series on catastrophic car accident injuries, we’ll discuss damages commonly sought in personal injury cases.

Lost income in catastrophic car accident cases

Accident victims’ lost wages often comprise a significant portion of a settlement in a typical car accident case. These tend to be the easiest to prove if someone is regularly employed. The injured person can provide previous years’ tax documents showing their income, or their employer can back up their claim by providing employment records.   These wage documents should be accompanied by a note from a physician stating that the injured person was unable to perform their job’s duties for the date range they’re claiming lost wages for.  

However, in cases where an accident victim becomes disabled as a result of their injuries, many choose to seek compensation for the income they could have earned had they not been injured. This is true whether the injured person can no longer work at all or their earning potential is significantly diminished because they can no longer do the type of work they did before their injuries.

Recovering lost potential income is not as simple as recovering lost wages. You would typically need to hire an occupational expert or an economist to predict what your future income might have been and ask them to provide a report or testify at trial in order to recover these damages from the at-fault insurance company or driver.

Past and future medical care

Getting compensation for current medical bills is what motivates many people to file a personal injury suit in the first place. Like lost wages, documentation for these expenses is easy, since providers are typically willing to provide itemized bills in third-party liability cases.

However, insurance adjusters will often question the necessity of certain treatments in an effort to get out of paying for them. In addition, they will often request your medical records from the past five or ten years to look for previous injuries in order to claim that you were getting treatment for a condition that existed before your accident.

On top of existing medical debt, people who have been disabled because of catastrophic injuries usually anticipate future medical expenses. This may be for physical or occupational therapy, in-home care from a nurse or other provider, surgeries that may be needed once your condition has stabilized, or other treatment. You will probably need to hire experts to provide reports, testimony or depositions to support your claim for anticipated medical expenses. These experts may be doctors, nurses, life care planners, or other experienced medical professionals who can accurately assess your case and who have experience coordinating care for patients with conditions like yours. Experts like these can provide a complete picture of the treatment you can reasonably expect to need in the future for conditions like partial or complete paralysis, sensory loss, loss of cognitive abilities resulting from traumatic brain injury, or others.

Noneconomic personal injury damages

Accident victims’ lives are not only affected by physical injuries and tangible losses; they experience emotional damage as well. While compensation for mental health services you receive after a catastrophic injury can be included with your medical bills, loss of enjoyment of life cannot be. People who suffer these injuries often experience depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Noneconomic damages like loss of enjoyment of life are often called “pain and suffering.” These emotional effects of catastrophic injuries, along with physical difficulties from disabilities, interfere with accident victims’ ability to enjoy time with their families; to work and engage in hobbies; to care for themselves; and other aspects of daily life.

Other examples of noneconomic damages are:

  • Mental anguish
  • Grief
  • Physical pain
  • Disfigurement

Injured victims often have trouble substantiating claims for noneconomic damages in settlement negotiations because the effects of these damages are intangible.

Get advice about catastrophic car accident damages from an Asheville attorney

Money should be the last thing accident victims have to think of while they make adjustments to their lives after a debilitating injury. Unfortunately, the need to pay medical and other bills motivate many accident victims to settle with insurance companies prematurely, which insurance adjusters know and use to their advantage.

Consulting with an attorney before settling your complex auto accident case may be advantageous, especially if you suffered a catastrophic injury. A personal injury attorney can more fully investigate your case, including hiring experts who can create reports showing the profound nature of your injuries and how they are likely to adversely affect your life in the future.

Our personal injury team provides initial consultations at no charge. Contact us today to discuss your case before settling with an insurance company.

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Lakota Denton

Lakota Denton

Lakota Denton is an Asheville, NC trial lawyer who focuses on recovering for injured people. Lakota has been practicing law in Asheville, N.C. since 2011. Lakota attended Keene State College in New Hampshire and graduated with a degree in psychology in 2000. Lakota played professional soccer after graduating from college. In 2011 Lakota graduated Cum Laude from Western New England college where he was awarded the Edward Cooley Award for Excellence in Labor Law, The CALI excellence for the future award for Labor Law, The CALI excellence for the future award for Jurisprudence Survey, The CALI excellence for the future award for Trial Methods, and was a member of the American Association for Justice Moot Court Team. Lakota has been practicing in his own firm since 2013, focusing solely on personal injury. He is a member of the American Association of Justice, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, the North Carolina Bar association, the American Bar Association, the National Trial Lawyers, and was awarded Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers, the 2014 Top 40 Lawyers under 40, and the Avvo clients choice award. He has spoken at the Asheville Paralegals Association Luncheon and he served on the North Carolina Advocates for Justice Auto Torts leadership team in 2017. Lakota has won numerous jury trials with verdicts for his clients. For more information, contact our office.   

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