Every single day, 3,700 people lose their lives to traffic accidents of all kinds. In fact, these sorts of accidents are one of the leading causes of fatalities across the globe.
The consequences of a single-car accident can be catastrophic to the lives of the affected individuals. All types of damages, from monetary losses to general damages, rob people of their happiness and quality of life. But what about special damages, those that are quantifiable?
Today, we are talking about those difficult-to-categorize special damages. Read on as we discuss what they are, how they compare to general damages, and how you can claim them.
What Are General Damages?
To understand what special damages are, we first must understand general damages. These are the two types of damages that a court will consider in a car accident case.
General damages are a bit more difficult to categorize than special damages. Special damages refer to specific damage to a vehicle or a personal injury case, but general damages are, well, general. This can be the intangible consequence of a car accident.
Here’s a list of things that fall under the category of general damage:
- Emotional pain, trauma, and suffering that result from an accident
- Grief and loss, such as when you lose a loved one in an accident
- Damage or consequences to your reputation
- Loss of a family member or companion
Naturally, it’s not very easy to fill out a form with general damages for your insurance provider. Anyone can fake these sorts of symptoms. Insurance companies obviously have to avoid getting cheated by unscrupulous people.
In most cases, you need a drawn-out court case to determine general damages. It requires multiple diagnoses from different medical professionals. Depending on the details of the court case, it may be difficult or impossible to claim general damages.
Is It Possible to Claim General Damages in Most Car Accident Claims?
It really depends from case to case. A very severe car accident with many casualties is probably going to cause some considerable mental trauma. Defendants and plaintiffs will usually have plenty of evidence in their favor if they want to claim general damages in this situation.
However, a smaller car accident with minimal damage likely won’t have the same success. The court may rule that any mental issues had other sources, not the car accident. You should speak to a lawyer for a car accident in your individual situation.
The more outlandish a claim gets, the more difficult it will be to claim general damages. For example, trying to claim lost wages because of a car accident PTSD may not work.
What Are Special Damages?
Thankfully, special damages are far more concrete. These are the physical consequences of an accident, whether to the vehicle or the individual driving it. These are easier to claim because they are monetary losses that you can put a dollar amount to.
Special damages include anything that occurs to the individual’s personal property after the crash. Let’s look at a list of common special damages:
- Dents, scrapes, or chipped paint on the body of the vehicle
- Critical damage, such as a crushed engine or broken transmission
- Broken windows, steering wheel, or any internal cosmetic features
- Damage to cargo, specifically high-value cargo
Of course, special damages also include injuries such as the following:
- Concussions or head trauma from the accident
- Broken bones, pulled muscles, and severe bruising
- Neurological damage, especially that which requires therapy
Since you can go to the doctor and get treatment, you can apply a dollar amount to these damages. This makes it very easy to include them on a claims form. And if you need to take your case the court, it’s easy to prove to a judge the cause-and-effect.
Considerations for Special Damages
If you’ve ever dealt with insurance companies or with a court of law, you know how complex a simple car accident can be. There are so many factors that determine the outcome. You often have multiple participants, diverse road conditions, and inclement weather at the time of the crash.
Let’s discuss some of the things that will factor into whether you can claim special damages.
How Soon You Got Medical Treatment
There is a myth that has been floating around for years: that you should wait to get medical treatment. The reasoning goes that until you have money to pay for it, you shouldn’t go to the hospital. But this is a big mistake.
A crucial component of a car accident case is proving actual causes. Anyone can say that they got a medical condition from an accident. But until there is concrete proof, insurance companies and the court may assume it’s unrelated.
For example, say that you claim a rotator cuff injury following an accident. This injury is very possible after a collision, but it is also a common injury from athletic and everyday activities.
Now imagine that you wait a few months before treating a rotator cuff injury. The insurance company or the courts can claim that you had this injury sometime before the accident but never treated it. This allows the insurance company or the courts to dismiss your injury.
Now imagine if you had seen the doctor immediately. The doctor would be able to tell that this injury was fresh. Further, they can argue that you had no pre-existing condition that they know of.
Long story short, you should get medical treatment ASAP after an accident.
Who Caused the Accident
Even accidents that seem to have a clear cause and effect can be difficult to judge. Unless there is unmistakable dashcam footage of the incident, it’s all he said.
If you are the cause of an accident, you will get less coverage for your special damages claims. And even as a victim, it’s still difficult to get full coverage in all situations.
As we said above, assigning blame is the most difficult part of any accident. Both drivers may have a certain degree of blame. Even if one driver caused the accident, the other may have exacerbated the result.
For example, one driver was trying to switch lanes too soon. The other party, in an effort to stop them, floors the gas to keep them out. The crash still happens, but it is far worse because of the intentional actions of the innocent driver.
Who Has Insurance
You might be surprised how many drivers out there do not have insurance. A lack of insurance adds a new level of complexity to a car crash. After all, if they have no insurance, how will you get coverage?
Most car insurance policies will include an uninsured driver accident component. However, this may not come with cheaper plans. It’s important to check if your plan includes uninsured driver coverage.
If they don’t have insurance, this completely changes how you get coverage. You may have to demand it through a court case, or through alternative options like your healthcare plan. In that case, the special damages will depend entirely on your avenue of coverage.
Road Conditions and Weather Conditions
We often spend too much time focusing on whodunit, and not enough on the surrounding conditions. Many US roads are in a pitiful state of repair. They have tons of potholes, making high-speed travel downright dangerous.
In some situations, you may be able to claim damages from the city or state. There would have to be concrete evidence that road conditions or design led to an accident. Ideally, this would spark some change to fix whatever caused the accident.
This would entirely change the trajectory of the case. You would likely have to take it to court, not just claim from your insurance company. Cases against a state or city can take a long time and may get a lot of media coverage.
Weather plays an important role in every accident. Wet road conditions, poor visibility, and heavy rain or snow could all worsen an accident.
This could affect how an insurance claim plays out. For example, you would be at fault for special damages if you were at high-speed. Hydroplaning occurs above 50 mph, something that all people learn when they get their licenses.
The Quality of the Evidence from the Crash
They tell you to gather evidence after a crash for good reason. Everything is fresh, before police or emergency services arrive and potentially spoil it. It’s the perfect chance to provide clear, foolproof evidence of your innocence–and the other party’s guilt.
Evidence is the most important thing you can have in any court case. It is tangible and leaves no room for doubt about someone’s guilt or innocence.
In fact, evidence is often better than witness testimony. Even if a dozen people testify against you, one piece of evidence could be enough to turn a case in your favor.
The best evidence for a car accident is dashcam footage. If you don’t have that, then pictures of the aftermath will be the next best thing.
Law enforcement may have something to weigh in with, such as a radar reading or witness testimony. If all else fails, you can fall back on witness testimony. Aside from any passengers in the vehicle, other drivers may help to prove your case.
How Do You Maximize Your Chances of Special Damages?
With all that said, how do you make sure you get the biggest payout?
For starters, keep the above in mind. Being prepared for what to do in the event of an accident will be half the battle. Strong evidence in your favor and good car/health insurance is always a plus. But once the damage is done, you have to get prompt medical attention and factor weather/road conditions into your case.
Second, do not accept the first offer from your insurance company. Submit a full claim and push for the maximum compensation. You may have to turn to legal recourse if push comes to shove.
But this doesn’t mean much if you don’t know what you are doing in court. That’s where a lawyer comes in.
Hire a Lawyer
A lawyer, particularly one who works with car accidents, will be the most valuable resource for you. These are professionals in law who have seen a thousand car accident cases. They know exactly how they tend to go, and how to have the most success in them.
A lawyer often works on a contingency basis. This means that they only get paid if they win your case. This gives them a ton of incentive to do their very best job.
Lawyers are also your best friend throughout a case. You may not feel that you are getting enough support from family, friends, and coworkers. A lawyer understands the emotional anguish that can happen during a protracted court case, and supports you accordingly.
Last but not least, you have a consultant on your side who understands the complexity of the law. This helps you to avoid any pitfalls that might weaken your case or your standing. Plus, it’s much more comforting when you know what you are doing.
Most lawyers will conduct a free consultation of your court case. They will then quote you how much you should expect to pay, and whether they’d work by contingency.
Be Prepared for Your Next Car Accident
Car accidents are devilishly complicated cases and involve the concepts of general damages and special damages. Special damages are those things that you can put a dollar amount to, such as damages to you or your car. However, a number of factors can affect the final payout and any resultant court case.