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Some people think, likely because of exaggerated stories they’ve heard or tales from fiction, that getting into a car accident caused by someone else is like receiving a blank check. The truth is that although there have historically been some judges or juries that have awarded substantial pain and suffering damages to plaintiffs or have ordered significant punitive compensation as part of a lawsuit, most personal injury claims are not going to result in a massive windfall.

Instead, the goal is to connect the victim with adequate compensation to offset the financial impacts of the property damage and injuries they suffered. The better you understand what compensation you have a right to seek after a car crash, the more reasonable your expectations regarding insurance claims or personal injury lawsuits that you decide to file.

Personal injury awards typically focus on verifiable losses

In order to claim a need for compensation, you have to have verifiable financial losses. You can’t just claim that a car crash has caused you seven figures worth of pain and suffering and expect the courts to write you a giant check.

When you make a claim against someone who caused an accident that leaves you with either injuries or substantial property damage, you need evidence that the other person caused the crash or was the primary cause of the crash even if you played a minor role in what happens.

In some cases, such as an obvious violation of the law, you can also request punitive damages intended to punish the person or business responsible. Beyond that, you will need to demonstrate to the courts that there are actual, provable financial consequences for the collision you experienced.

You can’t seek compensation for something the insurance already paid

You may be able to seek verifiable expenses related to replacing or repairing your vehicle, although you typically need to factor in any compensation received from insurance when setting those amounts. The same will be true of medical expenses.

If your costs exceed the amount of insurance that the other driver had, those uncovered amounts can lead to personal injury lawsuits. Additionally, you may be able to make a claim for the wages you’ve lost because of an injury, especially if you had a protracted absence from work or an injury that will have a long-term impact on your earning potential.