If you are involved in an accident that is not your fault, it is natural to want to know what kind of compensation you may be able to recover. Broadly speaking, accident victims are entitled to compensation for the “damages” they have suffered due to the at-fault driver’s negligence.
What are damages in a car accident claim? They include:
- Current and future medical costs
- Loss of wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
However, the damages you may be able to recover in your car accident claim will depend on the specific losses you have suffered, the circumstances of the crash, and even where the accident occurred.
For a free case review to determine how much your claim may be worth, please contact the car accident lawyers at Ventura Law by calling (203) 800-8000 today. We serve clients throughout Connecticut and New York.
Calculating Your Car Accident Compensation
Assessing the damages in a car accident claim is complicated. Unsurprisingly, insurance companies and personal injury lawyers take different approaches to determine what represents fair compensation.
How Insurance Companies Calculate Damages
When they act in good faith, insurance adjusters calculate settlements by evaluating your economic losses (principally medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage) along with estimating your non-economic losses (such as pain and suffering). Their evaluation may be modified depending on the circumstances of the accident and the personal characteristics of the victim.
Obviously, settlements calculated this way are a rough approximation of what your claim is worth. The formulas used by insurance companies are not an exact science – they effectively make educated guesses on the non-financial damages in your case. They also take into account whether or not you have a lawyer involved, as they often can settle cases for less when people are not represented by an experienced injury attorney.
It is no wonder so many accident victims are faced with “low-ball” settlement offers.
How Accident Attorneys Calculate Damages
Your car accident lawyer will investigate the crash and your losses to determine the full extent of damages in your case. This includes your current and future economic losses, as well as all non-economic losses. Your attorney will also take into account the conduct of the at-fault driver; punitive damages may be recoverable if the defendant was extremely reckless or acted with malice.
Accurately calculating damages that don’t have a clear dollar amount may require expert testimony. Your lawyer may enlist experts in different fields to assist with multiple aspects of building your claim, including:
- Doctors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals to evaluate your injuries
- Therapists and counselors to assess the mental and emotional aspects of your injuries
- Vocational therapists and experts in your profession to determine how your injuries affect your ability to earn a living
- Occupational therapists to attest to how the injuries affect your ability to live independently, socialize, and spend your leisure time
- Economic experts to calculate the dollar value of your losses
Through investigation of the evidence and expert testimony, car accident attorneys are able to arrive at a much more comprehensive assessment of the damages in your case. If the insurance company offers a low-ball settlement, your lawyer will negotiate on your behalf with the goal of maximizing your compensation. Your attorney may also recommend going to trial in the event that the insurance company refuses to compensate you fairly.
Factors That May Affect Your Car Accident Compensation
A few considerations may impact your ability to recover full compensation in your car accident claim. These include:
The Statute of Limitations in Your Car Accident Claim
In Connecticut and New York, you do not have an infinite amount of time to pursue your car accident claim. All states have a statute of limitations that specify how long you have to bring certain legal actions.
Motor vehicle accident claims in Connecticut must generally be filed within 2 years.
The statute of limitations for car accident claims in New York is generally 3 years in cases of injury, and 2 years if the accident resulted in a wrongful death.
If you do not file a car accident claim within the statute of limitations for your state, you will not be able to recover compensation. In either state, however, this does not mean that you should wait until you are approaching these deadlines to contact an injury attorney. Involving a lawyer earlier on may help you avoid making critical mistakes that could negatively impact your case. You may also have other legal claims available to you which have shorter limitations, so you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after you are injured in the accident.
Comparative Fault in Car Accident Claims
Both Connecticut and New York law allow accident victims to recover partial damages even if they are partially at fault for the accident – a principle known as comparative fault or comparative negligence. The amount of compensation is reduced according to the level of fault.
The difference between the two states is the threshold of fault before you are barred from recovery.
Connecticut law permits recovery only if the claimant is 50 percent or less at fault for the accident. In New York, meanwhile, claimants can pursue compensation as long as they are not totally at-fault for the accident; a driver who is 99 percent at fault can make a claim against the other driver for 1 percent of his damages.
Fault vs. No-Fault Car Accident States
Some states have instituted laws that require car accident victims to turn to their own insurance carriers first instead of suing the other driver after a crash. These are known as no-fault states, and New York is one.
If you are injured in a car accident in New York, your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance is your first (and, in some cases, only) avenue for compensation. You are only allowed to take action against the at-fault driver if you suffer a serious injury and/or incur damages in excess of basic economic loss (as defined by New York law).
- Serious injury is defined as:
“[A] personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.”
- Basic economic loss is defined as “up to fifty thousand dollars per person of the following combined items”:
- “All necessary expenses incurred for: (i) medical, hospital (including services rendered in compliance with article forty-one of the public health law, whether or not such services are rendered directly by a hospital), surgical, nursing, dental, ambulance, x-ray, prescription drug and prosthetic services; (ii) psychiatric, physical therapy (provided that treatment is rendered pursuant to a referral) and occupational therapy and rehabilitation; (iii) any non-medical remedial care and treatment rendered in accordance with a religious method of healing recognized by the laws of this state; and (iv) any other professional health services; all without limitation as to time, provided that within one year after the date of the accident causing the injury it is ascertainable that further expenses may be incurred as a result of the injury.”
- “Loss of earnings from work which the person would have performed had he not been injured, and reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by such person in obtaining services in lieu of those that he would have performed for income, up to two thousand dollars per month for not more than three years from the date of the accident causing the injury. An employee who is entitled to receive monetary payments, pursuant to statute or contract with the employer, or who receives voluntary monetary benefits paid for by the employer, by reason of the employee’s inability to work because of personal injury arising out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle, is not entitled to receive first party benefits for “loss of earnings from work” to the extent that such monetary payments or benefits from the employer do not result in the employee suffering a reduction in income or a reduction in the employee’s level of future benefits arising from a subsequent illness or injury.”
- “All other reasonable and necessary expenses incurred, up to twenty-five dollars per day for not more than one year from the date of the accident causing the injury.”
Connecticut is an at-fault state. As such, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver without having to meet any statutory thresholds for your injuries or damages.
What Is Your Car Accident Case Worth?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to more in compensation than the insurance company is willing to offer. The attorneys at Ventura Law have extensive experience investigating car accident claims, calculating damages, and pursuing fair compensation on behalf of our clients.
For a free case review, please call (203) 800-8000 today. Ventura Law serves clients throughout Connecticut and New York.