You may have a lot of questions after a car crash leaves you injured or takes the life of your loved one. As you consider your legal options, however, there is one question that must be answered before you can make any decisions: How much is my case worth?
Once you know that, you can do a cost benefit analysis and make an informed decision about whether it is worth pursuing a legal recovery.
Determining the value of a case is complicated. However, this article will lead you through all of the things that you should consider and we encourage you to contact our experienced attorneys any time—24/7/365—to schedule a free, confidential consultation about your specific case.
Types of Compensation
A serious accident can hurt you physically, emotionally, and financially. If the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence then you have the right to recover for all of the different types of damages described below.
A fair recovery for your injuries should include compensation for all of your accident related medical care. This includes your past, current, and reasonably anticipated future:
- Hospital expenses.
- Physician visits.
- Rehabilitation therapies.
- Medical devices.
It is not uncommon for medical expenses to go over the coverage you have available through your insurance policy’s personal injury protection (PIP). Therefore, even if you have health coverage you should still pursue a legal recovery. Otherwise, you will be left with the expenses of your deductible, any co-pays, and all of the health care costs not covered by your insurance company.
If you are unable to work because of your injuries or if your loved one has died in a car crash, then you may be able to recover for lost income. This includes any income that you or your loved one is unable to earn because of accident injuries from the time of the accident until the time of retirement. It may include a reduction in income if you are limited to working fewer hours or forced to take a lower-paying job. Likewise, it may include all of your income if you are unable to work at all or if your loved one has died.
When considering lost income, it is important to consider all sources of compensation, including:
- Bonuses and incentives.
- Income from self-employment.
Future lost income can be determined by considering earning potential, age, health, and other economic factors.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering compensation, commonly known as “non-economic damages,” seeks to compensate you for the emotional burdens caused by serious accident injuries. Non-economic damages that could be available through a car accident claim in Kentucky include compensation for:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Mental anguish including shock, fear, stress, and depression.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of enjoyment of marital relations.
After a fatal accident, you also may be able to recover damages for the loss of companionship that you are experiencing because of the death of your loved one.
In addition to the damages described above, you may be able to recover for any or all of the following damages that you experience after a serious accident, including:
- Funeral and burial expenses. If your loved one died in a crash, then you may be able to recover for all of your loved one’s funeral and burial expenses.
- Loss of services. If you have been seriously injured or your loved one has died in a crash, then you may be compensated for all household services that you or your loved one can no longer perform. This could include, for example, mowing the lawn and caring for children.
- Property damage. If your car or your loved one’s car was damaged in the crash, then you may be able to recover for the cost of those damages. Actual cash value (ACV) is used by insurance companies to determine whether a vehicle is worth repairing or if the repairs would cost more than the vehicle is worth. In Kentucky, a car is considered “totaled” if the cost of repairing the damage is 75% or more of the car’s value.
Additionally, you may be compensated for the value of any other damages that you can prove happened because of the accident.
In order to be awarded punitive damages after a Kentucky accident, your lawyer will need to prove that the defendant was malicious, fraudulent, grossly negligent, or oppressive in the actions that led to your injuries.
The purpose of punitive damages is not like the purpose of other types of damages. It is not to compensate your loved one’s estate, you, or other family members for your loved one’s death. Instead, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the person whose willful or grossly negligent act resulted in your loved one’s death, and to discourage other people from doing similar acts that could result in future deaths.
Punitive damages are most often awarded after a fatal accident or an accident that results in a catastrophic injury that will have a long term significant impact on your life. Section 411.130 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes allows punitive damages to be awarded in wrongful death cases if the act that resulted in the death was either willful or the result of gross negligence.
Section 411.186 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes requires that five specific factors be considered in determining the amount of punitive damages to be awarded. Those factors are:
- The likelihood at the relevant time that serious harm would arise from the defendant’s misconduct.
- How aware the defendant was of the likelihood that serious harm would arise from his or her misconduct.
- How profitable the misconduct was to the defendant.
- How long the misconduct went on and whether it was concealed by the defendant.
- Any actions the defendant took to remedy the misconduct once the defendant knew about it.
Punitive damages should be decided by the court at the same time as other damages.
11 Factors That Influence the Value of Your Accident Case
The information provided above describes the types of damages that you may receive. Now, you need to know how much you will receive. That depends on many things, including:
- Accident details. This will determine liability and degree of fault. If you were partly at fault for the accident, then your recovery may be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to you.
- Medical history. Your medical records both before and after the accident will be relevant in determining what injuries were caused by the crash.
- Your medical treatment costs. This includes hospital visits, doctors’ appointments, medications, assistive medical devices, rehabilitation such as physical therapy, and other treatments. It also includes reasonable expectations of your future treatment costs.
- How your injuries have impacted your ability to perform your daily activities. This includes household duties, maintaining relationships, enjoying your free time, and other activities.
- Proof of income. You need evidence of what you were earning or what your loved one earned before the accident.
- Employment status. Your job, the potential for job advancement, how long you had been in the industry, and other factors may all be relevant to determining your lost income.
- Government benefits. Some benefits, such as disability or retirement benefits, may continue to be paid after an accident. If these benefits are part of your income, then it is important that they be considered appropriately.
- Evidence of your physical pain and emotional suffering.
- The quality of each type of evidence.
- The persuasiveness of the arguments made on behalf of your fair recovery.
- How quickly you take action. You must take action within the statute of limitations. Additionally, the quality of evidence may be better if you take action quickly.
It will take convincing evidence and persuasive arguments to get fair value for the damages that you have incurred.
Should You Accept a Settlement as Compensation for Your Injuries?
Before you accept any kind of settlement from an insurance company, it is important to know that the settlement is likely binding. That means that you can’t recover additional damages for your injuries after you agree to the settlement. Accordingly, it is important to work closely with an experienced car crash injury lawyer to make sure that the settlement fairly compensates you for your injuries.
Your lawyer can also help you decide whether you should accept a lump-sum settlement (where you get your money all at once) or a structured settlement (where you get your money in a series of payments). There are tax implications to consider that your attorney should review with you before an agreement is made.
When you receive a lump-sum settlement, you may be taxed on it if your damages weren’t only for physical injuries. Additionally, if you invest that money, you’ll have to pay taxes on your investment earnings.
Conversely, when a structured settlement is set up properly, you may be able to avoid paying taxes. This can become a significant factor, especially in cases involving a large settlement amount.
In addition to tax benefits, structured settlements may be a good idea for:
- Minors to help pay for future medical expenses.
- People with special long-term needs.
- People who may need help handling money.
Structured settlements are very flexible and may be suitable in some, but not all, situations. There are asset protection and spendthrift advantages, but some people may do better investing a large lump-sum settlement.
Since there are numerous benefits as well as potential disadvantages to structured settlements, you shouldn’t agree to any offer without first discussing your options with your lawyer.
Request a Free Case Evaluation With Our Kentucky Car Accident Lawyers
Every car crash is unique. There is no formula to use when determining how much you may recover in a car accident settlement or in a court verdict. Therefore, it would be impossible to give you a specific value of your car crash injury claim in this type of article.
Our experienced accident injury lawyers can, however, provide you with a FREE case evaluation so that you can learn more about your potential settlement or court verdict and so that you can make the decision that is right for you. Call us or contact us via this website at any time to learn more about how we can help you.