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Accident Damages

How are Damages Calculated in Accident Cases?

When an individual suffers moderate to severe injuries from an accident, it can be a life-altering experience. High medical bills combined with time missed from work can create a financial hardship for victims and their families, and the physical and emotional pain an injury causes can put additional strain on the household. When an injury results from the negligence or reckless actions of another party, victims deserve to be compensated. The legal term for this is called “damages”.

Compensatory damages in personal injury cases can be divided into two general categories; economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

These are losses incurred by the injured party that are quantifiable. Such as:

  • Property Damage: In most accident cases, there is some property damage that accompanies the injuries. The most common example is with an auto accident case in which the vehicle the injured party was driving is damaged.
  • Medical Costs: Various types of medical expenses may be incurred depending on the type and extent of the injuries. For more severe injuries, there may be hospitalization costs, cost for surgeries and/or various other medical treatments, rehabilitation costs, and costs for ongoing medical care (when there is a debilitating injury).
  • Lost Wages: When someone suffers an injury, they may have to miss work for medical appointments, and depending on the type of work they do, they may be out of work for a while during their recovery period.
  • Loss of Earning Capacity: When someone suffers a debilitating injury, they may not be able to return to their previous job. And in the most serious cases, they may not be able to participate in any type of gainful activity at all.
  • Funeral and Burial Expenses: In the case of an accident that results in a fatality, the victim’s family should be compensated for funeral and burial costs.

Non-Economic Damages

These are intangible losses that are more difficult to quantify because they have to do with the impact the injury has on the victim’s life, and the life of their loved ones. Non-economic damages may include:

  • Physical Pain and Suffering: A serious injury can cause extreme physical pain, and oftentimes, the victim must endure this pain for an extended period of time. If the victim suffers a long-term debilitating injury, the pain and suffering may be permanent.
  • Psychological Distress: Having to adjust to life after a severe injury can be very hard on someone emotionally. Uncertainty about the future, wondering how long the injury will last, how long they will be in pain, when they can return to work (if ever), and similar worries can cause an enormous amount of stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: Some injuries deprive the victim of their ability to participate in physical activities they once enjoyed; such as running, hiking, biking, swimming, and other hobbies or recreational pursuits.
  • Loss of Consortium: This relates to the losses suffered by someone close to the victim, such as loss of the ability to maintain an intimate relationship with your spouse.  Loss of consortium damages are sometimes awarded directly to the loved one who is affected.

Punitive Damages

In rare cases when the actions of the party responsible for the accident were especially egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and help deter them (and others) from engaging in similar behaviors. To be awarded punitive damages, it must be shown that the responsible party acted with willful and wanton conduct or actual malice toward the victim.  Punitive damages in Virginia are capped at $350,000.

Pursuing Damages in Virginia Accident Cases

Recovering compensation for injuries suffered after an accident in Virginia can be very difficult because of the state’s “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering damages if they are found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident.

This is a very high bar to clear, and even being found 1% at-fault can be a barrier to obtaining the just compensation you deserve. For this reason, it is absolutely essential to work with a skilled personal injury attorney who understands Virginia law and has a proven ability to successfully pursue damages on behalf of injury victims in these types of cases.

Injured in an Accident in Virginia? Call the Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyers at Olmstead & Olmstead

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, it is important to act immediately to protect your legal right to recover compensation. Call Olmstead & Olmstead today at 703-361-1555 for a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.

Full and Fair Settlement

Negotiating a Full and Fair Settlement

When an individual suffers an injury from an accident or another event and someone else was at fault, they deserve to be compensated. Unfortunately, obtaining full and fair compensation is much easier said than done. In most cases, the party that was responsible for your injuries is not going to willingly write you a check for full damages. In fact, you will most likely not even be dealing directly with the other party. Instead, you will be dealing with their insurance company.

Shortly after an accident, those involved are typically contacted by the adjuster for the other party’s insurer, or in some cases, you might be dealing with your own insurer (such as when the other party was uninsured). You might be offered a settlement by the adjuster early on in the process, but it will probably be for much lower than what your case is worth. To secure just compensation for your injuries, it will most often require a negotiation.

Negotiating a full and fair settlement with an insurance adjuster can be a challenging process.  You can choose to deal with the adjuster on your own, or you can retain the services of a personal injury lawyer to negotiate a settlement for you. If you decide to deal with the insurance company on your own, the process could take as little as a few days or up to several months or more, depending on several factors.

For example, if it is a fairly straightforward car accident case where another driver was clearly negligent in colliding with your vehicle and your injuries are relatively minor, you might decide to take the insurer’s settlement offer and move on with your life. If, on the other hand, your injuries are more extensive, there is some question about liability, and there are other complicating factors, you can expect the negotiations to go on for a while.

If you do have moderate to severe injuries, you definitely do not want to accept an insurance company’s initial offer. The main reason being that it is nearly impossible to know just a few days after an accident how extensive your injuries are. You will need to wait until you have all of that information before you can determine how much compensation you should be entitled to. 

After you have declined the insurer’s first offer and received a medical report regarding your injuries, you can prepare a demand letter with a counter offer that more accurately reflects what your claim is worth. When determining the full extent of the losses you have suffered, be sure to factor in both economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are those that are quantifiable, such as property damage, medical costs (both present and future), time missed from work, and loss of earning capacity. Non-economic damages are intangibles that are more difficult to assign a dollar figure to. Examples include pain and suffering, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, and loss of consortium.

After you submit your demand letter with a counter offer, the insurer will either accept the offer or send a counter of their own. In most cases, there will be some back and forth activity before a final settlement is agreed upon, if you are able to get them to agree to a fair settlement at all.

During the process, the insurance company may use various tactics to diminish the value of your claim or deny your claim altogether. For example, if an accident involving injuries occurs in Virginia, an injured party can be barred from recovering compensation if they are found to be even 1% at-fault for the accident. There is no doubt that an insurer will try to use the state’s defendant-friendly legal standard to their advantage to avoid responsibility for the negligent actions of their client.

How an Attorney can Help Negotiate a Full and Fair Settlement

As mentioned earlier, negotiating with the insurance adjuster can be a difficult process, especially in a state that is so favorable to defendants in personal injury cases. This is why it is recommended that those who are injured in an accident strongly consider retaining skilled legal counsel.

A seasoned personal injury lawyer can handle the entire negotiation process for you. They will deal directly with the insurance adjuster, leveraging their extensive experience to help you obtain full and fair compensation.

Some of the specific ways a lawyer can help you during negotiations include:

  • Advising you on whether or not the insurance company is presenting a fair offer;
  • Properly valuing your claim based on a thorough investigation of the facts and evidence of the case;
  • Using their negotiation skills to strongly argue for the amount you deserve;
  • Helping you fight an insurance claim denial;
  • Calling on expert witnesses when necessary to help substantiate your claim;
  • Providing the insurance adjuster with a credible threat of a lawsuit if they do not negotiate in good faith.

If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident in Virginia, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead for a free, no-obligation consultation. Call our office today at 571-620-5923 or send us a message through our online contact form.