If you want to talk to a car accident lawyer about a collision, whether it’s a minor tap on the fender or a head-on crash, you need to know what to expect. The law can be complicated, but lawyers can clarify your rights and advise you on what the next steps in achieving justice could be.
The initial meeting will be more helpful if you know some general facts about car accidents and some legal terminology.
What Are Damages?
Courts and attorneys refer to “damages” in car accident and personal injury cases. The word “damages” refers to what a victim of a car crash lost as a result of the accident and attempts to place a value on it.
If you had to visit a hospital after a car crash, for example, the doctor, hospital, x-rays and any other bills related to the visit and any diagnosed condition that resulted from the collision are damages. You would not have these bills if not for the crash, so the crash has damaged your financial position, in a sense, and possibly your health.
A lawsuit can be filed to recover any damages resulting from an accident. Damages can be direct, such as:
- Doctor’s bills
- Wages lost from work
- Cost of repairing your car
They can also be indirect. Indirect damages include pain and suffering, of both the victim and family members.
A lawyer can advise you of the types of damages in your case upon an initial review. Attorneys are trained to assess the scope and seriousness of the effect of an accident. They will ask about the extent of the physical impact and mental anguish. If your injuries caused you to lose time from work, or prevent you from returning to work, they can advise you on how to achieve just compensation.
Your car accident attorney will review the circumstances of your accident with the goal of achieving maximum compensation for any damages.
Types of Damages You May Suffer After a Car Accident
A car accident claim may seek damages in two broad categories: compensatory damages and general damages.
Compensatory damages refers to compensation for all hospital and medical bills related to the crash, in the past, present and future; to lost income; to property damage; and to loss of earning capacity in the future.
General damages refer to damages that do not have a specific monetary cost attached to them, but are severe and impact your quality of life and relationships. General damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress or anguish
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium if the accident strained your relationship with your spouse
These losses are more subjective than compensatory damages. The amount of damages asked for in a claim depends on the circumstances of the case and their impact on you and your family. There is no precise calculator to use. The damages you receive depend on your case’s merits and your attorney’s skill in documenting those damages.
General damages may require expert testimony from medical or other professionals who tell the court the extent and nature of the general damages.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident for which you weren’t responsible, it’s possible to bring a claim against the parties who were responsible. This can be a claim against people or organizations.
If a claim is brought against another person or an organization, they are termed “defendants.” The person bringing the claim is called a “plaintiff.”
Your attorney can review the circumstances of the car accident to determine the responsible parties. The potential defendants include:
- A driver who caused the crash through negligent or reckless behavior
- The other vehicle’s owner if it was borrowed at the time of the crash
- Employers, if the crash was caused by an employee’s action during work hours
- Mechanics, if the crash was caused by poor maintenance
- Government entities, if the crash was caused by road defects or hazards
- Auto manufacturers, if the crash was caused by defects in a vehicle or recalled parts
- The plaintiff’s insurance company, if the other driver was uninsured or underinsured
What Are the Time Limits for Bringing a Car Accident Claim?
In the state of Pennsylvania, injured parties have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim for monetary damages. If an accident causes injuries that lead to a death, the family has two years from the date of the death to bring a wrongful death suit.
Time limits are referred to statutes of limitations. There may be statute of limitations exceptions, which your attorney can advise you about during your initial meeting.