Folks are always asking their personal injury lawyers how much their car accident claim is worth. While some personal injury lawyers indulge this line of thinking, the vast majority of us know better. Some personal injury lawyers even have calculators on their websites giving you an estimated total! These, of course, are total bunk. Instead of answering that question with some number, we’re going to look at the most important elements of a car accident claim and lawsuit.
Damages in any personal injury case are the same across the board. You have compensatory, special compensatory, and punitive damages. You won’t find many punitive damage claims in car accident lawsuits unless you’re dealing with a very rich driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they caused a crash.
Compensatory damages are also called “noneconomic” damages. These are related to pain and suffering, loss of consortium, emotional trauma and loss of enjoyment.
Special compensatory damages include “economic damages” that can easily have a number put to them. These include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of employment, and any out-of-pocket expenses related to your injuries.
Understanding the Role of Insurance Companies
Missouri operates on a 25/50/10 rule. All motorists are required by law to carry $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person, $50,000 in bodily injury liability per accident, and $10,000 for property damage. Additionally, Missouri requires drivers to purchase uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of their own bodily injury liability ($25,000 minimum).
In cases where your medical expenses and lost wages exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, you can file a lawsuit against the driver, but these lawsuits have difficulties attached to them. Even when successful, the at-fault party becomes the equivalent of a debtor to you. You can initiate collection actions against them (at your own expense) but they always have the option of filing for bankruptcy.
In most cases, the best settlement you can hope for is the policy limit of their liability insurance coverage.
Understanding the Role of Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence, also known as comparative fault, allows a plaintiff to only collect damages for the other party’s percentage of fault. For instance, if a jury awards $20,000 in damages and finds that the defendant was 75 percent at fault for the accident, the plaintiff would be entitled to 75 percent of $20,000 or $15,000.
However, unlike other states, there is no contributory rule that prevents a plaintiff from filing a lawsuit if they are partly at fault. A plaintiff may pursue a lawsuit even if they are 99 percent at fault for an accident. While they won’t get much money, they can still pursue the action.
Talk to a Kansas City Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you’ve been injured in a car accident and you believe the other driver is at fault, you should contact an attorney, especially in cases where you’ve suffered serious injuries. The Krause & Kinsman Law Firm has considerable experience dealing with insurance companies and can get you the best settlement for your case. Talk to us today for a free consultation.
Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.