What damages can I sue for in a car accident that was someone else's fault?

Question

What damages can I sue for in a car accident that was someone else's fault?

Answer

When you decide to file a lawsuit over a car accident, you’re asking the court to order the at-fault driver to compensate you (usually through the driver’s car insurance coverage) for all of your injuries and other losses stemming from the accident. The legalese term for this kind of civil remedy is “damages.”

There are two main categories of damages in a car accident case (or any personal injury case): “economic” and “non-economic damages.”

Economic Damages (also called “special damages”) are the kinds of losses that are pretty easy to quantify after a car accident. They include the costs of your past and future medical treatment, any income you lost because of time missed at work, the cost of getting your car fixed (or replaced), and any other monetary losses that can be attributed to the accident.

Non-Economic Damages (also called “general damages”) are more subjective, and are not so easy to capture with a dollar figure. These include pain and suffering, mental distress, anxiety, loss of ability to participate in hobbies and other activities, and diminishment of important relationships.

(Note: Non-economic damages may not be available if you’re making an injury claim in a no-fault car insurance state.)

Document Your Damages. It’s important to have documentation and other proof of any damages you are claiming, especially your economic damages. Medical expenses need to be verified through treatment records and bills from health care providers. Lost income needs to be backed up through pay stubs and other employment records. Vehicle damage should be captured by inspection reports and repair estimates.

Even for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, you might want to keep a daily car accident diary in which you record how the accident, your injuries, and your medical treatment is affecting your life on a day to day basis. That includes any physical discomfort you’re experiencing, the mental and emotional impact of your injuries, the limitations you are noticing in terms of what you cannot do, any special events you have missed out on, and anything else that may document the impact of your injuries on your daily life.

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