To get a better understanding of how a rear-end car accident injury claim might look in the real world, read through these case examples submitted by our readers.
(For more real-world examples of car accident cases and payouts, check out our companion articles Car Passenger Injury Claim Examples, Side-Impact Car Accident Injury Case Examples, Real-Life Car Accident Jury Verdicts, and Examples of Car Accident Cases Involving Insurance Issues.)
Richard and his wife were the last of a line of cars stopped for a red light. The light turned green and the cars started to move but they quickly stopped again. The vehicle behind Richard's didn't stop and rammed his car while going about 20-25 mph. Richard's car was damaged on the rear, and it cost almost $6,000 to repair the damage.
Richard injured his back and neck and his wife injured her neck and shoulder. Even after being treated for 4 months, Richard's neck is still sore and it does not seem to be getting better.
Comments: The most important thing for Richard and his wife to do now is recover from their injuries.
Unless they are approaching the deadline known as the statute of limitations, no claim should be made until Richard and his wife fully recover from their injuries or reach "maximum medical improvement" which means recover as much as they are going to recover. Only then will Richard, his wife and their lawyer know the extent of the injuries for which they are claiming damages.
One final observation. Richard's claim and his wife's claim are separate. If one recovers before the other, they can attempt to resolve the claim of the recovered spouse. Normally, however, if a case has to be filed in court, both claims will be filed in one lawsuit.
Melanie reports that she was stopped at a red light when a garbage truck rammed her from behind, pushing her car into the car in front. Her airbag didn't deploy and the seatbelt harness on her 2003 Honda Accord did not secure her, causing her chest to hit the steering wheel.
Melanie suffered whiplash-like neck injuries. Her medical bills have totaled $25,000. She missed work for 7 weeks, which amounted to a loss of $10,000. In addition, she lost a promotion that would have paid her an additional $800 per month. Melanie still suffers from neck pain.
On top of all of her lost income, Melanie has had other financial losses and consequences as a result of her accident. She couldn't go on a non-refundable cruise that she scheduled for her birthday. She was late paying her mortgage, and her credit has been severely damaged because she was out of work and without income for almost 2 months.
Melanie's claim is pending.
Comments: Melanie has a very significant claim because she has large financial losses -- that will continue in the future because of her lost promotion -- and serious injuries which may not yet be resolved.
Melanie should not settle her claim until she is sure that she has fully recovered from her injuries or reached her "maximum medical improvement." At that point, if she still has symptoms, she should have a doctor evaluate her to determine whether she will have permanent consequences of her injuries and, if so, what those permanent consequences will be. If she will suffer with the consequences of her injuries for the rest of her life, she should be compensated for that suffering.
In resolving her claim, Melanie is entitled to recover all of her out-of-pocket expenses -- for such things as medical bills, lost income in the past (while she was out of work), lost income in the future (the amount she is losing because of the lost promotion, until she gets the promotion, if she does), the cost of the cruise that she missed but had to pay for, and any other financial losses she has incurred.
As usual, the more difficult issue to resolve is how much Melanie should be compensated for having to go through this experience -- in the past and, if she will have permanent consequences of her injuries, in the future. This is the element of damages that is often called "pain and suffering."
In Connecticut, Larry's vehicle was stopped when it was rammed by a vehicle going 40 -- 50 mph, whose driver later said that he had "only looked at the floor for 10 seconds."
Larry suffered cervical and lumbar disc herniations which cause (radicular) pain into his arms and legs. Even while taking narcotic pain medication, Larry cannot sit or stand for long. Obviously, he can't work. He has had to retire from his job as an R.N. making $80,000 per year.
Larry has been in treatment for more than a year. He is no longer intimate with his wife, and he has feelings of worthlessness.
Larry has applied for social security disability benefits, and his claim is pending.
Comments: The careless driver has made a devastating admission. Even if he has misjudged how long he wasn't paying attention, it is clear that he was not watching where he was going for far too long.
Obviously, this driver's careless inattention has changed every part of Larry's life, from his physical and mental health to his ability to work, earn and care for his family.
Larry's relationship with his wife has been affected, too. The name of the legal claim for damage to a marital relationship is "loss of consortium." This claim is based on the common sense notion that when one member of a "marital team" is injured, the spouse is affected, too. Many people incorrectly think that loss of consortium only means loss of sex. It means much more than that. It includes all of the changes in the martial relationship. Loss of consortium is either an element of a claim for "pain and suffering," or a separate claim, depending on the law of your state.
Serious physical injuries are almost always accompanied by psychological effects, such as Larry's feelings of worthlessness. PTSD after a car accident isn’t even all that uncommon. Larry is entitled to be compensated for dealing with all of the consequences of his accident: physical and mental, financial and non-financial.
These examples provide some insight, but keep in mind that every car accident claim is unique. The best way to assess the strength of your rear-end car accident claim is to sit down and discuss your case with an experienced car accident lawyer.