What types of Damages could you claim if you had a car accident in Florida? Would you know what types of compensation laws were on your side? Would you understand what first steps you should take legally after a car accident? Could you calculate the Special Damages and General Damages you might consider to be just and legal?
This week, the Metts Legal Blog will bring you vital information on these topics and begin to answer these questions.
At this point, we invite you to read or review the previous Metts Legal Blog for background. We will be continuing our mini-case study/story of Lauren and her car accident, “Lauren and the Law.” Keep in mind that every case is unique, and that these blogs are informative in nature. Metts Legal reminds you, for specific legal advice, please consult a personal injury lawyer.
Damages 101: Quick Review of “Lauren and the Law”
We remind you Lauren is fictitious, but we are creating her story especially for our readers, to serve as a typical case. “She” is meant to provide an ongoing, lively human connection to the law.
Likewise, her story serves as an example of the more esoteric points of law we present in our Metts Law Blog articles. In the coming weeks, we invite you to follow Lauren as she learns the legal lessons resulting from her Florida car accident.
Damages 101-First Things First: On the Scene of an Accident
When Lauren awakens from unconscious and semi-conscious world known only to the seriously injured, she sees two anxious faces.
One is her sympathetic husband, Barry, and the other is the neighbor who lives across the street from Lauren, Bessie. “Bossy Bessie,” the neighbors call her…and Lauren smiles weakly.
Let’s go back in time to the moment of the accident…
As it so happened, Bessie was returning from the grocery store even as Lauren was driving her child home from school. Bessie happened to be following in the same line of traffic, driving her car.
At the time of the accident, she was on a slight rise of the street above the accident. She was only three car lengths away. She was in a great vantage point to witness the event. But, she didn’t stop there. She took charge of the immediate situation. (One of Bossy Bessie’s five husbands had worked in a law firm and Bessie knew just enough about car accidents to remember what to do at the scene of an accident.)
l. After dialing 911, she shouted at onlookers to stay back, but remain where they were for few minutes. She knelt by the car and said soothing words to Lauren.
2. When the EMTs arrived, Bessie shifted her focus. She took Smart-phone photos of the people and the cars.
3. Then she collected names and phone numbers while she interviewed other witnesses at the accident scene.
4. She made copious notes on the entire event. She even noted the comments the other driver made as the police restrained him from reaching Lauren.
5. Lauren recalled the sound of Bessie’s shrill voice, informing all the accident scene onlookers that she knew Lauren would be pressing claims.
Damages 101: The Lesson
Had the accident less severe, and Lauren’s injuries less significant, the above four steps are the exact actions Lauren could have, should have, and would have done for herself.
At this point we should note that the PIP laws may cover some of Lauren’s injuries .
A Side-Note on Car Accidents
Remember, “No Fault” insurance laws mandate that you must go to your own insurance company first, for claims in cases with non-serious injuries. There is also a $10,000 limit on claims at this level, due to the “No Fault” laws. Again, although this does not apply to Lauren because of her serious injuries, it is good for you to know.
Meanwhile, back at Lauren’s Bedside: Damages 101
Both Lauren and Barry smiled as Bessie said, “Now, honey, you have got to focus and think about the damages here. I think you need a good lawyer—just saying! And don’t you talk to that truck-driver who hit you. I saw him skulking around the waiting room.”
Again, Bessie might be bossy, but she is correct, as we will see when our story continues.
Damages 101: A Lesson About Claims under Florida Law
With her pelvis crushed and her right femur badly broken in four places, as well as a slight concussion, Lauren’s accident and subsequent surgery certainly went beyond the 10,000.00 limit PIP laws may provide her.
However, in cases such as Lauren’s, when the injuries are severe and severe scars and a limp are permanent, she and her lawyer will file a claim against the other driver. In this case, the claim will be against the truck-driver who ran the red light and slammed into the driver’s side of her car. The claim will carry the threat of a lawsuit.
Since the doctors have prepared Lauren for a lifetime limp after surgically installing numerous pins in her femur and hip, she will be filing legal claims.
Bossy Bessie said, “Now, honey, don’t you wait too long. You and your lawyer had best get right on this!” It’s a good idea to avoid too much delay in the initial filing of a legal claim for too long.
Damages 101 and “Comparative Negligence”
Before Lauren proceeds with figuring damages to file her claim , she also needs to know that Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. We know that Lauren was completely innocent of wrong-doing. In this case, the other driver ran a red-light and rammed right into her vehicle with such speed and force it rolled.
However, if the accident had been a situation in which drivers shared guilt, the rule of “Comparative Negligence” percentages would be calculated. If an accident is 40% your fault, then your recovery of damages will be only 60% of the judge or jury approved possible amount. It is a matter of comparing two drivers to determine who was the most at fault. Damages can be thus reduced.
Damages 101—The Starting Point: Your Medical Records: Diagnosis and Treatment
Figuring out what amount you should claim in a settlement hinges upon your medical treatment and the extent of your injuries. Both your doctor and your lawyer will help you collect this information.
Law Lesson: Calculating Special Damages
There are basically two categories of damages that Lauren and her Lawyer will address. Put simply, the term “special damages” refers to your economic losses due to the car accident. Only money is a substitute for these losses—Another name for this is the “out of pocket loss” rule. In addition to all your medical expenses, special damages might include: lost wages and lost earning capacity, property damage and, if applicable, funeral and burial expenses.
Damages 101–Metts Legal and Lauren Calculate: Past and Future Medical Expenses
Medical Expenses of the Past: Special damages can include past economic losses caused by the accident, before your filing date, including emergency room services medical therapies, doctors, and medication—even Lauren’s ambulance ride is listed here.
Medical Expenses of the Future: Likewise, “Special Damages” will include future medical expenses. This number will depend a great deal on your individual accident and facts. For example, for a while, Lauren will need in home care, physical therapy and a little speech therapy. Again, doctors and medical advisors can help calculate this figure.
Law Lesson: Lost Wages Must Count as Special Damages
Special Damages will also include lost wages. Since Lauren works as a real estate agent, she will be calculating what her recovery time will cost her. When a case is complex, often, here at Metts Legal, we hire an expert in economic damage analysis to help figure out what damages should include. Such experts help to prove the economic effect that the car accident injuries will inflict on a client’s income and earning ability.
Calculating General Damages
General damages are those damages that can only be roughly replaced with money. These are the kind of damages that all the money that make us cringe. There does not seem to be enough compensation in the world for what Lauren and others like her have been put through. And it’s all due to another driver’s negligence. It can be difficult to put a price tag on General Damages.
Everyone has probably heard the term “pain and suffering,” and that phrase is the prime type of General damage most often discussed after medical problems. Here is the short list of other types of general damages which Lauren and her Lawyer might include in filing her claim:
1. humiliation and embarrassment,
2. shock and mental anguish,
3. emotional distress,
4. loss of consortium—This refers of rights of a spouse, since injuries like Laurens would prevent the exercise of marital rights for some time.
5. loss of society and companionship,
6. and loss of reputation.
Damages 101: The Secret Sauce!
There’s a statistical “magic” formula for calculating General Damages. General damages are basically figured at 1.5 to 5 times the special damages. The resulting figure often depends upon the severity of the injury.
Lauren was very fortunate her surgeons were skilled or she might have lost her right leg or her life. She was also very glad that her seven year old son, as her passenger, endured only a broken arm.
They have calculated both Special and General damages. Lauren and her Lawyer are ready to begin writing her claim. But that is another episode in Lauren and the Law, and another blog.
Thank you for reading our blog today. At Metts Legal, we are pledged to empower car crash victims to put the pain of their accident behind them and get on with their lives.