Types of Damages in a Car Accident

Last updated on: March 12, 2015


Car accident victims have rights.  One of those rights includes the right to seek compensation against the at-fault party for losses incurred as a result of the accident.  This article will discuss what forms of compensation may be available to a car accident victim, as well as other important topics such as how to file a car accident claim and what a car accident attorney may be able to do for you.

If you have been the victim of a car accident and are interested in taking legal action, or if you would like to learn more about your rights following an accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive a free case evaluation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys. 

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Victims of car accidents may incur significant expenses following a wreck.  In addition to having to worry about medical bills and property damage, a car accident victim may also incur lost wages due to missed time from work.

Fortunately, victims may take legal action may to recover for the injuries and damages they sustained.  “Damages” is the term used to refer to the monetary compensation which may be awarded to a victim of a car accident.  The damages that may be awarded to a victim of a car accident can be separated into two broad categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are calculable costs incurred as a result of the wreck.  In automobile accident cases, economic car accident damages available to the victim may include:

  • Medical expenses (present and future bills; pharmacy costs, rehabilitation services, etc.);
  • Lost income and wages;
  • Loss of earning capacity;
  • Property damage (vehicle repair costs and personal property damages in the collision); and
  • Rental car costs

Non-economic Damages

In contrast, non-economic damages are characterized as intangible losses that cannot be easily calculated.  Rather, non-economic damages are evaluated by a jury in a lawsuit.  In car accident cases, the victim may be awarded non-economic damages such as:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of affection or companionship;
  • Loss of consortium;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Disability or disfigurement; and
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.

Punitive Damages

The third form of damages, known as punitive damages, may also be available to the victim of a car accident.  Such damages may be awarded in instances where the at-fault party’s actions were found to be especially reckless, egregious, or intentional.  Punitive car accident damages are not intended to compensate the victim, but rather to punish the wrongdoer.


1. Contact a Car Accident Attorney

The first step towards filing a car accident claim is to contact a car accident attorney.  Getting in touch with an attorney will give the victim of a car accident an opportunity to explain the facts and circumstances giving rise to the accident.

At the initial consultation, an attorney may ask important questions such as when the accident occurred, how the accident occurred, and what types of injuries were sustained.  From there, the lawyer may be able to provide helpful advice regarding legal options.

2. Document the Accident

The next step in filing a car accident claim is critical and unfortunately often overlooked by many car accident victims.  This step involves documenting the accident by maintaining a thorough record of the incident.

Maintaining a thorough record of the incident means creating a physical or electronic file where all important documentation relating to the incident is kept.  Information that should be stored in this file may include:

  • A copy of the police report;
  • Name and contact information of the at-fault driver;
  • Names and contact information of any witnesses;
  • Medical records and medical receipts;
  • Photographs of physical injuries; and
  • Photographs of property damage

3. Investigation

The investigation phase of the car accident claim filing process may involve your attorney conducting a thorough investigation into your case.  As part of the investigation, your attorney may take important steps to build the strength and credibility of your claim.  For instance, your attorney may:

  • Interview witnesses;
  • Review the police report;
  • Review medical records;
  • Account for your economic damages
  • Consult with medical experts; and
  • Develop a legal strategy tailored to the facts of your case

4. Negotiation and Settlement

Before going to trial, you may receive a settlement offer from the at-fault driver or the driver’s insurance company.  Once you receive a settlement offer, your attorney may protect your rights by negotiating terms favorable to your interests.  If it is not in your best interest to accept a settlement offer, your case may proceed to trial.

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In order to litigate a car accident claim, a car accident victim must initiate a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations.  A “statute of limitations” acts as a time limit by which a person must initiate a lawsuit. Thus, if the victim of a car wreck fails or neglects to file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations, the victim may be barred from litigating the claim in court.

Statutes of limitations vary from state to state.  In many states, the statute of limitations is set at either a two or three-year period. Thus, if a car accident victim lives in a state with a two-year statute of limitations, the victim must file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver within two years of the date of the accident.

The statute of limitations may be “tolled,” or extended under certain circumstances.  For instance, if a minor child has been injured in a car accident, the statute of limitations will be tolled until the child reaches the age of majority or until the child is legally emancipated.  The child will then have two or three years from that date to initiate a lawsuit.

Statute of limitations issues can be multifaceted and complex.  In some cases, a claim may fail entirely because the statute of limitations “ran” before a claim was initiated.  Therefore, you may want to consider consulting with a personal injury as soon as possible after being injured in a car accident.  Doing so may ensure that your lawsuit is properly filed in a timely manner against all necessary parties.


Protect Your Rights

Car accident victims have legal rights.  Sometimes, a victim of a car accident may inadvertently forfeit one or all of his or her legal rights.  For instance, a car accident victim may unnecessarily admit fault to another party or a police officer, thereby destroying any claim the victim may have had.  A car accident attorney may protect a car accident victim by ensuring that those valuable rights are not forfeited.  Ultimately, the car accident attorney may guide the client throughout the claim filing and settlement process to ensure that the client’s rights are always protected.

Negotiate with Insurance Companies

In many cases, car accident victims with little or no negotiating experience must deal with multi-million-dollar insurance companies and claims adjusters with years of experience.  These insurance companies and claims adjusters often use tactics to reduce or eliminate the value of a car accident victim’s claim.  A car accident attorney may step in and negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of a car accident victim.  In doing so, the attorney may ensure that the victim’s interests are best represented.

Access to Resources

Car accident attorneys may also be able to strengthen the value of a car accident victim’s claim by utilizing resources otherwise unavailable to the general public.  For instance, a car accident attorney may be able to track down witnesses to the accident and collect witness statements.  An attorney may also be able to conduct background checks into the at-fault party to determine whether the driver has a history of being involved in car accidents.


Excellent Client Service

Zinda Law Groups’ personal injury attorneys pride themselves in providing exemplary and unparalleled service to their clients.  Throughout the entire representation, from the initial consultation up to the disposition of the case, our attorneys are ready and willing to guide clients through the car accident claim filing process.  We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Helpful Resources 

A claim may only be as strong as the resources used to support it.  Thankfully, Zinda Law Group has access to many resources, which may be used to build a strong case.  Our offices are capable of handling large and complex cases, conducting thorough interviews with the necessary parties, hiring expert witnesses, and utilizing state of the art technology.

Experienced Negotiators

Effectively communicating with insurance companies and claims adjusters is a major part of a car accident claim.  This task requires negotiation experience.  Zinda Law Group’s attorneys have years of experience negotiating with insurance companies and claims adjusters.  Our team of attorneys may negotiate on your behalf to ensure that multi-million-dollar insurance providers do not take advantage of you.


Zinda Law Group’s attorneys also have years of experience litigating claims from beginning to end.  Because we treat every case as if it is going to trial, we may give your case the attention to detail it deserves.


Car accidents can be traumatic and life-altering, and you should have a knowledgeable attorney by your side to help you seek the damages you deserve.  We believe no one should have to worry about affording legal representation to seek compensation for their injuries, which is why we offer a No Win, No Fee Guarantee.  You don’t owe us anything unless we win your case.  Call the car accident attorneys at Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a free case evaluation.

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