Beyond Medical Expenses and Property Damage: Non-Economic Damages
The true value in most auto accident claims comes from the non-economic pain-and-suffering portion of a settlement that takes into consideration several claimable long-term results of the injury. Many auto accident victims are left paralyzed or are fatally injured, which commonly yields a significant settlement when all factors are evaluated. Still, others suffer injuries that never completely heal or have extensive surgeries that can leave scarring and other medical issues.
Pecuniary items such as the value of a vehicle and the total amount of medical bills can be added relatively easy, with the exception of ongoing medical charges that accrue over long-term treatment. These are termed as special damages for settlement calculation purposes, with non-economic damages being general damages. The problem with general damages is that the future injury prognosis can be difficult for many accident victims, which is why it is important to have an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer evaluating a claim for a fair and equitable settlement amount before the fact. There are usually two methods used in general damage determination.
One common method of determining general damages is the multiplier method where the special damages are calculated and then multiplied in accordance with the medical injury prognosis. These damages include the value of the damaged vehicle, the total amount of medical bills, and lost wages during the injury rehabilitation period. Special damages will also include lost future wages, which can be calculated over the remainder of the victim’s life and added to the settlement damage request being multiplied. This method is commonly used for those injured parties who can recover from their accident injuries.
Per Diem Method
The per diem method is determined by establishing a set amount of financial damages claimed based on the difficulty of life arising from the injury, followed by adding all of the days together until the injury is fully rehabilitated. Of course, for many accident victims, the injury is permanent if not fatal. The per diem method is for general damages only, as special pecuniary damages pass outside of this calculation method. This is the method commonly used for serious long-term injuries and those that result in disability.
Standard damages in an accident settlement are compensatory damages, but there is also another class of non-economic pain-and-suffering damages. They are punitive, and can only be assigned by a sympathetic jury that has heard the case in a full trial. This is common in seriously egregious accident cases such as being hit by a drunk driver and is intended as punishment for gross negligence on the part of the “at fault” driver. It is also important to note that there are limits to some awards in Texas, as well as a comparative negligence percentage being assigned to an injured driver. In Texas, this level is 51% for a claim bar, meaning an injured driver who is over half responsible for an accident can be denied benefits or at least have their general damages significantly reduced.
Contact Briggle & Polan, PLLC
Non-economic damage claims are typically the most important part of any accident settlement and it is always vital to an experienced Austin accident lawyer like the professionals at Briggle & Polan, PLLC for an accurate assessment of potential claim value. Call or contact us online today!