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Motor-vehicle collisions cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, medical expenses, and property damage. At the individual level, a single traffic fatality costs society $1.4 million, while a survivor who sustains critical injuries might cost the nation $1 million. That doesn’t mean, however, that car accident victims are automatically entitled to a seven-figure payout. If you were hurt in a wreck, the potential value of your claim will depend on the circumstances. This is something that always comes up in our attorney-client conversations and it quite often defies an easy answer at the beginning of a case. At Coxwell & Associates, we do the best we can to let a client know upfront what he might be able to recover, but as stated earlier, sometimes you must wait until the client reaches maximum medical recovery. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest factors that influence car accident settlements and verdicts:
1. The Severity of the Injuries
It goes without saying that the severity of your injuries will have a profound impact on the total damages you incur. Not only do catastrophic injuries cost more to diagnose, stabilize, and rehabilitate, but they also keep victims out of work longer. Should you be unable to return to the workforce at all, you would be entitled to compensation for past, present and future lost earning capacity. If you are out of work but are able to return to work, then you would be allowed to recover for the wages you lost. Attorneys usually think in terms of the types of damages. There are special damages. These are lost wages, medical bills, past and future, future lost earning capacity or diminution in the ability to earn the same income, special needs like refitting your home, home health assistance, property damage, etc. These are damages that usually have a bill or invoice attached. Hedonistic damages are things we call quality of life. They are important because they provide us our quality and involve our feelings. They include loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, anxiety, stress, worry, and other types of injuries. The final type of damages is punitive. These damages are rarely granted but if they are their purpose is to punish the person for committing some egregious wrong.
Cases that involve serious injuries tend to yield significant non-economic (hedonistic) damages. Mississippi allows for the recovery of a variety of non-economic damages but the Legislature put a one million dollar cap on all hedonistic damages. So no matter how significant your injury, the things you lose in life that make us human have been limited to one million dollars. These damages include:
- Physical impairment;
- Mental anguish;
- Emotional distress;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Loss of enjoyment in life.
2. The Role You Played
If you contributed to the accident in any way, the compensation to which you are entitled might be reduced by your own percentage of fault, pursuant to Mississippi’s pure comparative fault rule. Failing to mitigate damages after the accident could also reduce your net recovery. If you did not seek prompt medical care, for example, and suffered additional complications as a result, the opposing party could argue that they are not responsible for covering the losses caused by your own negligence.
It is essential that you visit a doctor as soon as possible after the accident and be truthful to the doctor. Don’t exaggerate your symptoms, but don’t downplay your symptoms either. A doctor must know your symptoms and pain level in order to give you proper treatment. Too often we see clients with significant injures who make “off the cuff” comments like “they are fine,” when in fact they are suffering from a tremendous injury. Even if you feel relatively fine, some of the most serious impact injuries—like head trauma, bulging discs, and internal bleeding—do not always manifest immediate symptoms. Be cautious in what you say until after you know for certain you are on the road to complete recovery.
3. The Nature of the Liable Party’s Conduct
Mississippi courts may award punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct constituted gross negligence, actual malice, or fraud. Although car accident victims are not typically entitled to such damages, there are some scenarios in which they may apply. For example, drunk drivers may be ordered to pay punitive damages because a reasonable person would know that getting behind the wheel while impaired has a high probability of causing injury. Likewise, you might be able to seek a punitive award from a motorist who fled the scene. In Mississippi, punitive damages are capped based on the defendant’s net worth.
Discuss Your Case with a Car Accident Lawyer in Jackson
To find out information about your car accident claim, turn to Coxwell & Associates. We have a reputation for honesty, aggressiveness, and compassionate representation. We have over 40 years in the practice of the law helping clients solve legal problems. Our careers are our lives, not a business. Our attorneys live in Mississippi, not some distant state. They have an interest in their communities and the people they help. Coxwell & Associates attorneys have real experience and it comes from hard work, not the words on a website. Call (601) 265-7766 or use our Online Contact Form to set up a free case review with a car accident attorney in Jackson