New clients frequently ask what their car accident case is worth, or whether their recovery will cover certain expenses. I will never guarantee any value or outcome for my clients because there are simply too many variables and unknowns at the start of any case. However, there are certain areas of recovery that we will usually attempt to recover compensation for our clients. These are some of the most common.
Types of Compensation Available to Injured Car Accident Victims
The first and frequently most straightforward evaluation in a car accident claim is the medical bills themselves. These are the bills generated by any and all medical providers who treated you for the injuries related to your claim. Compensation for these bills can be recovered even if you have health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or auto insurance coverage for medical payments.
Further, under Illinois law, if your case proceeds to trial, the jury will only know the full charges for the services you received, not the amount paid by your health insurance or other coverage. This can be a very important portion of the recovery because hospitals have contractual agreements with all insurance or public aid benefit plans to take reduced payments for full-charge services. That means more money in your pocket than what the health insurance company paid for you.
It is important to note that by claiming these medical bills as part of your recovery, there is frequently a contractual right of reimbursement to the party who paid your medical bills. However, as previously explained, the amount owed back to the insurance company is less than what you will recover from the full charges from the providers. In addition, it is typical for health insurance or other coverage groups to take a reduction in the amount they paid to compensate you for hiring an attorney who recovered their funds as well. This is known as the “common fund” doctrine.
If you are forced to miss work as a result of the injuries you sustained in your car accident, it is likely you will not receive your full wages, or may even lose your job from missing so much work. There are also times when suffering a serious injury can make returning to work impossible.
In any of these scenarios, your attorney will be able to show what you would have been making, based upon your salary or wage prior to the injury, and calculate how much your missed work time was worth. This can be complicated when you are no longer able to return to work in your chosen career field, or even return to work at all. In those cases, your attorney will calculate your expected work life and determine a reasonable rate of inflation to determine what your lifetime earnings would have been, but for this injury. This can be a potentially large number for serious injuries, especially for those who are injured when they are still younger.
If you were driving a vehicle at the time of your injury, or suffered some other property damage as a result, that is also an element of your claim for which you may be eligible to receive compensation.
Most automobile insurance policies provide for repairs to be paid for by the insurance company and for the injured party to receive a rental car for a reasonable period of time. If this was part of the regular injury claim, it may not be resolved until months or years later. This would be unreasonable, because most clients don’t need a rental car years later, they need it days later. Thankfully, property claims are handled separate and apart from personal injury claims, and are usually resolved extremely quickly to assist injured persons when they need help, and not years later.
Pain and Suffering, Emotional Distress, and Loss of Normal Life
This is frequently the most difficult area to value, and is entirely personal to the individual. For some clients, there is not a number you can place on not experiencing the pain of a broken arm, or the inability to play baseball during the summertime because of a car crash before the season began. These are damages that were caused either directly or indirectly by the claim, but do not have a dollar value associated with them. Thankfully, the Illinois pattern jury instructions specifically instructs juries to make awards in these areas when there is competent testimony to the losses suffered by the victim.
As this area of damages is so personal to each individual case, it is important for your attorney to get the full picture of the damages suffered, and the personal losses experienced as a result of the claim.
Family Members - Loss of Consortium and Family Medical Expense Act
When a person is injured, it not only affects their own lives, but also the family members around them. While it is not usually possible to compensate friends and family who spend countless hours visiting a recovering victim, it is possible to compensate spouses for the loss of companionship they have with the injured person, or the medical bills paid for by other family members. This statute also allows family members the opportunity to tell the jury about the affect it had on other people in the injured person’s life.
Future Care, and Increased Risk of Harm
The last—and longest lasting element of damages—is the future damages that will be experienced after the case resolved. Lawsuits last a long time, but life-long injuries will still persist after a lawsuit is over. As such, your attorney can also claim that the at-fault party should compensate you for continued care, and even the increased risk of future injury caused by this claim. The law of Illinois requires that damages be proven with a specific element of certainty, so having a doctor or nurse provide a detailed plan for future care is critical to proving this element of damages. This is another area where a serious injury can add significant value if the injured party is fairly young. This should also provide some security for the family for those costs that will continue to occur repeatedly over the course of an injured person’s life.
Our Car Accident Attorneys Are Here to Help You Get the Compensation You’re Entitled Under Illinois Law
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, it’s important to know that you do have rights. Our injury attorneys have over 40 years combined experience protecting those rights, and making sure that you and your family are justly compensated for the injuries you’ve suffered. We proudly serve Charleston and all of Southern Illinois, and are standing by to help you right now. Contact us today to request your free, no-obligation consultation by completing the form on this page, or by calling 217-639-7800.
Download Our Free Guidebook to Illinois Car Wreck Cases
Want to know more about your legal rights after an accident in Illinois? Download your FREE copy of When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases, written by attorney William Tapella. This book provides and in-depth examination of the questions we’ve found to be most common for anyone in a situation similar to yours. Download it today to start reading!