When you are injured in a wreck, your primary concern should always be getting the medical attention and treatment that you need. Waiting to get help can not only exacerbate any injuries you sustained, but it could hurt your claim for damages later.
Damages – the losses you sustain because you are injured – are generally divided into two categories: economic, which include monetary losses and expenditures like wages and medical bills, and non-economic, which include non-tangible factors like your pain and suffering, or the loss of companionship with your spouse. Economic losses may appear more cut-and-dry than non-economic losses, but they can be undervalued, too.
Ongoing medical treatment and its ripple effects on economic loss
When you are seriously injured, you may need an ambulance service to get you to a hospital. You may consult with multiple doctors and specialists and may require one or more surgeries. You could be prescribed multiple medications. All of these expenditures can be calculated with relative ease.
But what happens when someone will require long-term care, such as another potential surgery in a few years? Or requires around-the-clock care after a paralyzing spinal cord injury? These economic losses must also be calculated and underestimating what they will be – a popular tactic for insurance companies, we might add – can do real damage in the long run. This is because once you have accepted a settlement, you cannot go back and ask for more if your injuries lead to additional economic losses.
And you will almost certainly have additional economic losses if you require ongoing medical care. Aside from the medical costs, you may face:
- Loss of wages and loss of future earning potential, if your injury leaves you unable to work.
- Costs associated with childcare, if your injury leaves you unable to raise your children.
- Home renovation costs, if your injury necessitates the need for ramps, wider halls, handrails, new bathrooms, and other adaptive technologies.
Claiming lost wages after your injury
If you are out of work because of your injury, you can make a claim for lost wages as well as loss of future income. The calculation of your wages is usually done by taking your hourly wage and multiplying it by how many hours of work you missed, to come up with a total wage loss pre-tax and deductions.
- If you are paid $10 an hour and miss a week’s worth of work (40 hours), you can claim $400.
- If you are paid $40,000 a year and miss a week’s worth of work, you can claim about $800*.
*This assumes you work for 50 weeks out of the year.
Self-employed and freelance workers may have their wages calculated differently.
What about earning potential and loss of future income?
With catastrophic injuries, the standard calculation of wages won’t suffice if your injuries leave you unable to perform the same job you did before, or if the injury leaves you permanently disabled, scarred, or disfigured.
For example, say John Doe is an electrician. While he is driving to work one day, he is hit by an oil truck and suffers permanent brain damage, crush injuries to his arms, and nerve damage, all of which affects his fine motor skills. As a result, John is no longer able to be an electrician. Had he not suffered those injuries in the car crash, he would have conceivably continued his work as an electrician for the next 20 years.
In John Doe’s case, we would argue that not only did he lose wages during the time he was being treated medically, but he has also lost earning potential for the future. Your attorney can also make a claim for the difference in those salaries.
Property losses associated with injury claims
While medical care and treatments often make up the bulk of expenses in a personal injury claim, you can also make a claim for associated property losses. In many cases, this loss comes in the form of a damaged car, truck, motorcycle, or other type of vehicle.
Understand that car insurance companies do not want to pay for damaged vehicles. Their goal is to keep as much of their profits as possible. The fact that you dutifully made your payments each month, or that you have never put in a claim before, is not likely to help you at all. This is especially true if the car is declared a total loss, meaning that the cost of the repairs is greater than the value of the vehicle.
What you should know about diminished value
North Dakota is a “diminished value state,” meaning that motorists are eligible for the diminished value of their vehicle after an accident. Diminished value is the difference between the value of your car before the crash, and the value after. However, you can only make a diminished value claim if you were not the at-fault driver, and only if the damage happened due to a collision.
There are three types of diminished value:
- Immediate diminished value. This is the difference in value immediately after an accident but before the vehicle is repaired. Your insurance company typically covers repairs after an accident, so this type of diminished value is rarely used.
- Inherent diminished value. Inherent diminished value occurs when the vehicle has a history of damage. It assumes the vehicle’s repairs were of high and optimal quality, and the value represents the amount of worth lost based on the accident history.
- Repair-related diminished value. This is the loss of value when a vehicle has low-quality repairs after an accident. If a mechanic cuts corners and uses off-market parts or paint doesn’t match, this can cause a further loss in value beyond the original damage to the vehicle. This type of diminished value assumes that the vehicle cannot be restored to original condition.
Many insurance companies will delay or deny diminished value claims, as it is not in their best financial interests to pay out additional money. However, this does not mean you can stop making payments if you financed or leased your car; you still owe that money, even if your insurance company begrudgingly pays out on your claim.
As you can see, calculating economic losses can be a real challenge, especially for people who have sustained long-term and permanent injuries. At Larson Law Firm, P.C., we work to ensure that you are fully compensated after an injury that wasn’t your fault. Our experienced attorneys will fight for you. To arrange a free consultation, call us in Minot or Bismarck today at 701.484.HURT or complete our contact form.
I opened up my firm because I wanted to offer people something different. My staff and I take pride in a client-oriented approach to serving the needs of our clients, hoping that they always feel the door is open to them and their wishes. My office prides itself on state-of-the-art technology and cost-effective means to provide services.
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