Damages means the amount of money that the at-fault driver must pay you to compensate for your losses caused by the car accident.
Some types of damages are obvious, like property damage or your medical expenses, but did you know you can be compensated for much more than that?
You can be sure the other driver’s insurance company is not going to tell you the types of damages that you are entitled to.
In this article, you will learn about the different categories of damages you can be compensated for after a car wreck in NC, including:
- Compensatory, special, and general damages,
- Economic and non-economic damages,
- Property damage,
- Current and future medical costs,
- Lost wages,
- Pain and Suffering,
- Loss of Consortium,
- Scarring and Disfigurement,
- Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress,
- Punitive Damages, and
- Wrongful death damages.
Types Of Damages After A Car Crash In NC
First, let’s look at some of the terms that attorneys use to describe the types of damages available after a car accident in NC:
- Actual damages or compensatory damages: refer to damages intended to make a plaintiff whole again – they are based on actual losses that were suffered, as opposed to punitive damages which are intended to punish the defendant. Economic, special, non-economic, and general damages are all actual or compensatory damages.
- Economic damages or special damages: refer to tangible financial losses that can easily be proven with a receipt, invoice, or bill.
- Non-economic or general damages: refer to compensation for the non-financial losses that resulted from the car accident – although they are real losses and you are entitled to compensation for them, they are the types of damages that you cannot usually produce a receipt, invoice, or bill for.
- Punitive Damages: are intended to punish a defendant for egregious conduct and deter future similar conduct.
Now, let’s look at some of the specific types of damages that you can be compensated for after a NC car accident.
Economic Damages After A Car Accident In NC
Economic, or “special” damages are damages that are easy to put a dollar figure on because there are bills, invoices, or estimates that say exactly how much was spent or how much is owed.
If you were forced to spend money on something as a direct result of the car accident, it should be compensable in your lawsuit. The most common types of special damages are property damage, medical costs, and lost wages.
Property damage after a car accident should be paid quickly by the other driver’s insurance company, and it should include:
- The costs to repair your vehicle and put it in the condition it was in before the wreck happened,
- The cost to replace your vehicle if repairs are not possible or not cost-effective,
- The diminished value (diminution in value or depreciation) of your vehicle due to the car accident, and
- The cost of any other personal property that was damaged in the crash.
Although there is usually a separate insurance adjuster assigned to process property damage claims (as opposed to personal injury claims), you may need an attorney’s help if they refuse to pay the full value of your property damage claim.
Your medical expenses caused by the accident are another element of damages, and you should be compensated for:
- ER bills,
- EMS and ambulance bills,
- Doctors’ bills,
- Medical equipment,
- Future medical costs, and
- Long-term care when needed.
You can’t get a total on your medical expenses until you have either 1) finished all necessary treatment or 2) gotten an expert opinion on your future medical expenses. You must not settle your car accident case until one of these two things has happened, because, in most cases, you cannot come back later and ask for additional compensation.
If you are out of work recovering from your injuries, the at-fault driver must pay you for the wages you have lost.
If your injuries result in disability, the inability to work, or a reduced capacity for work, the at-fault driver is also responsible for your future lost wages or your reduction in earning capacity caused by the car accident.
Wrongful Death Damages After A Car Wreck In NC
When a careless driver kills someone in a car accident, the victim’s family is entitled to wrongful death damages which may include the categories of damages we discuss in this article as well as funeral expenses and burial costs.
Non-economic Damages After A Car Accident In NC
Non-economic, or “general” damages do not usually have a bill or an invoice with a dollar amount attached, and they might require expert testimony to establish their value.
You are entitled to non-economic damages, although insurance companies will often try to get around paying them.
Pain And Suffering
The pain and suffering that you endured because of the car accident is an important part of your compensation – why allow the other driver to pay your medical bills but pay nothing for the suffering your injuries have caused?
The amount of money that pain and suffering is worth depends on the severity of your injuries and whether your injuries have healed or will continue to affect you. If you will continue to suffer from your injuries, the at-fault driver is responsible for your future pain and suffering as well as compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced immediately after the wreck.
Loss Of Consortium
The injured driver’s spouse can sue for loss of consortium if the crash resulted in a loss of companionship, affection, and sexual relations.
Scarring And Disfigurement
Scarring or disfigurement caused by a car accident is also compensable. If it can be repaired, the at-fault driver is responsible for the costs of surgical procedures to place you in the position you were in before the accident happened.
If they cannot be repaired, the at-fault driver is responsible for compensating you for the suffering you will experience because of the scarring or disfigurement that they caused.
Mental Anguish And Emotional Distress
PTSD and other mental injuries may also be compensable after your NC car accident if they are documented by a mental health professional.
If you experience any symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the days, weeks, or months after your car accident, like recurring nightmares, changes in mood or behavior, unreasonable fear of driving or riding in a car, or replaying of the crash in your head over and over, see a mental health professional immediately. If they are not treated, the symptoms could worsen.
Punitive damages are not intended to “make you whole again,” and are not considered “compensatory damages.”
NC Gen. Stat. Section 1D says that punitive damages are intended “to punish a defendant for egregiously wrongful acts and to deter the defendant and others from committing similar wrongful acts.”
Punitive damages may be awarded when there is fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct. NC Gen Stat. Section 1D5 defines willful or wanton conduct as “the conscious and intentional disregard of and indifference to the rights and safety of others, which the defendant knows or should know is reasonably likely to result in injury, damage, or other harm.”
Willful and wanton conduct is more than just gross negligence (gross negligence is enough for punitive damages in some states, but not in NC). For example, punitive damages might apply in NC if the crash was caused by:
- Driving drunk,
- Speeding excessively and dangerously, or
- An intentional collision.
Although punitive damages are capped in NC at three times the compensatory damages award or $250,000, whichever is greater, punitive damages are not capped in drunk driving accident cases.
Questions About The Types Of Damages Available After A Car Accident In NC?
Your NC car accident lawyer will help you to understand the categories of damages that you are entitled to based on the facts of your case, to demand full and fair compensation in your settlement, and to try your case to a jury if the insurance company refuses to pay.
If you have been in a car wreck that was caused by someone else’s negligence, do not lose hope! Call Northstate Auto Law now at 336-781-4606 or send us a message through our website to talk to an attorney who cares.