After a serious car accident, many people wonder what they are allowed to seek compensation for under Texas law. The state has specific provisions for what types of damages qualify for financial compensation. Also, there are rules about how to collect that compensation. It is helpful to understand what damages are, the different types and why it is necessary to work with an attorney to collect damages.
What Are Car Accident Damages?
The injured victim is the plaintiff in the case. Damages are remedies in civil cases, and plaintiffs request that the court orders those damages as financial compensation for losses or injuries. The party that the plaintiff accuses of causing the accident is the defendant. If the court determines that the defendant is fully or primarily at fault, it imposes damages to compensate the plaintiff. Specific types of damages will be covered more in the upcoming sections. Based on the severity and extent of damages, an award may be in the tens of thousands or even over $1 million. Each case is unique, which is why settlement amounts can vary so widely.
What Are the Types of Car Accident Damages Victims Can Collect in Texas?
For auto accident injury cases, the Texas Civil Remedies Code details the types of damages plaintiffs can seek. Based on the information found in Section 41.001, people involved in vehicle collisions caused by others may be entitled to compensatory and punitive damages.
According to Section 41.001.4 of the Texas Civil Remedies Code, compensatory damages are economic damages. The purpose of awarding them is to provide the claimant or plaintiff with compensation for the actual damages that resulted in economic losses. For example, a totaled vehicle is an economic loss. These are some types and examples of compensatory damages.
Bodily Injuries and Medical Expenses
How much medical care a person requires after a vehicle collision depends on the severity of the crash and other factors. While some people suffer minor injuries, others have extensive or permanent injuries. These are some examples of qualifying medical care costs following a collision:
- Ambulance ride
- Hospital stay
- Emergency care
- Medical equipment
- Physical therapy or rehabilitative care
- In-home care or long-term facility stay
- Cognitive therapy
- Appointments with doctors or specialists
- Loss of Wages
Many people need to take time off work to recover in the days or weeks following their initial hospital care. They may experience pain that is severe enough to prevent them from working. The nature of the injury may also impact a person’s ability to work. For instance, a person who works as professional painter would not be able to return to work quickly with a broken arm and an injured back. Even if injured victims return to work, they may need to leave early or come in late often if they have physical therapy appointments or other medical appointments related to their injuries.
Loss of Future Income
When an injury causes a permanent partial or full disability, this is a common type of damage a plaintiff seeks. Consider the example of the professional painter in the previous section. If that painter’s broken arm becomes infected enough that part of it must be amputated, the individual may be unable to continue in that career path. People may use some of their award to take college classes to learn a new trade or seek a different career.
To provide a different type of example, imagine that someone experiences a brain injury as a result of a car accident. If the brain injury is severe enough that the person loses many cognitive abilities and needs assistance with basic activities, that individual may be unable to work in any field. Imagine that the person with the brain injury is a stay-at-home mother instead. In that case, the other parent would still need compensation to pay for new childcare expenses in addition to the cost of help for the injured mother. Attorneys consider many factors related to long-term income loss.
The most obvious type of property damage associated with a crash is a vehicle. In some cases, there may be other forms of property damage. Expensive jewelry, shoes, clothing or other accessories may be ruined. In a few instances, a person’s home may be involved. For example, if a person is backing out of the driveway, a drunk driver may hit that person’s car and then swerve into the fence. If any property other than the car is damaged, it is important to let the attorney know about it.
Pain and Suffering
After a crash, an injured person may have persistent pain. Even with medications or other treatments, some types of pain can be especially difficult to manage. The type of injury, how long the pain lasts and the severity of the pain are a few factors that determine eligibility for this type of compensation.
Car wrecks frequently cause psychological trauma. It may be permanent or temporary. After a crash, a person may have nightmares or feel extreme anxiety about even riding in a vehicle. Some people feel embarrassed from the effects of their injuries. They may experience a wide range of issues such as depression, anger and more. Working with a mental health professional can be costly but necessary, and victims need money to pay for those services.
Loss of Consortium
Also called loss of companionship, this type of damage is for a spouse or family member of an injured person. The spouse or family member can file a loss of consortium claim if the accident victim’s injuries were extensive enough to negatively impact the relationship. For instance, someone who becomes paralyzed may be unable to maintain the intimate relationship that existed before the crash. If the person who was injured in the crash wins a case and is awarded compensation, the spouse or family member may also be compensated for loss of consortium. Since this loss can be complex to determine in some cases, it is important to discuss it with a lawyer.
When a person is killed in a vehicle crash, the surviving spouse or another family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of lawsuit seeks damages in the form of compensation for funeral, burial or cremation expenses. Claimants may also seek compensation for pain and suffering related to the death of a loved one.
In addition to receiving compensatory damages, some plaintiffs may receive punitive damages. The court may order defendants to pay punitive damages in certain cases if outrageous conduct or negligence are involved. For example, imagine that a person is driving exactly the speed limit on a street. The driver of the car behind that person becomes angry, speeds up to pass and hits the other car while prematurely merging in front of the slower driver. If there is evidence showing road rage, the judge may order that person to pay punitive damages. This is often done to punish the at-fault driver and teach the individual to avoid bad driving behavior in the future.
Section 41.003 of the Texas Civil Remedies Code says that punitive damages may also be awarded in cases involving gross negligence. In Texas, there is a cap on the total amount of punitive damages that can be collected, and the plaintiff must be able to prove malice or negligence. According to Section 41.008 of the Texas Civil Remedies Code, punitive damages can total up to double the amount of economic damages or $200,000, whichever is greater. Plus, there may be an award equal to the cost of noneconomic damages up to $750,000.
Why the Help of a Texas Personal Injury Attorney Is Essential
After a crash, some people may receive a direct settlement offer from a liable driver’s insurance company. Such settlements are typically much less than the total cost of all economic and other damages. Working with a good lawyer to seek fair and adequate compensation for injuries is essential for several reasons.
In Texas, it is important to be able to prove the other driver’s liability and any injuries or property damage that resulted from the crash. The need for evidence is one of the top reasons why it is vital to work with a personal injury attorney. A lawyer collects information that helps prove the victim’s injuries and the liability of the at-fault driver. Whether it was a negligent mistake or malice, an attorney works hard to find all relevant evidence. These are some examples of types of evidence attorneys often collect:
- Physical evidence to reconstruct the crash
- Police reports to show fault
- Witness statements to include eyewitness accounts
- The victim’s recorded statement to understand the individual’s side of the story
- Lost wage statements or similar documents to show loss of income
- Copies of medical bills and other bills to show the impact of injuries
- Expert testimonies to support the fairness of compensation requests
Since they have a thorough understanding of Texas law and how to interpret it, attorneys can make what is otherwise a complex process much simpler for plaintiffs. Injured plaintiffs still need to attend all their required medical appointments and provide requested documentation. However, the attorney handles all the paperwork, document preparation, filing and communication. This gives an injured individual more time to focus on recovering and coping with changes stemming from the crash.
With all the resources and knowledge lawyers have, they can build a strong case in favor of an injured plaintiff. If necessary, they can even take cases to trial and hire medical experts to testify. They do not spare any expense when a client is entitled to compensation for serious injuries.
Do You Have a Case?
If you were injured in a recent car crash in Texas, our attorneys are here to help. Our team can also help if you have a loved one who was severely injured or killed in an accident. We welcome you to discuss the details of the case with us during a confidential and free consultation. If you have a case, we can represent you. Although personal injury cases take time to settle, we keep you informed every step of the way and let you know what to expect. Our attorneys in Huntsville fight hard to help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and any long-term loss of physical or cognitive abilities. If you have questions or are ready for a free consultation, please call 936-295-3712.