When you get into a car accident, bad things happen to you! The law calls those "bad things" your "damages." So if someone causes an accident, but nothing bad happens to you, not even a scratch to your car, then you technically have no "damages" because although the accident happened, it did not negatively affect you in any appreciable way.
The law breaks damages down into two general components. There are "economic" damages (sometimes called "special damages"). Those are measurable damages that include your hospital bills, lost income, property damage to your car, etc. Just because you have a bill from a doctor doesn't mean the responsible party has to accept that bill as the gospel truth. For example, if I go to Urgent Care after an accident, and they charge me $500,000 for the visit, the responsible party doesn't have to accept that. They will likely argue my "economic" damages are unreasonable. Also, let's say I suffer a minor sprain from an accident but I decide to go to a chiropractor for 12 months at $70/visit. The per visit charge might be reasonable but the responsible party may challenge the fact I went to the chiropractor for 12 months for a minor accident. However, that said, economic damages are one facet of damages.
The other facet of damages that is often overlooked by people (and insurance adjusters) is the non-economic part. This is sometimes called "general damages" or "pain and suffering." The focus of this type of damage is the EFFECT of the accident on someone's life. Now, typically there needs to be an appreciable injury for most people (i.e., insurance adjusters and juries) to entertain giving someone compensation for general damages. If you have a tiny scratch to your bumper, most folks aren't going to give you general damages because they simply won't buy that a scratch to your car had any appreciable "effect" on your life. However, if you have moderate to severe damage and you have an appreciable injury as a result, then people are generally more open to discussing general damages.
There is a simple story I tell folks to help illustrate the concept of general damages. Imagine if someone was involved in a moderate accident that totaled their car. Imagine if that person was hurt and went to the emergency room. Then that person got treated by doctors, physical therapists, had xrays, etc. After the person was done treating for his injuries, let's assume his medical bills (economic damages) came to $10,000. Most people probably wouldn't have too much trouble compensating this man $10,000 for those bills. They would see that as a reasonable "value" of his case. Perhaps you share that opinion as you read this blog post. However, what if I told you that this very same man is now in a wheelchair for the rest of his life? Would you evaluate his case any differently? Would you feel OK simply valuing his case at $10,000? Probably not. Why? Because now you have information about the EFFECT of the accident on his life. You would probably want to compensate him a lot more than $10,000 because his non-economic damages are MUCH higher than his economic damages.
While economic damages are easier to assess and evaluate in most cases, it's harder to come up with an appropriate value for non-economic damages. It's quite subjective. In most cases, the injured person has a much higher value in mind because they are the ones dealing with the issue every day. Others may not be as sympathetic. There is no magic formula. People have to do their best to be "reasonable" when evaluating non-economic damages. I always tell juries that they will never be 100% sure the number they come up with is absolutely the correct number. After all, there is no such thing as the "correct" number. However, the number has to be "more likely than not" a reasonable number. That's the standard in civil cases.
The point of this blog post is not to provide you with any kind of formula for non-economic damages. The point of the blog post is to remind the reader that the law generally allows for TWO types of "damages" - economic and non-economic. The latter is the one that often has the most value and is most often overlooked or undervalued by insurance companies and others. Just be mindful when approaching any personal injury case of those two components of damages.
After practicing this area of law for over 20 years (for plaintiff and for the defense), we have found these cases boil down to five major factors:
Although they are somewhat rare, people can certainly get an eye injury from a car accident. Sometimes, eye injuries can be very serious. The eye is a very delicate yet important organ, and damage can occur which can alter a person's life.
Sometimes, an eye injury might affect someone's abilities to drive, or to even do their job. Injuries to the eye can sometimes be caused by trauma from the car accident, or perhaps the result of flying glass or debris resulting from the collision. Sometimes, an eye injury can occur during the airbag deployment which would strike someone with such force that it causes damage to the eye. In some cases, a traumatic brain injury can also result in a impairment of one's vision.
If you've had an injury to your eye due to a car accident, it is important that your treatment involve ophthalmologist, optometrist, or other eye care professionals. The injury can be to the eye itself or perhaps to the eyelid, the retina, the cornea, the iris, or other areas of the human eye.
It is important to document the injury early to make sure the insurance company understands the accident caused the injury, and that it did not occur later on. The absence of documentation may cause some insurance adjusters to doubt the claim. Or they might believe you have an eye injury but they may not believe it was caused by the accident.
The doctors need to be very clear in their notes and in the reports that the accident caused the eye injury. Testing can also indicate whether or not the injury can be partially or fully repaired.
I had a case once where flying glass from the windshield fell into the client's eye and caused a permanent scratch to the client's cornea. He did not know there was glass in his eye until he went to his optometrist to repair his broken glasses. She noted the glass lodged in his eye. As a result, the clients vision was impaired for the foreseeable future. Proper documentation is critical in cases like this. You need to get a doctor to write a report explaining in no uncertain terms that he or she believes the injuries resulted from the car accident, and whether or not the injury is permanent to any extent. If it is permanent, the doctor needs to explain how the injury might affect the person's life going forward. What exact deficits are expected?
If you've been seriously injured in a car accident, call attorney Robert Mansour for a free consultation regarding your personal injury case. Call (661) 414-7100.
There has been an issue that has come up twice in the past week that I think needs to be addressed. If your vehicle is a total loss, the law provides that the responsible party (or their insurance company) is supposed to compensate you for the reasonable value of your car. My client was recently offered $750 for his car. He was furious. He said, "How am I supposed to buy a new car with $750?" I told him the law doesn't provide him with a NEW car. The law says he gets the "reasonable value" of his car when the accident occurred. I explained his car had 300,000 miles on it and was over 10 years old. He originally bought it as a salvaged title for only $1700 nine years ago. We checked Kelly Blue Book online and found $750 was indeed the ballpark value. He said, "I had no car payment before, and now I'm going to have one!" He was very upset.
I explained that just because his car was a total loss, he doesn't get to buy a brand new car and have no payments as a result. I explained he would actually be in a better position than he was before the accident if the law was designed that way.
Some people believe the defendant (and his insurance company) should be punished for his/her actions. In other words, to "punish" the at-fault driver, the law should make him buy a new car for the victim. People are often surprised the law only provides for the reasonable value of their car on the date of the accident - NOT what you bought it for. If they have to go buy another old $750 car, so be it.
I have the same conversation with prospective clients on a regular basis. It goes something like this, "John, I know they are only offering you $1000 but your car was 100 years old and was barely functional. It had over 200,000 miles on it! The insurance company is NOT going to give you $15,000 to go buy a new car if your car was only worth $1000! If they did that, then EVERYONE and their brother would go get into an accident with the hopes of getting a new car!" As for car payments, that's just a reality of life if you finance any car. If you take the $1000 offer and you go buy a $25,000 car, you are going to have a car payment. There is no way around it."
After the clients realize the law doesn't provide them with a new car, then they get upset. I wish I had great news, but the truth is that accidents are unfortunate events. I don't have any clients who really "enjoyed" being involved in an accident. No one ever says, "Wow, that was a great experience. The insurance company gave me everything I want....including a new car even though I was driving an old clunker!" So here is the lesson, if you get into an accident, just realize you are only supposed to get the reasonable value of your car ON THE DATE OF THE ACCIDENT - not how much you bought it for years ago. Even then, they may lowball you. So do your research and find out what a fair offer is. They are NOT going to buy you a new car unless your car was new.
Robert Mansour used to work for the insurance companies as a defense lawyer. Now he represents victims of serious accidents. He serves Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Castaic, Newshall, and surrounding areas. Call (661) 414-7100 for a free consultation.
After my clients have completed their course of medical treatment following an accident, there comes a time to present the case for settlement to the responsible party's insurance company.
Prior to this time, the lawyer is indeed in contact with the insurance company and keeps them posted. However, a formal "demand package" isn't usually presented until my clients have finished their treatment and/or reached a plateau where no further treatment is going to help.
The lawyer will then put together a "demand package" - this package contains several times including, but not limited to the following:
1) A letter to the insurance adjuster establishing liability adverse to their client and arguing the damages of the case - both economic and non-economic damages (the latter are also known as "pain and suffering" or "general" damages). The letter is basically an "argument" to the adjuster. It should be persuasive but not long-winded. Remember, adjusters are handling hundreds of files at any given time so they don't have time or energy to read a novel.
2) Photos of the accident - the photos need to help the adjuster understand the severity of the impact. If the photos show little damage, I generally won't include photos that can backfire on my client. Photos should tell a story. Remember, pictures "tell a thousand words," so the photos sent need to help tell the story.
3) Property damage estimate - if the estimate shows significant property damage, frame damage, etc., it should be included to further show the adjuster the extent of the damage. Sometimes, photos don't tell the whole story so the esimate can help. The property damage estimate might reveal damage that's hard to see.
4) Medical reports - Not just medical records but also reports that contain narratives - explanations from the doctors as to what the injuries were, what treatment was done, and any prognosis.
5) Medical bills - Billing from all medical providers, from the ambulance, hospital, ER, orthopedic, chiropractic, physical therapy, MRIs and other scans, etc. This is NOT "explanation of benefits" forms or co-pays. Your co-pay is not your billing.
6) Lost earnings verification. If you are asserting lost earnings, you need to provide the adjuster with adequate documentation that supports your claim for lost wages.
There are sometimes other documents that are included with the demand package, depending on the particular case. The adjuster will review the package and generally call the lawyer with further questions and/or an offer. The lawyer and the client then discuss the offer and how to respond.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,