Although money won’t make everything better, it can help you get on your feet after being injured in a car crash. After all, you’ll undoubtedly have medical bills and missed time from work as you heal. If no fault of your own caused your accident and subsequent injuries, you should not carry this financial burden. You may be entitled to compensation to cover your various losses.
Calculating compensation in Fort Lauderdale car accident cases can be difficult, especially when you have no experience with this field or the relevant legal processes. To learn more, contact David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. and reach out for a free consultation.
How Much is a Car Accident Case Worth in Florida?
There’s no easy way to calculate the exact value of your car wreck case. There are just so many factors to consider for most Fort Lauderdale residents. It typically depends on the facts and how much you’ve personally lost in economic damages, and how much you can prove your non-economic damages are worth.
What Are Economic Damages?
Economic damages are those that are easily valued with a monetary amount. They directly correlate with bills, invoices, and other expenses you pay out of pocket or lose out on. Examples are your medical costs, lost wages, property damages, and loss of earning capacity.
You can also recover past and future economic damages. Future economic compensation is estimated based on the opinions of medical professionals and experts who forecast how much you will need in the future to cover your upcoming economic damages. Examples are your anticipated medical needs, wages you will miss out on, and expected limits on your earning potential.
What Are Non-Economic Damages?
Non-economic damages are not as quickly valued. They do not directly relate to money that you lost. However, you can still put a value on them. Examples include your pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
Some insurance companies use a formula to put a value on non-economic compensation. They may offer you twice as much in non-economic damages as the value of your economic damages. Thus, if you had $100,000 in economic damages, you could recover $200,000 in non-economic damages, and you’d get a total settlement offer of $300,000.
What Goes in to Calculating Economic Damages for a Car Accident Case in Florida?
When determining what your case is worth after a car accident, you will need to provide your Fort Lauderdale lawyer with as much detailed information as possible about your injuries and expenses.
While the following is not a comprehensive list of your losses, it is a good place to start. Once your car accident lawyer gets all of the information that they need to estimate your claim, they can send a demand letter to the insurance company to help you get a complete settlement.
Vehicle Repair Costs
When determining how much you can get for property damage, you will have to consider the age and condition of your car at the time of the accident and how much damage it sustained. To estimate repairs, you must have information about the cost of specific parts and labor for a mechanic.
A certified auto mechanic can give you an estimate of how much money you will need to repair your vehicle.
Your Medical Expenses
You are eligible for compensation to cover 100% of your medical costs. That includes everything from your ambulance ride and emergency room treatment to physical therapy for as long as you need it due to your crash injuries. You should keep all medical bills that you receive and recommendations for future medical care.
Time Away from Work
You can also get money to repay you for lost wages, PTO time you were forced to use, vacation, and sick pay that you needed after the crash. Additionally, if you can no longer work in the same way you did before the wreck, you can also get money for loss of earning potential.
To prove these losses, you will need paycheck stubs, statements from your employer, W2s, tax documents, and estimates from vocational experts evaluating how much money you will lose due to disability.
How Do Insurance Companies Determine the Value of Car Accident Claims?
When an insurance adjuster is assigned a car wreck claim, fault or liability has likely already been determined. It’s likely that by the time an adjuster has been assigned, their insured is negligent. The insurance company may be willing to make a settlement offer, but the question is how much they are willing to pay.
Beware Fast, Low-Ball Offers
The adjuster will ask about your economic damages, such as medical costs, lost wages, and other monetary losses. They will likely offer 100% of the value of these items in an attempt to get you to settle quickly. However, your Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer can help you calculate the full value of your losses and get compensation for non-economic damages as well.
Don’t ever take an initial settlement offer from the insurance company. It will likely be a lowball settlement offer that won’t cover all your past and future losses.
Insurance Settlement Formulas
Some insurance companies use a formula to calculate non-economic damages and others apply a per diem rate to how long you were injured. If they use a damage formula, they may use the multiplier method and simply pay double what your economic damages were worth.
However, if they make a per diem offer, they may begin from the date that the collision occurred and determine that the accident negatively affected you for approximately 200 days. They may offer you $100 per day for those 200 days or $20,000 for your non-economic damages.
Per diem calculations and formulas are not always good for evaluating pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. Your attorney may want to use expert opinions to fully prove how the crash affected you and increase the settlement demand.
In Florida, Car Accident Victims Have a Duty to Mitigate The Size of their Damages
In the state of Florida, personal injury plaintiffs (i.e. the injury victims) have a duty to mitigate their damages, or to put it another way, plaintiffs must act such that they minimize the injuries they suffered – both physical and financial.
Failure to mitigate can have serious consequences for the success of your claim. Not only will a failure to reasonably mitigate your damages hurt your perception as a legitimate injury victim at trial, but the defendant may assert this failure to mitigate as an affirmative defense. If the defense is successful, your damages recovery may be reduced substantially.
Pursuing Reasonable Medical Treatment
Plaintiffs must use ordinary care and reasonable diligence in securing medical aid, must submit to reasonable treatment, and must follow the advice of a competent physician (see City of Clearwater v. McClury). Ignorance, laziness, and fear do not excuse a plaintiff’s failure to seek out reasonable medical attention.
Delaying medical care
Refusing to seek out medical attention in a timely manner after the injury may result in a failure to mitigate finding. If the injury is relatively minor, this may not be a significant issue, but if the injury is significant and obvious, then an unjustified delay in seeking medical attention is likely to negatively affect the plaintiff’s damage recovery.
Unless the treating physician requests that the plaintiff avoid certain alternative treatments such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, and homeopathy, using alternative treatments in conjunction with traditional medical treatment is generally fine. On the other hand, if a plaintiff is seriously injured and utilizes alternative treatments in lieu of traditional medical treatment, then the court may find this behavior unreasonable and the plaintiff’s damages recovery may be affected.
A plaintiff cannot recover for damages that would have not have been realized had the plaintiff sought reasonable medical treatment and been cured or had the plaintiff’s injuries otherwise been alleviated by such treatment. Importantly, however, the plaintiff must have failed to act as a reasonably prudent person would have acted in submitting to a particular treatment.
How might a reasonably prudent person act when seeking medical care after a serious injury?
Suppose that a plaintiff has suffered a spinal injury due to a high speed motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff experiences severe pain when walking around, and is thus largely confined to a wheelchair, which has significantly impacted his quality of life. Unfortunately, the plaintiff’s treating physician and other staff express their concern that standard treatments are not likely to help improve his condition.
Some months later, the treating physician shows the plaintiff an experimental surgery available to early applicants. The surgery is quite risky – with a high projected mortality rate – but it may result in the resolution of the plaintiff’s spinal injury.
If the plaintiff declines this experimental surgery, it is unlikely that the court will find that he acted unreasonably, or that the plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages by rejecting said surgery. The outcome was not only uncertain, but the surgery was especially dangerous. The court is much more likely to find that a reasonably prudent person who is not terminally ill would not risk death for an experimental surgery with an uncertain outcome.
If a treatment is low-risk and is deemed likely or certain to alleviate the injury, then the plaintiff may be held accountable for failing to pursue such treatment, and thus failing to reasonably mitigate their damages.
Employment Issues and Mitigation
In Florida, the personal injury damages total may include lost wages and lost future earning capacity. As a consequence of their injuries, a plaintiff may have to reduce their hours – or may even have to resign – for their existing employment. An injury may even force a plaintiff to seek out an alternative career path as their existing career path may no longer be suitable. As such, lost wages are a crucial component of a personal injury claim in many cases.
If a plaintiff fails to expend reasonable efforts to find suitable employment, however, they can still be held accountable for failure to reasonably mitigate their damages – here, damages related to their lost wages and lost earning capacity.
For example, suppose that a plaintiff has her arms injured in a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff works as a warehouse stocker. Her arms become much weaker following the accident, which causes issues with her employment situation. Forced to resign, the plaintiff seeks out alternative employment. After a few weeks of interviews, however, the plaintiff stops actively seeking out employment. A year later, the plaintiff is still not gainfully employed as a result.
If the plaintiff here were to sue the defendant for lost wages, the defendant would have an excellent affirmative defense on the basis of the plaintiff’s failure to reasonably mitigate their damages. The plaintiff did not attempt to secure a position consistently over the year. Instead, she simply stopped trying.
Even if it is difficult to find employment, you must continue to expend effort and try to find employment. This will help protect you from a failure to mitigate assertion.
In Florida, a personal injury plaintiff must act to minimize their damages after the injury. They need not expend “extraordinary efforts”, but they must expend reasonable efforts in pursuing medical treatment and finding alternative employment. To put it simply: a plaintiff should not act in such a way as to actively worsen their condition and overall situation.
Call an Attorney About Calculating Compensation for a Car Accident in Florida
When you are in the process of calculating compensation in a Fort Lauderdale car accident case, you should work with a vehicle collision attorney to evaluate your case who is familiar with the metrics used by insurance companies. This ensures you’ll recover everything you deserve and what you’ll need to properly return to the life you knew before the collision.
The insurance companies will attempt to pay you as little as possible. Working with an experienced lawyer makes you more likely to get a fair outcome.
With decades of experience and success in local car accident cases like yours, call David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. today. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.