Car Accident Compensation: What Damages Can You Recover?

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

BY
Kimberly Foppe, Attorney

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may be eligible to recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. In the state of Missouri, all drivers are required to have car insurance coverage with policies that meet the minimum liability requirements, which are as follows:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury (per person)
  • $50,000 for bodily injury (per accident)
  • $25,000 for property damage (per accident)

Being involved in a car accident can turn your life upside down. It can result in both physical and emotional challenges such as stress, financial burden, pain, broken bones, and muscle injuries. In the legal world, these challenges are known as the car accident victim’s damages. If you are not entirely responsible for the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for these damages. A skilled personal injury attorney can assist you in collecting the necessary evidence to demonstrate the extent of your damages and will advocate on your behalf to get compensation from the at-fault party. The various types of damages that a lawyer may pursue on your behalf are outlined below.

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Use our legal checklist to learn what to do after an accident and understand key legal considerations for recovering financial compensation.

Economic Damages (Compensatory Damages)

Economic damages are also referred to as compensatory or “actual damages.” These damages refer to the objective dollar amount needed to compensate the injured person for the monetary value of what they either lost or incurred because of the accident and resulting injury. Typical compensatory damages in an injury claim include the following:

  • Medical Bills & Expenses – Documentation of medical expenses, official diagnoses from healthcare professionals, treatment plans, physician reports, prescription receipts, and receipts for medical devices are all means of substantiating physical injuries. The average hospitalization costs following a car accident is approximately $57,000. It is crucial to keep your legal team informed about your medical care. Maintain a list of healthcare providers you treat with to provide to your attorney, and promptly inform them of any changes in your treatment plan. This allows your legal team to obtain all necessary medical documentation and bills. Medical records and bills are essential evidence in proving damages. 
  • Lost Wages – Because car accident injuries often require extensive medical treatment and recovery time, this often means missing work and using hard-earned vacation or sick days in order to comply with a physical therapy program or attend doctors’ appointments. A doctor may even order you to be off work completely or recommend that you work with certain restrictions. Restrictions and/or absence from work can lead to a loss of income, as well as missed opportunities for raises and promotions, overtime, bonuses, commissions, etc. All of these are considered lost wages and can be compensable. Gathering pay stubs and off-work letters written by doctors is essential in making a claim for lost wages after a car accident.
  • Property Damage – When your vehicle is damaged in an accident, you are entitled to compensation for necessary repairs to the vehicle or the fair market value of your vehicle if it was a total loss. Taking several pictures of your vehicle from different angles as soon as possible after an accident is extremely beneficial for both a personal injury and property damage claim. Property damage pictures are extremely valuable evidence as they can demonstrate the severity of the accident.
  • Funeral & Burial Costs – In fatal car accidents where a loved one dies due to the negligence of the other driver, the victim’s heirs may be entitled to compensation for the costs of their funeral and burial. These expenses are covered in a wrongful death claim with funeral and burial costs commonly being awarded to surviving family members.

Non-Economic Damages

  • Pain & Suffering – Pain and suffering is a legal phrase that refers to both the physical and emotional injuries one sustains in a car accident. Pain and suffering are non-economic damages because they are things you can’t put a price on. Physical pain and suffering (broken bones, soft tissue damage) and emotional pain and suffering (post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares of the accident, depression, anxiety, etc.) all merit compensation. Because pain and suffering cannot be measured by a specific dollar amount, this allows personal injury attorneys more leeway when negotiating compensation and how much you can recover for pain and suffering damages.
  • Punitive Damages – Punitive damages, sometimes called exemplary damages, aren’t very common in personal injury cases. They’re given out to punish individuals or businesses who intentionally or recklessly harm others. The main idea is to discourage this kind of behavior in the future by hitting them with financial penalties. Unlike regular damages, punitive damages focus on punishment rather than compensation. These kinds of damages are usually only handed out after a trial by a judge or jury, and they won’t be included in any settlement offers before that.

Note: If you or a loved one has been injured as a passenger in a car accident, you may be able to recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages as well.

How To Recover Compensation After A Car Accident

Studies have shown that individuals who have legal representation get more money from a car accident settlement than those who did not have legal representation. Injured individuals who hire a personal injury lawyer often receive more settlement money than those who do not. This is because an experienced personal injury lawyer knows what evidence will add value to a personal injury claim, such as medical records that evidence your injuries, expert opinions that tie your injuries to the accident, interviews with key eyewitnesses (individuals that witnessed the accident) or damage witnesses (individuals that have witnessed the effects your injuries have had on your everyday life), property damage photos, etc.

A personal injury lawyer always keeps their client’s best interests in mind and can also personally observe how their client’s life has changed since the accident, making them the best advocate for the injured party when they ask the at-fault party for compensation.

Once the appropriate evidence is gathered to make your case, your attorney will send a demand letter to the at-fault party, their insurance company, or their attorney if they’ve obtained one. A demand letter details the damages you sustained as a result of the accident and how it has affected your life. It also demands that the at-fault party pay for the injuries that they caused you and notifies the insurance company that failure to reach an agreement will likely result in the filing of a lawsuit. Also sent with the demand letter will be the evidence the attorney believes most strongly bolsters your case.

After the demand letter is sent, the attorney will negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company or attorney. If the insurance company makes a settlement offer, your attorney will notify you and give you their professional opinion regarding whether the settlement offer is reasonable. However, at the end of the day, after considering the attorney’s advice, you ultimately make the decision regarding whether to accept the settlement amount. Having a lawyer to help with negotiations and how a lawyer negotiates a settlement can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of a case.

If your personal injury claim cannot be resolved through negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance company, your case may go to trial. If your case goes to trial, and the jury rules in favor of the plaintiff (the injured party bringing the lawsuit), the defendant (the at-fault party) will be ordered by the court to pay the awarded amount. The awarded amount must first satisfy any liens, outstanding bills, and case expenses. Once all of that is paid, the plaintiff will receive a final payment. Receiving the award signifies the resolution of the lawsuit.

Recover Compensation With A Personal Injury Attorney

Hiring a lawyer for your personal injury case increases the likelihood of compensation and higher settlement amounts compared to representing yourself. Brown & Crouppen serves clients in Missouri, Kansas, and southern Illinois. Our car accident attorneys have 10 convenient office locations throughout the Midwest including offices in St. Louis and Kansas City. If you or a loved one has been injured while on the job, get help from the attorneys at Brown & Crouppen Law Firm. Our accident and injury attorneys have helped recover over $1 billion for our clients, including those that suffered injuries while on the job.

Getting started with your cases is easy. Call 888-801-4813 or request a free case evaluation online. And remember, there’s no upfront cost to you — if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid. We’ll work with you to make the process easy and accessible no matter where you are or what type of device you’re using. Our investigators are here to make the process work for you. We can meet you on your terms, whether that means virtually, at home, or in another preferred location.

At Brown & Crouppen Law Firm, we fight for you, and we fight to win. With more than $1 billion awarded and thousands of people helped, our team is dedicated to getting you and your loved ones the justice you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Compensation Can I Recover From A Car Accident?

The average settlement for a car accident is approximately $25,446. For cases in which non injury or only minor injuries occurred is often much lower (generally between $10,000 – $15,000).

How Long Do I Have To File An Injury Claim After A Car Accident?

The time limit for filing an injury claim after a car accident, known as the statute of limitations, varies by state. In most states, the period ranges from 2 to 5 years. It’s important to check the state laws in the state where the accident occurred to determine the exact deadline to file a car accident claim. If you’re considering filing a claim, it’s advisable to consult with an auto accident attorney who will be able provide legal guidance based on the laws in your state.

How Long Does A Car Accident Case Take To Resolve?

Once medical treatment has been completed, auto accident cases with clear liability and moderate injuries often settle within 6 to 9 months. However, the amount of time it takes to settle a car accident case can vary depending on many case factors including the severity of injuries and the number of parties involved in the claim.

Can I Recover Compensation If I Was Hit By An Uninsured Driver?

If you were hit by an uninsured driver, you may still be able to seek compensation through uninsured motorist coverage, collision coverage, or a personal injury lawsuit against the driver. Additionally, your health insurance may cover immediate medical expenses, and some states offer specific funds to assist with injuries caused by uninsured drivers. Consulting with a personal injury attorney can help you better understand your options for recovering compensation if you were hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

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