The Difficult (But Important) Task of Proving your Damages in a Car Accident Case

In the course of my representation of plaintiffs in personal injury matters, including many who have been injured in a car accident, one common frustration shared by clients is the difficulty in understanding the value of their case. As one car accident client said to me in an initial consultation, “I know I was hurt. I was sore and in pain for months. It affected me in a lot of ways I never would have imagined. But how do I prove that?”

Proving the worth of your case can be a detailed and fact specific analysis. Quite frankly, no two cases are the same and there is no magical formula for computing your damages. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a client to come in to my office and say something along the lines of, “I know my case is worth X dollars because that is 3 times (or 4 times or 5 times) my medical bills and I know that is how it works.” Of course, that client “knows” that’s the way it works because that is what the friend of a friend who knows a lawyer told them. Or that is what their neighbor who lives down the street and who was in a car accident last year said. Or, increasingly more common, that is what they read on the Internet.

Unfortunately, it is not so simple. If it were, insurance companies wouldn’t need adjusters and plaintiffs wouldn’t need attorneys. A simple math equation could resolve every case in a matter of minutes. The reality is that proving damages in any given case is not only a difficult and complex matter, but in the vast majority of car accident cases (where liability can often be rather straightforward) it is the most important and difficult part of the case.

Obviously, the medical treatment and medical bills are an essential part of any personal injury case. Medical records and bills can give a jury (or adjuster) important insight into what the plaintiff has actually experienced. However, it is merely one aspect; and, in some cases, it may not even be the most important aspect. Too many clients (and attorneys) focus exclusively on these medical records and bills at the expense of other important elements of damages. Medical records and bills do not always accurately reflect the past and future pain and suffering of the plaintiffs, or the physical impairments that the plaintiff has had to deal with, or the mental anguish that has plagued them since the accident.

How has this accident affected your everyday life? How many kids’ soccer games did you have to miss when you were laid up in bed? How did you feel when you couldn’t bathe yourself for 2 weeks? When you had to have your family and friends help you with basic tasks such as getting dressed, driving to the store to get groceries, and cooking dinner for your children? How did you cope with the stress of missing paychecks and not knowing if you were going to lose your job due to the time off of work? How did the toll of dealing with such a stressful situation affect your personal health and well-being?

These are a few examples of some of the real injuries that my clients have suffered in the aftermath of their accidents, even in cases that appear to the uninformed to be “minor” accidents. Experienced attorneys understand that in developing evidence for the damages portion of a case it is just as important to speak with family, friends, and co-workers (who observe first hand the real effects an accident has on the plaintiff) as it is to speak with the treating doctors and nurses.

When evaluating your case, it is important to have an experienced attorney who can properly recognize and document all of your injuries. Don’t allow yourself to get boxed in to a simple formula for what your case is “worth”. It is your job, and the job of your attorney, to paint an accurate and complete picture of all your injuries. Only then can you expect to get a full recovery from an adjuster or a jury.