Car, truck and pedestrian accidents are an everyday occurrence in Delaware. Each year, there are over 20,000 car accidents in Delaware. According to the Delaware State Police, there were over 24,000 auto accidents in 2015. Of those, 129 were fatal and over 5,200 were personal injury crashes. It’s also estimated that car accidents in Delaware result in economic losses of over $641 million annually.
Determining Settlement Value of a Car Accident Case in Delaware
Those who are injured often want to know whether they can get compensated when the accident was caused by another party. There are multiple variables that come into play when analyzing the relative settlement value of a car accident lawsuit in Delaware:
- medical bills,
- lost wages
- out of pocket expenses,
- pain and suffering, and
- punitive damages.
In Excess of PIP (Personal Injury Protection)
One of the most common claims for financial compensation in a car accident lawsuit is the claim for medical bills. Under Delaware PIP law, Delaware residents who are injured in auto accidents can make a claim for medical bills under their own car insurance policy via a PIP claim. After the PIP coverage exhausts, private health insurance kicks in. Any bills paid by private health insurance can be claimed in a subsequent car accident lawsuit.
Under Delaware law, the injured party cannot make a claim for any bills that were already paid by an auto insurance carrier, via PIP. This is very common under PIP laws of other states like Pennsylvania. However, Delaware law does allow injured parties to make a claim for medical bills that were paid by private health insurance or by out-of-state PIP. This is known as the collateral source rule. In a nutshell, a plaintiff in a Delaware car accident lawsuit can plead and prove the full value of medical bills (in excess of PIP), even if they were already paid by the plaintiff’s own health insurance.
Future Medical Bills
Injured parties in a Delaware car accident lawsuit can make claims for both past and future medical bills. In the most serious cases, where an injured individual sustains catastrophic injuries, the medical treatment bills often exceed $50,000. With proper medical documentation and proof, the claim for medical bills can also include a claim for future medical expenses, so long as they are reasonably necessary.
Example – A Wilmington resident sustains a serious spinal injury in a car accident. By the time trial rolls around, the individual’s medical bills total $20,000 (in excess of PIP). The treating doctor has written a report indicating that future steroid injections and physical therapy will be likely. Another expert has estimated those costs at $5,000. Therefore, the claim for past and future medical bills would total $25,000.
An individual may be out of work when car accident injuries are severe. The disability period may last weeks, months or even longer. In the most serious cases, an individual may be permanently disabled from working altogether or may be unable to return to their pre-accident employment. Like claims for medical bills, claims for lost wages cannot include any payments that were already made under a PIP claim. For example, an auto insurance carrier pays $5,000 for lost wages under a PIP claim. Only those wages which are in excess of the PIP limits or 2 years can be presented in the lawsuit.
Future Lost Wages (Decrease or Loss of Earning Capacity)
While walking in Rehoboth Beach, a Delaware resident is struck by a car. The injuries are serious and include a major head injury. As a result, the plaintiff experiences chronic headaches, memory loss, pain, depression and anxiety, all of which are medically documented. The plaintiff is unable to resume her pre-accident job duties and loses her job where she earns $50,000 per year, plus fringe benefits (totaling $3,500 per year). Her doctor opines within a reasonable degree of medical probability the injuries and symptoms are permanent and will not improve. Here, after receiving an opinion from a vocational rehabilitationist, an economist will crunch the numbers provided and provide a life-long financial assessment of the loss of income and fringe benefits. Depending on the age of the plaintiff, the future lost wages claim could exceed a million dollars.
Pain & Suffering – Value in a Delaware Car Accident Lawsuit
Under Delaware law, there is no formula or standard to determine the value of an injured individual’s pain and suffering. Settlement value of pain and suffering in a car accident case depends on multiple factors, including:
- the extent of the injuries,
- how the injury is treated,
- how the injury heals and length of time it takes to heal,
- whether there are any complications, and
- how the injury affects the individual’s life.
It’s important to note that relative value of pain and suffering is unique in every case. No two people will experience the same pain and suffering, even with similar injuries. Two people who suffer the same arm fracture can experience entirely different levels of pain and suffering.
For one person, a fractured arm can be a fairly simple injury that heals within 3 months with no complications or permanent symptoms. For another, the same injury can become a nightmare with complications and eventually, permanent loss of range of motion in the wrist. These types of individual factors play a large role in determining the value of pain and suffering in an auto accident lawsuit. Evidence of the extent of the injuries and how they affected the individual are key.
Physical Pain and Mental or Emotional Suffering
As a general rule, the more serious the injury, the greater the pain and suffering. For example, in a high-speed Delaware truck accident case, the plaintiff sustains a life-altering amputation injury. That individual will have greater pain and suffering than someone who sustains a soft tissue back injury in a rear-end auto accident.
Whether it’s a catastrophic injury or a less serious one, the plaintiff must prove their pain and suffering. Proof of physical pain comes from the injuries themselves, medical records and the plaintiff’s testimony about the extent of the physical discomfort. In some instances, pictures or video footage can provide visual evidence of the extent of the plaintiff’s physical pain. Also, witnesses may testify about what they saw and heard with respect to the plaintiff’s physical pain.
Physical injuries, especially those which cause long-term symptoms, often result in mental or emotional suffering. An individual who experiences prolonged physical pain and symptoms will often suffer from anxiety, grief and/or depression. Mental and emotional suffering is also compounded by not being able to return to work, not being able to enjoy pre-accident family life or hobbies and the stress of financial hardships that occur after a car accident.
Future Pain & Suffering
In very serious injury cases, claims may be made for future pain and suffering, especially when additional medical treatment is reasonably necessary or when an injury causes permanent injury, disfigurement or scarring. For example, a Delaware resident who suffers deep facial lacerations on her face that result in large scars will have a claim not only for past pain and suffering, but also future pain and suffering.
Get more information about Delaware car accident lawsuits, damages and more.
Wilmington, Newark & Dover Auto Injury Lawyers – (302) 658-1717
*Disclaimer: This website page does not provide any legal advice or create any attorney-client relationship. Every case is unique and you should not take any action or make decisions in your case without speaking to a qualified car and truck accident lawyer in Delaware. Any discussion of results is no guarantee of the same or similar results in current or future cases.
*Use of the contact form on this website or emailing one of our lawyers does not create any attorney-client relationship. In addition, confidential information should not be sent through the contact form.