What kind of damages can you recover if you have been in a serious car accident caused by someone else?

You may be entitled to recover several categories of damages including economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. 

Below, we will discuss the types of damages available after a car accident in SC, including:

  • What we mean by “damages” in the context of a car accident, 
  • Types of economic damages in SC, 
  • Types of non-economic damages in SC, and
  • When you can recover punitive damages after a car accident in SC. 

What are Damages in a Car Accident Case? 

“Damages” means the amount of money that the at-fault driver must pay you to compensate for your losses after a car accident – or to punish the at-fault driver if you are entitled to punitive damages. 

Most people understand that you are entitled to recover the costs of property damage to your vehicle and your medical expenses, but did you know that you can recover much more than that? 

Depending on the facts of your case, you may be entitled to recover damages for:

  • The repair or replacement of your vehicle, 
  • The repair or replacement of other property damaged in the wreck, 
  • Medical costs including your ER bill, ambulance bill, doctor’s bills, surgery costs, hospital bills, medications, and medical equipment, 
  • Future medical costs if you will suffer ongoing effects from your injuries, 
  • Long-term care and physical rehab, 
  • Compensation for scarring or disfigurement, 
  • Lost wages, 
  • Loss of future earning potential due to disability, 
  • Wrongful death damages including burial expenses and funeral costs, 
  • Loss of consortium and loss of companionship, 
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress, 
  • Pain and suffering, and
  • Punitive damages. 

There are two types of compensatory damages – economic and non-economic, and then there are punitive damages. 

Economic Damages or Special Damages

Economic damages include your tangible financial losses that can easily be proven with a receipt, bill, or invoice. These often include:

Property Damage: The property damage to your vehicle should be handled quickly by a separate insurance adjuster – in many cases, you will not need an attorney to help with the property damage claim (as opposed to the personal injury claim, which the insurance company will almost always dispute or attempt to short-change you on). 

You are entitled to recovery for:

  • Repairs to your vehicle, 
  • Replacement of your vehicle if it is totaled, 
  • Repair or replacement of any personal belongings that were damaged in the vehicle, 
  • The cost of any upgrades or customizations to your vehicle, and 
  • The diminution in value to your vehicle caused by the crash and repairs. 

Medical Expenses: You are entitled to recover the full amount of your medical costs – whatever it takes to treat your injuries and, as much as possible, restore you to the position you were in before the crash. 

This includes your current and future medical expenses – you should never settle a car accident case until 1) you have finished treating your injuries and know the full extent of your medical costs, or 2) your serious car accident attorney has gotten an expert opinion on what your future medical costs will be, including:

  • Any future surgeries that will be needed, 
  • Future costs for medication or medical equipment, 
  • Vocational rehabilitation, 
  • Physical rehab, and
  • Long-term care when needed. 

Lost wages and loss of future earning potential: You are also entitled to full compensation for any time you lost from your job because of the accident while hospitalized or recovering from your injuries. 

If your injuries are severe enough that they will prevent you from returning to work or that they will prevent you from earning the same salary you made before the wreck, you are also entitled to compensation for your loss of future earnings, which can be calculated by an expert witness to prepare your case for settlement or trial. 

Wrongful death damages: If the car accident was fatal, the at-fault driver must compensate the decedent’s family and heirs for the loss of their loved one, burial and funeral costs, and for any damages that the decedent could have sued for including medical costs and the decedent’s pain and suffering. 

Non-Economic Damages or General Damages

You have also suffered non-financial losses due to the accident, and these are compensable as “non-economic” or “general” damages. For example:

Pain and suffering: If you were injured in the crash, you experienced pain and suffering. There is no invoice or receipt to quantify your pain and suffering, but it is absolutely compensable – the amount of damages for pain and suffering will depend on how serious your injuries were and the extent of pain that they caused. 

You are also entitled to compensation for future pain and suffering – if your injuries will cause ongoing problems that will affect you beyond the conclusion of your car accident case, the at-fault driver must compensate you for your future suffering as part of any settlement or verdict. 

Loss of consortium and loss of companionship: If your injuries have affected your marital relations, your spouse may also have a claim against the at-fault driver for loss of consortium, which could include loss of companionship, loss of affection, and loss of sexual relations with your spouse. 

Mental anguish and emotional distress: When diagnosed and documented, mental or emotional injuries are compensable – this includes anxiety caused by the crash, depression, sleeplessness, phobias, or diagnosable injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by the crash. 

Scarring and disfigurement: If surgery can correct scarring or disfigurement, the at-fault driver must pay the costs to place you, as much as possible, in the position you were in before the crash – this would fall under economic damages because the surgeries can be quantified with an invoice or estimate from a medical expert. 

If surgery cannot correct the scarring or disfigurement, however, the at-fault driver must still compensate you for the effects of living with the scarring or disfigurement, which would fall under non-economic damages. 

When Can You Get Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?

Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, are intended to punish the at-fault driver for egregious conduct. 

In SC, you are entitled to punitive damages in a car accident case if you can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions were “willful, wanton, or in reckless disregard of the plaintiff’s rights.”

There are caps on punitive damages in SC:

  • The greater of three times the compensatory damages award or $500,000, or
  • If 1) defendant was motivated by unreasonable financial gain, 2) the defendant was aware of the dangerous nature of their conduct, or 3) the defendant could have been convicted of a felony based on their conduct, then punitive damages are capped at the greater of four times the compensatory damages or $2 million, or
  • If 1) the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff, 2) the defendant was convicted of a felony based on their conduct (felony DUI, for example), or 3) the defendant was substantially impaired by drugs or alcohol, there is no cap on punitive damages. 

Questions About the Kind of Damages You Can Recover in a Car Accident Case? 

If you have been injured in a car accident in SC and have questions about the types of damages available to you, call the Law Office of Nicholas G. Callas, P.A. at 803-369-3968 or contact us through our website for a free consultation.

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