Can I Recover Future Damages for Pain and Suffering from a Car Accident?

Every year, countless people are killed in car and other vehicle crashes in the Greater Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest.  Many more suffer severe injuries, some of which may last a lifetime.  This is especially true when multiple surgeries and long-term physical therapy are required. In other instances, the injuries may be so severe as to leave a person permanently injured, and sometimes in constant pain.

However at trial, and typically also in a settlement, there is only one opportunity to recover full compensation for all damages, including pain and suffering.  How, then, can a person severely injured in a car accident recover for future damages, including pain and suffering, or are they left without recourse to such a recovery?

What is the Amount of Future Damages I Can Expect to Receive from a Personal Injury Settlement?

This is a good question that is asked frequently by prospective clients. The answer is that it depends on the unique factors associated with a person’s damages and injuries.

If a settlement occurs, the ultimate payment will be negotiated between your legal counsel (if legal counsel is retained), and the opposing counsel and opposing party.  Often, the opposing counsel and opposing party consist of the lawyers retained by the other driver’s insurance company, the insurance company that represents the other driver, and the other driver.  Because usually the insurance company will ultimately be liable for a payout (if the driver has insurance coverage), the insurance company will usually control much of the settlement negotiations on behalf of their insured driver.

In order to maximize the opportunity for recovering full compensation in settlement, it will be critical for the attorneys for the plaintiff to carefully document all of the damages suffered by their injured client (including medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, vehicle damage, etc.) up to the time of the settlement, and to carefully document the future damages (including pain and suffering) likely to be incurred, as these damages are also legally recoverable.  Only then can full compensation be sought.

What Happens if a Case Goes to Trial?

The same process for documenting both past and future damages also occurs at trial, as legally an injured plaintiff is entitled to all damage suffered, not just those that have been suffered up to the time that a trial takes place.

It is important to understand that the personal injury claims process is focused on helping make injured victims “whole.” Because each case is different, the factors that determine the monetary value of an injured motorist’s damages are wide-ranging and specific to each case.

Legally, to recover for future damages from a car crash at trial, the person injured must prove to a jury that such future damages will be more likely than not to occur.  To meet this standard, evidence must be introduced to substantiate claims, which is often done through expert testimony.

The types of damages that can be recovered through a personal injury claim generally fall into two major categories: (i) economic damages (those that involve money that must be paid or money that is lost through matters such as lost wages) and (ii) non-economic damages (pain and suffering and other lifestyle interference).  Both immediate and future damages are then placed into these two overarching damage categories.

With respect to future damages, economic and non-economic damages usually include the following:

  • Future surgeries, treatment, physical therapy.  A physician for the injured person can testify as to the future medical treatment likely to be required to treat an injured person’s condition.  (It should be noted that if the cost for this treatment is paid through insurance, the insurance company will likely be entitled to recover such costs through a contractual lien on the recovery amount).  Your past, present and future medical expenses, including surgeries, prescription medications, physical therapy session, etc. can all be recovered through a personal injury claim.
  • Future pain and suffering.  Additionally, a physician or other medical professional will also be required to testify as to the pain and suffering associated with future medical treatment, as well as the future pain and suffering likely to be endured as a result of the crash.  The injured person can also testify as to the past and current level of pain and suffering that they have endured or are experiencing.
  • Loss of consortium/lifestyle impact.  Loss of consortium is a general reference to any marital difficulties that may arise between the victim and their spouse due to the accident. Specifically, this includes problems such as loss of affection, solace, comfort, companionship, and even sexual relations.  It is quite common for married couples to endure hardships when a spouse suffers a severe, potentially life-altering injury, and loss of consortium damages are meant to help.  Additionally, a severe car crash can affect a person’s ability to interact with their children (like playing catch with a baseball), and their ability to engage in meaningful recreational activities (such as bicycling).  At trial, a jury is allowed to determine compensation for these matters. 
  • Future lost wages.  Most car accident victims are forced to miss time from work, which may extend beyond the date of trial.  If injuries are severe, a person may never be able to work again.

If a car accident will force a person to lose future wages, the injured person will be entitled to the present value of all lost wages going forward up until the time of normal retirement.  Experts can be called to provide opinions as to the present value of such lost wages, and the expert can also provide an opinion as to matters such as likely job promotions, commissions, and other matters.  For this aspect, it is important to note that future damages are usually only recoverable based upon the person’s current occupation.

  • Other damages.  In some cases other future damages may also be recoverable.  For instance if a person is severely injured and cannot care for themselves or their household, the person would be entitled to recover damages for the necessary and reasonable care required to take care of them and their household.

How We Seek Full Compensation for Our Clients

In addition to carefully documenting all past economic damages, we are meticulous about making the case for our clients for future economic damages, as well as past and future non-economic damages.

When significant money is a stake, it can be expected that the defense will vigorously contest the amount of both past damages and future damages.  They may challenge future medical treatments and the expected cost of care.  They likely will also challenge past and future non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.

As experienced injury trial lawyers, we know how to make the cases of our clients, and the level of proof that jurors typically expect in order to make compensation awards.  We utilize our knowledge, experts, medical and other documents, witnesses, and visual aids (which may even include video) in order to present the best case possible for our clients in seeking to convince jurors why our position should prevail.

Call Us for a Free Consultation and to Learn About the Damages and Compensation to Which You May be Entitled

Upon learning about your case, we can identify the types of damages to which you may be entitled.  With severe injuries, determining an exact damage claim will require painstaking work with experts in various professions to determine the economic damages, while non-economic damages will require an assessment as to how a car crash victim’s damages affect their lives and the lives of their family.

We invite you to call us today to learn more about how we can help.

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