Whether your accident could have been worse, or it was catastrophic, a motor vehicle accident almost always costs you more in damages than just medical bills, injuries, and property damage. From your insurance deductible to lost wages due to time off from work for your injuries, there are so many incidental expenses can come up when you are a victim of a motor vehicle accident.
Sometimes, it is easy for these expenses to creep up on you and if you have not properly accounted for all recoverable expenses or losses, your claim may be undervalued. This is a very common scenario that can leave accident victims less than whole even after they receive their settlement.
To avoid this predicament, it is wise to work with a skilled and experienced personal injury law who can help you to identify your expenses and losses related to your accident and include all of these incidental expenses in your demand to the negligent party.
What are Some Examples of Incidental Expenses in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Beyond the obvious damage caused by a motor vehicle accident like damage to your vehicle, injury to your body, and medical bills, victims of accidents often incur additional incidental expenses such as costs associated with renting a vehicle, lost wages or earnings, loss of future earnings, and your insurance deductible.
Vehicle Rental: If you were forced to rent a vehicle to get around following an accident—either while your personal vehicle was being repaired or if it was totaled—your insurance may not have covered this expense if such coverage was not included in your automobile insurance plan or if they are disputing your claim.
The cost of a rental vehicle can add up quickly and if another person caused an accident that left you without a vehicle, this is likely an expense that you are entitled to recover.
Lost Wages/Lost Earnings: If injuries you suffered as a result of the accident caused you to miss work as an hourly employee or take unpaid leave as a salaried employee, you should include these lost wages—the money you would have made had you been able to go to work—in your demand. If you are self-employed and were unable to work as a result of your injuries, you should also be able to recover this loss from the party who was negligent in causing your injuries.
Lost earnings are relatively easy to determine for hourly or salaried W-2 employees but can be a bit more complicated to calculate for individuals who are self-employed, as their incomes tend to vary from week to week or month to month.
It is advisable to work with a personal injury attorney to help you properly calculate and recover your lost earnings.
Loss of Future Earnings: In the event that an accident leaves you permanently disabled in some way, you may be unable to return to work in the same field or at all. If this inability to get back to work negatively impacts your future earning capacity, you should include that loss of future earnings in your demand.
This can be a very complicated assessment to make, as the defense is likely to argue that your loss of future earnings is largely speculative. However, if your injuries have truly impacted your ability to make a living in the future and/or lowered your earning capacity, you are entitled to be compensated for this loss.
Insurance Deductible: Under most automobile insurance plans, the policy holder is required to pay a deductible, even if they were not responsible for the accident. While this may lower the amount paid out by your insurance company, you should be able to recover this expense if the defendant was negligent in causing the accident.
The incidental expenses associated with a personal injury case will vary widely by case to case. However, in a personal injury claim, the law seeks to make the victim whole again. Even though the expenses noted above may not be immediately obvious consequences of your motor vehicle accident, if you would not have incurred the expenses had it not been for the negligence of the defendant, you are entitled to receive compensation for those past and future expenses.
It is also important to keep in mind that California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that a defendant will only be responsible for compensating you based on the percentage they contributed to causing the accident. If they were negligent and you were not negligent at all, they will be fully liable for your damages. If you were partly negligent, but they were also negligent, you will still be able to recover from them, but only to the extent that they are responsible for causing the accident.
How to I claim incidental damages?
If you have been the victim of a motor vehicle accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Typically, your lawyer will arrange a complimentary consultation to review all of the documentation you have relating to your accident and assess the strength of your claim. If the personal injury lawyer believes you are entitled to compensation and takes your case, their first step will usually be to request further documentation, including your medical records, estimate for vehicle repairs, and any other expenses you incurred as a result of the accident.
Your lawyer should also help you to identify additional incidental expenses that you may have overlooked when determining your total damages. After every expense related to your accident has been itemized, your attorney will calculate your total damages.
Then, they will likely prepare a demand letter to send to the defendant or, if the defendant is represented by counsel, the defendant’s lawyer. This “demand letter” is essentially a settlement offer in which your lawyer will outline the basis of your claim (i.e. why the defendant is responsible for causing the accident and liable for your damages) and detail an itemized list of all of your damages. Essentially, this letter will state that you agree not to pursue your legal claim against them in court if they pay the damages you are demanding.
A demand letter can be either pleasantly or aggressively worded, typically depending on what style is effective for your attorney and your previous experiences with the defendant.
Experienced Orange County Personal Injury Lawyers
At Silverthorne Attorneys, our team of talented and knowledgeable personal injury lawyers will apply their years of experience in this field to securing the best outcome possible in your case. For each client we work with, we employ a comprehensive strategy tailored to the unique circumstances of your case.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you do not need to navigate this journey alone. Contact Silverthorne Attorneys for a complimentary consultation of your case today at (949) 234-6034.