What damages are available after a car accident in Ohio?

Have you ever suffered an injury? Have you ever dealt with a situation in which your child, spouse or sibling suffered an injury? Even if it you considered it minor, think about how it affected your life. Let us imagine for a moment that you tore your ACL.

Did it hurt? Did you have to rush to the ED? Did you need surgery? Did you have health insurance with high deductible or out-of-pocket costs? Did you have to miss work? Did you miss events with your child? Did the permanent damage change your ability run marathons, an activity you used to love?

Now, let us imagine that you suffered your injuries, be those broken bones, soft tissue damage or head or neck injuries, in a car accident. Your life was changed through no fault of your own. Is that fair? Why should you have to suffer with the physical, emotional and financial ramifications? You don't.

You got hurt. You want to get paid. You know that you can submit an insurance claim or file a personal injury lawsuit, but what damages are available after an accident? What can you receive compensation for in a tort case in Ohio?

There are two types of damages available in civil court after an accident: compensatory and punitive. You are the recipient of the money in both cases, but they serve two very different purposes.

Compensatory damages 

As the name implies, compensatory damages exist to compensate you for the harm you incurred and will incur in the future, leading to people referring to them as "actual damages." Compensatory damages include:

  • Economic losses such as doctor's bills, lost wages, lost profits, property damage, home modifications or assistive devices.
  • Noneconomic losses such as pain, suffering and emotional distress. This includes the physical discomfort of the broken bone, head trauma or tissue strain. It goes beyond that, to include situations such as the loss of intimacy between two spouses, emotional distress caused by permanent scarring or our example of an avid marathoner who can no longer participate.

Punitive or exemplary damages 

Accidents happen because people are careless, but in some cases, people do things with malice or conscious disregard for the safety of those around them. Punitive damages punish the grossly negligent drivers and act as a deterrent to others. This might include situations involving drunk driving or texting while driving. You cannot recover punitive damages unless you are entitled to receive compensatory damages.

Don't assume any case is simple enough to 'go it alone'

As with any law, there are many nuances. For example, the compensatory damages statute includes a cap on the amount of noneconomic damages you can recover. You can recover the greater of two sums, $250,000 or three times the non-economic damages up to $350,000 per plaintiff and $500,000 per occurrence. The monetary cap does not apply if you can prove certain conditions, like permanent disability.

Note that your medical bill will not say, "$20,000 paid for physical pain" either. Valuing non-economic damages is a very subjective determination, yet you still have to present evidence to establish your claim. It is easy to see how any case can quickly become very complicated.

If you have suffered actual injuries in Columbus, Ohio, or are involved in a car accident in the future, do not rely on a blog post for legal advice. You should always consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney immediately to help you understand and preserve your claim.

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