How Can I Know The Worth Of My Catastrophic Injury Claim?
If you have a claim resulting from a catastrophic truck accident, there are several elements that contribute to the damages you will seek. These include property damage to your vehicle, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment and mental anguish. In some cases that involve gross negligence on the part of the defendant, you may also pursue punitive damages..
Property damage is usually the easiest for both sides to agree on and often can be settled early in the case so that you may use that compensation to repair or replace your vehicle.
Lost wages take longer to determine especially if you are still missing work because of your injury. In such cases you will need to return to work or reach maximum medical improvement before you can accurately determine what you total wage loss will be. If you are unable to return to your job, your wage loss claim will include future lost wages. Different states have different rules on how future wage loss is calculated. For instance, in Louisiana you are able to claim your gross wage loss, while in Texas you can only claim your net wage loss. In other words, "after tax" wage loss. In both Louisiana and Texas your future wage loss claim may need to be reduced by your residual earning capacity. For example, if you were making $80,000 a year before, and now you can only work at a job making $25,000 a year, then the jury would award the difference between those two values. You would also claim any discrepancies in benefits between the two jobs.
Medical bills are another important element to your damages. In Louisiana, you would look at the total medical bill in the past and in the future. In Texas, you would look at what they call the paid and incurred number. Meaning, the amount was actually paid to the medical provider and not what was charged.
Economic damages such as wage loss and medical bills are more easily estimated and often used as a benchmark to estimate more intangible non-economic types of damage such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment and mental anguish. You will want to consult a semi-truck accident attorney because there is a large amount of variation in non-economic damages depending on the severity of the injury, the person's age, how active they were before, and numerous other factors.
Punitive damages are damages meant to punish a defendant who has been grossly negligent. For example, if a truck driver was hired despite being a known alcoholic, then you would have a pretty strong argument for gross negligence and could seek punitive damages. New Orleans, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport do not allow punitive damages except in rare circumstances. One of the main exceptions is intoxication. You would have to retain an expert witness to prove intoxication, which would probably involve showing proving the blood/alcohol level the driver had at the time they were tested. In addition, you would probably want to retain an expert witness who could testify that based on the blood/alcohol content, the driver had to have been intoxicated at the time of the accident.
What is Maximum Medical Improvement and How Does It Figure in a Catastrophic Injury Claim?
"Maximum medical improvement", or "MMI", occurs when an injured person reaches the point where his or her condition cannot be improved any further.
There are two ways that the attorney should approach the issue of maximum medical improvement. If the person has had a bad injury but they are able to do their old job, then the best approach would probably be to wait until the person has been back at their old job for a month or so. Then, they would make sure that there are no major medical procedures that still need to be performed. That is probably a good time to start thinking about trying to settle the case.
In a more severe case when the person is not able to return to work and requires treatment or possibly surgery, it is better to wait until some time has passed after the surgery has been done. That way, you can ensure that it was a relatively successful treatment/surgery and additional treatment is not needed.
Sometimes the trial date will dictate when you need to settle your case. When your trial date is near, you need to start thinking about whether or not your case will be settled. You should make a really strong effort to settle the case.
If major medical treatment still needs to be completed, the trial date may need to be continued. However if the major medical treatment has been completed, you could begin to discuss settlement within a couple of months. If there is other medical treatment that needs to be done in the future, the doctor and life care planner should get involved in order to determine the amount of future medical bills. That way, you can make sure that you recover your medical bills in the past, but you can also ask a jury (or ask for a settlement) for the medical bills in the future.
What Challenges Do Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries Due to Trucking Accidents Pose in Determining the Worth of an Injury Claim?
If a person has a disc injury (herniated disc, ruptured disc, protruded disc, bulging disc, etc.), then it is usually addressed by either physical therapy or medical treatment. In some cases there will be a disc or fusion surgery in an attempt to repair the issue. In the most extreme cases of spinal cord impingement by either a ruptured disc or a fracture of the vertebrae in the spine, you have to have it evaluated. You also have to give it time to see if it is going to get better. Injuries to the lower back and the neck can result in the loss of sexual function, the loss of the ability to go to the bathroom, the loss of use of the legs or feet, and the feeling of numbness or tingling in the feet.
If there are extreme problems with the spine, one of the vertebrae in your neck or back will usually burst, and the fragments of that vertebrae will shoot back and hit the spinal cord. The higher up the vertebrae is, the more problems you have in your shoulders, your elbows, your hands and your fingertips. The lower down it is, the more problems you have with going to the bathroom, and with the legs, knees and feet.
One of the complicating factors about a brain injury is that many times it is an invisible injury. There are no x-rays to show such as when a screw and plate are inserted in a hip as a result of a wreck. Brain injuries are really difficult to reveal, except for the sophisticated scans, which sometimes show shearing. There needs to be a lot of research done on a case, and a neurologist needs to take a look at the person. Neurologists can perform a series of tests in order to determine if there is a traumatic brain injury. They can also refer a person to a good psychologist who can do an additional work-up to make sure that the person has symptoms of a brain injury.
However, they have to be really careful because the insurance company or the trucking company will hire private investigators to follow a person around and videotape them doing all sorts of things. So, it needs to be a severe case. If a person is saying that they can't drive, yet there is a videotape of them driving, then that can be a real problem. People need to be truthful about the extent of their injuries. Only when it is a severe brain injury case should that case be brought, because it is very difficult to show and prove to a jury that a person has a minor brain injury. It also gives the defendant the opportunity to show that they are not having their brain problems complained of because they can mow their grass, climb a ladder, and do other things that they will try to catch on videotape.
Another element of damage that you can get in a catastrophic injury case is disfigurement. If you end up with a scar that makes you unsightly, you can get pictures of the scarring. As another example, you may have a doctor talk about how a person with a plate in their neck after neck surgery is going to continue to have off-and- on pain for the rest of their lives. Again, a Life Care Planner's testimony would be helpful in this situation.
For more information on Catastrophic Injury Claims Resulting From A Semi-Truck Accident, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (281) 819-3746 today.
Do you have your accident report?
We'll get it for you, free of charge
- What to Do If Injured in a Semi-Truck Accident
- Vital Info for Truck Wreck Victims
- How to Find Your Accident Report
- Five Reasons to Hire a Semi-Truck Accident Attorney