Friday, November 4, 2011

An Overlooked Element Of Damages/Losses In Personal Injury Claims

The accident scenario is a typical one: the client is creamed in a collision. After the initial bevy of acute care treatment in the hospital or ER, the client then begins the long, arduous journey of a series of diagnostic tests, stints of physical therapy, surgery, all the post surgery rehab (usually more therapy), and follow up appointments with their medical provider of choice.

What we as personal injury attorneys frequently overlook is all the time and effort it takes for clients to schedule around and attend all the appointments with therapists, etc. Quite simply, it is a huge hassle just to make all these appointments. And expensive too. With the cost of gas at over $3 a gallon, it all adds up.

Recently we calculated all the miles a client (who was broadsided by a drunk driver) travelled for numerous trips to therapy, doctors appointments, rehab after surgery, etc. It was staggering--over 1,000 miles of local driving. A few minutes on Google Maps makes this task simple and easy.

Do insurance companies recognize these losses in settlement negotiations? Usually not. If they do recognize them, they typically don't reimburse these losses on a dollar for dollar basis.

But that's not a reason to forego claiming mileage and the cost of gas and other inconveniences during settlement negotiations. Where is the REAL value in pointing out all these losses? At trial. Even the most skeptical juries can appreciate these losses, even if they struggle with how much an auto accident victim's "pain and suffering" is worth. In fact, this evidence can actually help a jury when calculating a pain and suffering amount when deliberating on a verdict.

After all, it's hard enough to deal with physical pain and disability associated with an auto or trucing collision. It's even harder when you have to make arrangements to leave work early, get in your car, show up early for your appointment, go through the rigors of physical therapy, and drive home and deal with the ordinary aspects of life like preparing meals, laundry, helping the kids with homework, etc.

Sometimes taking a step back and looking at all the ripple effects of an injury can help us see the bigger wave or picture in terms of our client's damages and everything they've gone through. The old adage of "walking a mile in the other person's shoes" applies here...

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