Types of Damages in Car Accidents

After a car accident, you can seek compensation for three primary types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Here’s a walkthrough of each.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the tangible, quantifiable losses you incurr because of your car accident. They’re easy to prove to an insurance adjuster or court and often include receipts, bills, pay stubs, and repair expenses.

The most common types of economic damages include:

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify but can be just as devastating as economic damages. The pain and suffering you endured have value, but how can you put a number on that value? Even more difficult, how can you prove that value to a jury or insurance adjuster?

This is why having an experienced team of injury attorneys is crucial. Your lawyers must gather evidence to show the insurance company and courts how the accident affected your entire life and potentially your future goals and plans.

Some examples of non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • Emotional distress
  • PTSD

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are rare in car accident cases. These damages punish the defendant for their actions and help to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. While not typical in car accident cases, they may be awarded in cases of extreme recklessness or malice.

What Is the Average Car Accident Settlement Value?

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average car accident settlement in the United States in 2020 was $20,235 for bodily injury and $4,711 for property damage. However, car accident settlements can be significantly higher—especially if they cause severe injuries.

For example, a car accident that results in serious injuries, such as a broken bone or spinal cord injury, is likely to result in a much higher settlement than an accident that results in minor injuries, such as a whiplash injury.

Additionally, the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage can affect the settlement amount. If the at-fault driver has only the minimum liability insurance, you may be limited in terms of how much money you can recover. However, you may recover a larger settlement if the at-fault driver has higher liability insurance limits or an umbrella policy.

To give you a better idea of how much your car accident case might be worth, here is a small sample of our past car accident cases:

  • Car accident with a head injury and broken bones$1.215 million
  • Auto accident with broken ribs, hips, pelvis, etc. – $1.25 million
  • Car accident with collapsed lung and fractures – $625,000
  • Car crash with fractured vertebrae – $450,000
  • Auto accident with internal injuries – $350,000
  • Crash that resulted in whiplash – $300,000
  • Car accident with two herniated discs – $149,500

Why Fault Matters When Seeking Compensation After a Car Accident

When seeking compensation after a car crash, finding all liable parties is crucial because it will impact how much you receive.

For example, suppose you got into a car accident with a drunk driver who carried minimum insurance. The limits of their liability policy will put a cap on the amount of compensation you receive to pay for your medical expenses and damages. But what if the bar or establishment that served alcohol to the drunk driver is also liable? In this situation, you will likely be able to collect a significantly greater amount of money because the bar’s liability policy is significantly larger.

What If You’re Partially at Fault for the Accident?

If you share the blame for the accident, this will directly affect how much money you get from a car accident.

Some states follow a doctrine called contributory negligence. Under this doctrine, you cannot collect compensation if you are even 1% to blame for the crash. This harsh liability law makes it difficult to sue another driver after an accident.

Fortunately, Arkansas and Tennessee both follow the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. This means that you may still be eligible to recover some compensation, even if you are partially at fault for the accident. However, the amount you receive will be reduced depending on your share of the blame.

While the doctrine of modified comparative negligence is more lenient, you still won’t be able to recover any compensation from the other driver if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident.

Proving Negligence: The Key to Compensation

For you to receive compensation in a personal injury case, your legal team will need to provide evidence and documentation to establish that the defendant acted negligently. The legal definition of negligence includes four elements:

  • Duty of care: The at-fault driver owed you a duty of care. This means they had a legal obligation to drive safely and avoid causing an accident. All drivers have this duty.
  • Breach of duty: The at-fault driver breached their duty of care by driving irresponsibly (speeding, driving drunk, running a red light, etc.).
  • Causation: This reckless or irresponsible driving directly led to your injuries and damages.
  • Damages: You suffered damages as a result of the accident. This can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.

Here are some specific examples of evidence and documentation that can be used to prove negligence in a personal injury case:

  • Medical records
  • Police reports
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Expert testimony
  • Accident reconstruction teams
  • Dashcam or video surveillance footage

After an accident, you should gather as much evidence and documentation as possible to help your personal injury attorney prove negligence. You can also strengthen your case by keeping an accurate journal of your recovery and the expenses you pay out-of-pocket after the crash.

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Common Causes of Car Accidents and Their Impact on Your Compensation

Because some types of car accidents are characterized by greater degrees of recklessness, the exact cause of a car accident can significantly impact the amount of money the insurance company offers you in a settlement. Though speaking to an experienced injury lawyer is the only way to determine the full value of your car accident claim, here is some guidance on what you can expect.

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was involved in 9% of all fatal crashes in 2020.

Texting and driving is dangerous and even illegal in Arkansas. Paul’s Law (§ 27-51-1504) makes it illegal to use a handheld device while driving. When you get hurt by a distracted driver, you may have a stronger case because the driver clearly showed reckless behavior behind the wheel.

According to the NHTSA, drunk driving was involved in 28% of all fatal crashes in one recent year, and it is a leading cause of car crash fatalities.

Victims of drunk driving accidents often receive higher compensation because drunk driving is considered gross negligence, which means that the defendant acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others. This can sometimes lead to punitive damages being awarded in addition to compensatory damages.

According to the NHTSA, speeding was involved in 26% of all fatal crashes.

The amount of money you receive in a speeding case can vary depending on the accident’s severity and other circumstances surrounding the accident. For example, if the at-fault driver drove 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, that could be seen as reckless disregard for others and may be treated differently than if they were speeding by just 10 miles per hour.

How Much Money Is My Injury Worth?

No two injuries are the same. Each injury affects victims differently, depending on a wide range of factors. For example, a surgeon with a hand fracture may suffer significantly more long-term damage simply because the injury may prevent them from working in their chosen profession again. They will have extraordinary lost wages and loss of future earnings.

Once your attorney evaluates your case, you will better understand how much money your injury case is worth. The amount you receive depends on how significantly the injury affected your daily life and how it will continue to impact your future. Will you recover, or will you live with long-term disability? Will you be able to work again, or will you need long-term care services?

Here are some factors that might play into the value of your case.

Head Injury or Traumatic Brain Injury

A head injury is any trauma to the skull or brain, including TBIs and concussions. They can be mild or severe and can significantly impact a person’s life, leading to a lifetime of long-term care and impairment.

Factors that could impact the range of compensation:

  • The severity of the head injury
  • The type of head injury (e.g. concussion, skull fracture, traumatic brain injury)
  • If you suffered long-term disability or effects, such as physical impairment, cognitive impairment, or emotional distress
  • Your age and occupation

Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury can be temporary or permanent, sometimes leading to paralysis or other serious complications.

Factors that could impact the range of compensation:

  • The level and severity of the spinal cord injury
  • If you suffer from paralysis, loss of sensation, bladder and bowel problems, or any other debilitating and life-long impairments
  • Your age and occupation


A fracture is a break in a bone that can be simple or complex. Some fractures heal easily in time, while others require multiple surgical procedures and never fully heal.

Factors that could impact the range of compensation:

  • The type of fracture
  • The location of the fracture
  • The severity of the fracture
  • Your prognosis and whether the fracture fully heals or leads to reduced mobility and impairment
  • Your age at the time of the injury and your occupation

Back and Neck Injuries

Back and neck injuries can be mild or severe, and they can cause pain, stiffness, and loss of function. They can easily become chronic conditions, leading to a lifetime of pain and impairment.

Factors that could impact the range of compensation:

  • The type of back or neck injury
  • The severity of the back or neck injury
  • The long-term effects of the back or neck injury (e.g. pain, stiffness, loss of function)


A burn is an injury to the skin caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, or radiation. Burns can be mild or severe, and they can cause pain, disfigurement, and loss of function. Severe burns require multiple surgeries, skin grafts, and procedures. They can even result in amputation of the extremity.

Factors that could impact the range of compensation:

  • The severity of the burn
  • The type of burn (e.g. thermal burn, chemical burn, electrical burn)
  • The location of the burn
  • The long-term effects of the burn (e.g. pain, disfigurement, loss of function)

How Will Insurance Affect How Much Money I Get From a Car Accident?

To keep themselves profitable, insurance companies usually try to pay you as little as possible for your claim. However, even when they cooperate, they’ll only pay you up to the policy limits. The at-fault driver’s insurance policy will significantly impact how much money you can get from a car accident.

Insurance Policy Limits Cap Compensation

Insurance policy limits refer to the maximum amount of money an insurance company will pay on a claim. Policy limits vary depending on the type of insurance and the policyholder’s individual needs and budget.

In the context of car accidents, policy limits can significantly impact the amount of compensation you receive after an injury accident. If the at-fault driver’s policy limits are lower than your losses, you may not be able to recover the full amount of their damages.

In Arkansas and Tennessee, drivers must carry a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury. If you need more than $25,000 in compensation after an accident, you might be left paying out-of-pocket to cover the rest.

Dealing With Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists

If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or carries the bare minimum amount of insurance, there are ways you can seek compensation.

  • File a claim with your own uninsured motorist coverage (UIM). UIM coverage is optional insurance that can protect you if you are injured in an accident caused by a driver who does not have enough liability insurance to cover your losses.
  • File a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance, you may be able to file a lawsuit against them personally.
  • Seek government compensation. Some government programs can provide financial assistance to victims of car accidents. For example, the Crime Victims Reparations Board in Arkansas compensates victims of crimes, including car accidents caused by drunk drivers.

Maximize Your Compensation With Rainwater, Holt & Sexton

At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our experienced attorneys can get you the money you need—and deserve—after a serious car accident. We are committed to fighting for your rights and helping you through this difficult time.

When you choose our law firm, you can be confident that you are getting the best possible representation. Our dedicated team of attorneys takes a personalized approach to every case. With a proven track record of success helping car accident victims, you can rest easier knowing your case is in good hands.

We understand that car accidents can be a complex and stressful experience, and we are here to support you every step of the way. We’ll keep you informed of your case’s progress and answer any questions you have. We will also negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and work to get you the compensation you deserve.

Let Our Attorneys Advocate for You

This is our home, and we want to ensure our neighbors and friends are supported. With nine offices in Arkansas and Tennessee – Little Rock, Little Rock-Corporate Hill, Springdale, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant, Jacksonville, Jonesboro, and Memphis—our car accident lawyers are easily accessible when you need help.

Tell Us How We Can Help

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