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What damages can be recovered in a car accident injury claim?

In Montana, a person injured in a car accident caused by the fault of another driver has the right to bring a lawsuit and recover monetary damages. The amount of damages awarded is determined by a jury if the case goes to trial. In many cases the victim's attorney is able to negotiate a settlement with the negligent driver's insurance company before trial.

The damages that can be recovered in an auto accident personal injury case fall into several categories. Past medical expenses can be recovered upon proof that the medical bills were for services reasonably related to the accident. Future medical expenses can also be proven through expert medical testimony as to the victim's need for future medical care, and the approximate cost of that care.

Damages for lost wages compensate the victim for income lost due to missing work as a result of the accident, up to the date of settlement or trial. Loss of future earning capacity is a separate category of damages, and can be recovered if the victim proves their ability to earn an income has been reduced by their injuries.

Finally, pain and suffering damages can be sought and recovered by the victim. This category is not susceptible to exact measurement; the jury is asked to make an award that takes into account the nature and severity of the pain and how long into the future it is likely to last. The related category of mental anguish allows a plaintiff to recover for emotional distress caused by the accident and their physical injuries. Damages for scarring and disfigurement can also be recovered.

After an auto accident insurance adjusters for the other driver will often attempt to get the victim to accept a small check for their damages, including pain and suffering, in exchange for signing a release that bars them from making any future claims. Accident victims who accept such an offer usually come to regret it. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer is the best way to recover the full compensation an accident victim is entitled to under the law.

Source:, "Economic Recovery for Accidents and Injuries," accessed Oct. 10, 2016

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