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How Much Does a Car Crash Really Cost? Three Primary Categories of Recoverable, Economic Damages.

Cranwell & Moore P.L.C. Feb. 14, 2023

Getting into a car accident is more than just a shocking and painful event — it is also expensive. Although the true cost depends on the details of the accident, anyone involved in a car crash should consider the following when trying to understand the real costs over time:

Was Anyone Seriously Injured?

The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration estimates that a car accident resulting in a “serious injury” causes on national average around $655,000 in resulting expenses from medical response and care. Serious injuries would include non-fatal broken or crushed appendages, severe skull or abdominal injuries, burns, or a lack of consciousness after the accident. The federal agency also estimates that even minor injuries can result in expenses in the six figures over time.

Typical expenses could include the cost of emergency services like an ambulance, fire services and other emergency responders as well as emergent care at a local hospital, including expensive diagnostic radiology and tests to rule out more serious injuries. Additional costs could include follow-up appointments, medications, physical therapy and home modifications as necessary. In Virginia, the full medical expenses charged by the providers in the bills are recoverable damages that the responsible driver or liability insurance—not just the reduced amount after health insurance pays a contractual amount.

These injuries may lead to additional expenses if an injured person cannot complete other tasks and incurs out-of-pocket costs. Examples could include the sudden need to hire a cleaner because you cannot clean your home, or additional help caring for children.

Was the Vehicle Damaged, and What Is the Replacement Value?

First, figure out the value of the vehicle. Kelley Blue Book or similar websites can offer a good starting point. These types of platforms allow you to enter information about the specific make and model as well as the condition of the vehicle to get an idea of its value. If the cost of repair is more than the estimated value, it is likely “totaled,” meaning a total loss. In such cases, the responsible driver (or insurer) must pay a fair market replacement value.

Even if the vehicle is not totaled in the accident, the damage may still result in the need for expensive repair work. In such cases, it is best to have your own trusted body shop provide an estimate to ensure that an insurer does not try to cut corners with repair coverage.

Will the Accident Impact Your Ability to Work?

If your ability to work is impacted by the injures, medical treatments, or lack of a car, then you may have a claim for lost income. In Virginia, if you miss work but still are paid due to collateral benefits, such as disability insurance or a generous employer, you may still have a claim against the liable driver for the full value of your lost work compensation anyway. If the accident is the result of another driver’s negligent or reckless behavior, you may be able to hold the driver responsible for these actual economic expenses—as well as other categories of damages, such as physical pain, mental anguish, suffering, aggravation and inconvenience—through a personal injury lawsuit.