Sally, sixteen years old, is traveling southbound on I-5 in Eugene. Sally hears a ringing and realizes she just received a message via text. She rummages through her purse and finds her phone to check the message. Jane, her best friend back in Washington has just seen Steven at the Vancouver Mall.
“Should he talk to me?” Jane would like to know.
Sally must be in Ashland within three hours, so it is impossible to stop. She is also comfortable texting and driving. She could even do it blindfolded.
Minutes later, Farmer Tom is blindsided by Sally’s red VW bug. Farmer Tom is hospitalized for five weeks and misses the peak of the seed harvesting season.
Sally returns home to Vancouver and peruses her auto policy, wondering: “BI – Bodily Injury, What does this coverage?”
According to the policy, it will pay damages that an insured is legally liable for due to bodily injury to others resulting from accident caused by your car’s ownership or use.
Sally thinks that Sally is causing “damages.”
Black’s Law Dictionary defines damages “a sum of money that is awarded to a person for the [wrongful] act of another”.
Sally concludes, “OK, so damages just means money.”
“But how does the court decide which money to award?”
Types of DAMAGES
According to the Blacks Law Dictionary damage can be divided into three broad categories: actual, nominal, and punitive.
Nominal damages are awarded when a right is violated, but not where there is a substantial injury. Sally drove onto the farmer’s fields, which was considered a trespass. If she had done it without causing any damage to the farm equipment, land or farmer, that would have been a trespass.
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary or exemplary damages, are meant to punish the defendant. These damages can be awarded if the defendant’s conduct was particularly bad. A Lane County jury could award punitive damages to Sally if she had intentionally driven off the road in order to run over the farmer.
Actual damages, also called compensatory damages, are awarded for actual or genuine loss or injury. This is the most common coverage for bodily injury insurance. Actual damages in most auto accidents are broken down into general damages or special damages.
According to Blacks Law Dictionary, these are the “actual results of the injury complained about, due to special circumstances or conditions.” It is easy to quantify special damages. Three important components of a case involving bodily injury are medical, lost income, or household services.
These include hospital visits, prescriptions and neck braces. Medical expenses must be justified and necessary. The court may reduce medical expenses that they consider excessive. A jury could decide Farmer Tom overtreated by reducing his $10,000 chiropractic bill to $3,000.
Farmer Tom may have trouble sleeping after the accident and will insist that his family doctor prescribe a new mattress. It would be difficult to convince a jury this was an essential medical expense related to the accident.
Tom, Farmer, hired his family and friends to harvest the seeds so that the crop would not be lost. He would file a claim against Sally to recover lost income due to the additional expenses he incurred. Her bodily injury policy would cover this.
Farmer Tom and his wife, Tom, are both very progressive and have divided up household chores. He’s responsible for the lawn maintenance and car washing on Saturday. Tom needed to hire a neighbor boy to replace him in these duties. These services would be reimbursed by Tom through a personal injury case against Sally.
These are the more difficult side effects of bodily injury damage. This category includes what is often called “pain and discomfort”. This category also includes loss of enjoyment of living. A multiplier, such as 1×2, 2x, or 3x times reasonable and necessary medical expenses, is used to calculate general damages.
Your bodily injury coverage will cover you for legal representation if you are sued after an accident. Your insurance company will hire these lawyers, also known as “insurance defense attorney”.
If you cause bodily injury to another person, your coverage will protect you. Your coverage covers anyone who uses your car with your permission. You are also covered if someone else is driving your car.
These elements include lost wages, medical expenses, household services, pain, suffering, and attorney fees for you to defend yourself.