If you have been injured in a vehicle collision or other accident in Alaska, you are entitled to “just compensation” for your injury-related losses. While this sounds simple enough, the reality is that calculating your losses after an accident can be a complex and complicated process, and many people end up settling for too little because they fail to gain a comprehensive understanding of the full amount they are entitled to recover.
Accident-related losses can broadly be broken down into two categories: financial and non-financial. Within each of these categories, there are several specific types of losses that accident victims can recover. This includes current and future losses of each type; and, in cases involving severe traumatic injuries, accident victims’ future losses will often exceed the losses they incur prior to resolving their claim for compensation.
Financial Losses in Alaska Personal Injury Claims
The category of financial losses includes any and all direct out-of-pocket costs resulting from your injuries as well as your lost wages. This includes both losses you incur through the date of your settlement or verdict as well as losses you reasonably expect to incur in the future. While calculating your current financial losses is simply a matter of adding up your expenses and the value of your lost income and benefits, when it comes to calculating future financial losses, you will need to be able to forecast both (i) how and (ii) for how long your injuries will impact your life in the future.
In a typical personal injury case, recoverable financial losses will include:
- Medical expenses (including testing, treatment, prescription, medical device, rehabilitation, and therapy costs)
- Other out-of-pocket costs (including gas, other transportation expenses, lawn care and cleaning services, childcare services, modifications to your home or vehicle, and all other costs you incur as a result of your injuries)
- Loss of income (including lost wages, salary, and benefits due to time missed from work, as well as the loss of future earning capacity if your injuries will prevent you from working or force you to take a lower-paying job)
Non-Financial Losses in Alaska Personal Injury Claims
In Alaska, the types of non-financial losses that can be recovered in a personal injury claim are limited by statute. Alaska law also places a limit (or “cap”) on the amount of non-financial damages that can be awarded. Under Section 09.17.010 of the Alaska Statutes, recoverable non-financial losses include:
- Pain and suffering
- Physical impairment
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Other “nonpecuniary damage”
There are a few different ways to calculate non-financial losses stemming from an accident. One of the most common methods is the use of a per diem formula. With this method, a daily value is assigned to the accident victim’s non-financial losses, and then this amount is multiplied by the number of days that he or she is expected to experience these losses during his or her lifetime.
Another method involves applying a multiplier to the victim’s financial losses, with the multiplier being determined based upon the totality of the circumstances involved in each individual case. So, for example, if the victim’s current and financial losses add up to $100,000 and a multiplier of 2.5 is deemed appropriate, then the total compensation awarded would be $350,000 ($100,000 plus $250,000).
In all cases, non-financial losses are subject to a cap under Alaska law. For cases that do not involve “severe permanent physical impairment or severe disfigurement,” the cap is, “$400,000 or the injured person’s life expectancy in years multiplied by $8,000, whichever is greater.” If an accident victim suffers severe permanent physical impairment or severe disfigurement, then the cap increases to, “$1,000,000 or the person’s life expectancy in years multiplied by $25,000, whichever is greater.”
Tips for Maximizing Your Financial Recovery After an Accident in Alaska
As you can see, if you have been seriously injured in a car crash, slip, fall, or any other type of accident, there are many different factors that go into calculating what constitutes “just compensation” for your injury-related losses. In order to help yourself avoid settling for too little, here are some tips you can follow:
1. Seek Prompt Medical Attention
If you have not done so already, you should see a doctor promptly. Go to the emergency room if you have to. Not only will obtaining a diagnosis and treatment plan be important for your health, but it will also be essential for calculating the financial and non-financial impacts of your injuries.
2. File Your Claim Promptly
In Alaska, you typically have two years to file a personal injury claim. However, waiting any longer than necessary is a mistake. Since accident victims can recover their current and future losses, there is no reason to wait to pursue your financial recovery.
3. Keep Track of the Effects of Your Injuries
In order to recover your financial and non-financial losses, you need to have evidence to prove them. While obtaining evidence of current medical bills can be fairly straightforward (involving obtaining copies of your medical records from your healthcare providers), proving other types of losses may require more work to be done. To assist your attorney in this process, you can get in the habit of keeping copies of all bills and receipts relating to your injuries, and you can keep a daily journal of your pain levels and the various ways your injuries impact your life.
4. Get Help from an Experienced Attorney
Finally, when seeking compensation for accident-related injuries, there is no substitute for experienced legal representation. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to prove liability in the accident, accurately calculate your financial and non-financial losses, negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf, and take your case to trial if that is what it takes to win just compensation.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with Alaska Personal Injury Lawyer Eric Derleth
If you have been injured in an accident and would like to find out how much you may be entitled to recover, I encourage you to contact my office to arrange a free initial consultation. Call 907-262-9164 to request an appointment.