HOW IS SOMEONE COMPENSATED IF THE OTHER PARTY HAS NO INSURANCE?
Fortunately, it does not happen often, but it does happen. The reason why it does not happen often is because most states, including Virginia, require drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage, in addition to both bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. That means, if you’re in an accident and it’s your fault, your insurance company will pay the victim’s personal injuries and property damages up to a certain limit, and also, uninsured motorist coverage, which will pay the bills even if the at-fault driver isn’t following the law.
In 95 percent of the cases I have handled over over 30 years, when my clients have been injured by another motorist, their liability insurance covered my client and paid their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering for the personal injury claim. In the other five percent, the person who injures my client may not have insurance; perhaps they are simply too poor to afford it, or they lost their insurance or it lapsed, and they shouldn’t be driving, but in those cases, the uninsured motorist coverage kicked in.
Uninsured motorist coverage means you are paying for liability coverage for yourself when the other driver does not have insurance. When that kicks in, your insurance company actually becomes the other driver’s insurance company and stands behind them and will cover your personal injury claim as if they had insurance, up to the policy limits of your uninsured motorist coverage. That is to protect each of us from the irresponsibility of people who drive without insurance.
That is how you’re compensated when the other person has no liability insurance coverage on their motor vehicle. As a result, in about 99.9% of automobile cases, there is coverage for personal injuries incurred and personal injury claims, from either the other person’s liability policy or from your own uninsured motorist coverage taking care of you when the other person doesn’t have insurance.
HOW IS ONE COMPENSATED IF THEY ARE UNABLE TO WORK AFTER AN ACCIDENT?
In Virginia, a personal injury claim has three basic parts that make up the whole of a lump sum settlement and those parts are; compensation from the other person’s insurance company for the totality of all medical bills incurred, the lost wages incurred and for your pain and suffering, inconvenience and discomfort. Those are the three slices that make up the whole pie. In the part that deals with lost wages, an individual who is injured is entitled to have their lost wages paid for the amount of time that they missed from work at their hourly or annual rate of pay for all of the days and hours they missed from work due to pain and suffering, doctor’s visits, therapy visits and any other lost time related to their injury.
Most of the time, that is self-limiting because, by the time the two-year statute of limitations runs out, 95 percent of accident victims have finished treating, they are back to where they were before the accident started and they no longer have a need for medical treatment, they are no longer losing time from work and the claim is either moving toward settlement or has already been settled. However, there are a few cases in which a person is injured so badly that they not only lose wages from the time of the accident to the time a lawsuit must be filed that a doctor will say the person is permanently, partially disabled, possibly to the extent that they will never be able to do their job again.
That depends upon the doctor’s evaluation of their injuries and how they would affect them doing their job. The doctor must get to know them, understand what type of work they do; whether it is manual labor, or they are sedentary all day, running around and driving all day for their job, it all factors into the evaluation of whether that person can work part time or do light duty in the future or perhaps even have to take a new job because of their injuries.
When this happens, a person is entitled to future lost wages and loss of earning capacity and it is an art to calculate all of this; it’s like you are looking into a crystal ball into the future trying to determine how long a person will likely live, based on actuarial statistics having to do with their age and health at the time of the accident, how long they would have normally lived and how long they would normally work.
People usually retire before they die and actuarial tables are used to calculate their life and the normal length of their career, along with the nature of their job. They probably have a work history, and there are calculations that can figure out what that person would have made over the next 20 or 30 or 40 years of their work life, building in reasonable expectations for inflation and raises and promotions that would likely have occurred based on their past performance and the nature of their business and injury and their job.
These computer models can predict what the person likely would have made going forward into the future, and we can figure out how much compensation they are entitled to for their inability to work anymore. If it can be defined this way, they are entitled to recover for their loss of earning capacity and future lost wages by using the criteria available at present. By the way, those lost wages are reduced to the present day value of what they would be and can often be given in a lump sum as part of the settlement calculus or they can be part of a structured settlement going forward, in which the person receives so much per month or a year, like an annuity, based upon the calculations of what they may have made had they not been in the accident.