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As a
personal injury lawyer and
car accident lawyer, I have been blogging about a
2011 report put out by the American Automobile Association (“AAA”), called
AAA report 2011.pdf

AAA has studied the high cost of traffic and congestion, concluding that
the costs we typically think of – wasted time and misspent gasoline
– are only the tip of the iceberg. The highest costs come because
of the increase in traffic accidents, and the costs those car wrecks spread
throughout our society.

In its report, AAA talks about both the societal costs and also the traditional
costs recoverable in a
car accident lawsuit such as I handle. Yesterday I discussed two of the costs that AAA mentions
that can be recovered in a
car wreck lawsuit: property damage and lost wages. Obviously the cars in a traffic accident
are damaged, and property damage is a part of the cost of car accidents.
Additionally, the people injured in a car accident lose the wages they
could have earned while they are recuperating from their injuries.

Today I want to talk about two other types of costs that are recoverable
in a car wreck lawsuit: lost household production and medical costs.

* Lost household production (which AAA describes as “non-market activities occurring in the
home”). All of us help out with the household chores. (OK, I admit,
some of us do more than others!). Those chores do not go away just because
mom or dad or grandmother or granddaddy is too injured to do them. Somebody
has to add the chores on top of what he or she already has been doing,
or the family has to pay somebody to take care of the household.

Somebody has to do the grocery shopping and feed the children, which can
be a very difficult proposition when mom is visiting dad in the hospital.
Neighbors and friends may be able to step in to help prepare meals, but
at other times an exhausted parent may have to decide to spend the now-tight
family finances on eating out. Grass keeps growing, even when the injured
person cannot mow it. The family may have to pay someone to mow the grass
and rake the leaves. When the house gets so dirty that nobody can stand
it, the family may have to hire someone to clean. If mom isn’t there
to wash the laundry, then the family has to find somebody to take over
that chore. (It is possible that the kids will decide to turn their socks
inside out and keep wearing them, but obviously that is not the most desirable option!)

The maid, the meals out, the overextended parent who lacks patience for
the children and time for his work – all of these are costs exacted
because of the lost household production that comes when someone is injured
in a car wreck. If these costs are proven at trial, they are part of the
damages that can be recovered in a
car accident lawsuit case.

* Medical costs. Usually the medical costs are the single largest component of the injured
person’s damages. Medical care has become phenomenally expensive.
Sometimes a family is lucky enough to have medical insurance or Medicare
or Medicaid, but those programs do not eliminate the medical costs –
they just shift the burden from the individual who was injured to the
members of the insurance plan, or to taxpayers. In the case of insurance,
the shift is only temporary; the next time the family needs to purchase
health insurance, it will find the cost has mushroomed, perhaps even prohibitively,
and it may find it is difficult to even get medical insurance.

As a
personal injury lawyer, I repeatedly see how medical bills can devastate a family financially.
A tragic percentage of bankruptcies come because a family incurred medical
bills that either were not covered by insurance or were not fully covered.
And just at the time the medical bills were piling up, the family was
making less because a breadwinner was injured, or was trying to care for
another member of the family who was injured. High medical bills, coupled
with the decreased earnings, are a recipe for financial disaster, and
they are a very significant component of the costs both individuals and
society bear for
automobile wrecks and crashes.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.