A car accident can leave you drowning in bills—even with full coverage auto insurance, the claim rarely covers more than a fraction of your expenses.

So, does this mean you’re responsible for paying what insurance doesn’t cover? Unfortunately, the short answer is yes. You’re responsible for settling your bills; however, the money doesn’t have to come out of your account.

For instance, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver, which can help cover your damages. However, how do you come up with a claim amount to sue for? Taking a comprehensive approach to economic damage compensation is an effective way to ensure you’re not paying for damages out-of-pocket.

What are Economic Damages

Since South Carolina is an at-fault state, you can legally sue for economic damages. Economic damages shouldn’t be confused with punitive or non-economic damages. Punitive damages typically refer to property damage sustained in the accident. Non-economic damages don’t have a tangible value but still impact your life.

An example of punitive damage is if you have valuables in the vehicle like a laptop. If the laptop is destroyed in an accident, you can claim its value. Non-economic damages typically include items like pain and suffering.

Economic damages have a tangible monetary value and are relatively easy to calculate. For instance, the total amount of your medical expenses is a great example of economic damage.

Types of Economic Damages

There are several types of economic damages that you may be able to claim in your personal injury case.

Medical Expenses

Even if you’re not seriously injured in an auto accident, you can still end up with medical expenses. A good rule to follow is to always seek medical assistance after being involved in a car wreck.

You may feel and look fine, but some injuries are invisible since not all signs and symptoms immediately appear after an accident. Sometimes, it can take a few days before the injury is noticeable. Visiting a physician for a checkup is the best way to protect your health.

While it may only be a simple checkup, the visit isn’t free; you will receive a bill and this can be included in your personal injury claim. If your injuries are severe, treatment and even long-term care may be necessary, and these also count as medical expenses, along with medication costs.

Property Damage

Even if the other driver only taps your bumper, you may still be dealing with property damage to fix and repair. Your suspension can be affected, even in a fender bender. Along with claiming repair costs, you can also receive compensation for a new vehicle.

However, before rushing off to the car dealership, you’ll need to show proof your vehicle is totaled. If the auto technician recommends repairs instead of replacement, you can’t claim the cost of a new vehicle. There can be an exception, but it often depends on the insurance company.

If repair costs are more than the vehicle’s blue book value you may be able to purchase a new vehicle and claim the expense. Before buying a new car, truck, or SUV, check with your accident attorney. They can provide guidance to help ensure you’re not stuck paying for the replacement vehicle out-of-pocket.

Something you may not have considered is your travel expenses—did you know you can also claim travel expenses as economic damages? If you’re renting a vehicle while yours is being repaired, it’s considered an economic expense, which also applies if you’re using a taxi or rideshare service to get around.

Lost and Future Earnings

An obvious economic damage is lost wages. If you can’t work because of your injuries, you’re missing out on your regular wages, which is a financial hit few people can comfortably afford. Even if you’re only out of work for a few days, you can receive compensation for your missed wages.

Your future earnings can also be added to your personal injury claim, but there are qualifications. For example, you can’t claim the loss of future earnings if you simply don’t want to go to work.

You also can’t inflate your future earnings. In other words, you can only claim what you reasonably expect to earn. So, don’t try to give yourself a promotion when you’re claiming lost future earnings.

Proving Economic Damages

Thankfully, proving economic damages is rarely complicated. The only exception may apply to calculating future earnings—in this case, it’s best to stay relatively conservative.

Taking some time to study average lifetime earnings in your industry and for your position can give you a good starting point. Also, talk to your employer about your potential for a promotion before the accident. If you find out you’re next in line to move up, your employer will need to provide written documentation.

Medical expenses are relatively easy to prove; you’ll need copies of your medical files. If you undergo diagnostic tests, save the receipts, and the same goes for prescription and treatment costs. If ongoing care is necessary, make sure that you keep all relevant documentation.

You may also need to have your physician submit paperwork outlining the reason for the care and the estimated costs. If you’re paying off your medical bills, save the receipts. This way, you can add these costs to your claim.

Proving property damage costs are similar to medical expenses. Instead of submitting copies of medical records, you turn over estimates from auto body repair shops. A helpful tip is to visit more than one repair shop.

Most insurance companies want estimates from multiple sources, so plan on going to at least three. Chances are the insurance company will settle for the lowest estimate.

Don’t Wait Too Long to File an Economic Damage Claim

You may be surprised at how long people wait to begin the economic damages process after an auto accident. South Carolina gives auto accident victims three years to file an injury and property damage claim.

The clock starts ticking on the accident date. The best advice is to hire a personal injury attorney immediately after the accident and start working on your economic damages claim.