Damages: How much is your personal injury case worth?
How much a case is worth depends on damages. The amount that your injuries have cost you physically, mentally, and monetarily. In some cases, the damages may include whether the defendant’s conduct is punishable.
The majority of personal injury cases rarely make it to trial. Most cases are settled between the two parties, their attorneys and their insurance companies. Damages are paid to the plaintiff (injured person) by the defendant (company or person who is found to be legally liable for the accident).
The amount awarded in damages can differ depending on the plaintiff’s action or inaction. Let’s take a look at the different types of damages in personal injury cases.
The majority of personal injury cases are designated as “compensatory”. This means that the damages awarded are calculated so that they compensate the plaintiff for any losses due to the accident and/or injury. Compensatory damages awarded are designed to make the plaintiff financially “whole” again (as much as possible). The idea is to try and put a dollar figure on all the ramifications of the accident.
Compensatory damages like reimbursement for medical bills and property damage are simple to assess. It’s much harder to quantify damages for “pain and suffering” or the loss of the ability of the plaintiff to partake in hobbies due to accident-related injuries.
Below is a list of the common types of compensatory damages in personal injury cases.
Property loss – Most likely you will be awarded the fair market value for any loss or damages to property as a result of the accident. This includes vehicles or any items damaged.
Loss of enjoyment – “loss of enjoyment” damages are awarded when injuries caused by the accident keep the plaintiff from participating in normal day to day activities, hobbies, and exercise.
Income – You may be compensated for the impact of the accident on your wages and salary. This compensation will include income you have already lost and income you would have been able to earn in the future if not for the accident. In legal terms, damages awarded for future earnings is known as “loss of earning capacity”.
Medical treatment – Medical care and treatment due to the accident as well as estimates for future medical care needed are almost always included in compensation for personal injury damages.
Emotional distress – In more serious accidents, the plaintiff may be compensated for emotional distress damages. This includes sleep loss, anxiety, and fear. Some states classify emotional distress as ‘pain & suffering’ damages.
Pain and suffering – The plaintiff may receive compensation for any serious discomfort or pain due to the accident and any continuing pain that can be associated with the accident.
Loss of consortium – Damages awarded for “loss of consortium” refer to the effect of the plaintiff’s injuries have on their relationship with their spouse. This includes any loss of companionship or the inability to continue a sexual relationship.
In personal injury cases where the defendant’s actions are especially flagrant or extremely careless, the plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages as well as compensatory damages. The goal of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their actions financially to act as a deterrent. Many states have a cap set for punitive damage awards in personal injury cases.
How damages are affected by the plaintiff’s actions
In personal injury cases, the role the plaintiff played in causing the accident or their inaction after being injured may decrease the amount they receive for damages.
Comparative negligence. Damages are associated with the percentage of fault in personal injury cases. If you are partially responsible for the accident, then any damage award will reflect this.
Contributory negligence. In states that adhere to “contributory negligence” for personal injury cases, you may not receive any compensation if you are found to be partially responsible for the accident.
After the accident: If the plaintiff fails to take the necessary actions to mitigate the financial impact and injury by not seeking medical treatment right away, the damage award may be significantly decreased.
To learn more about damage awards in specific cases, determining the value of your case and ensuring your claim is successful, request a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney today.