One of the first thoughts that will follow the decision to file a personal injury case is almost always “How much is my case worth?” This number can be found by trying to calculate what your injuries have cost you, not only in monetary ways but also the tolls they have taken physically and mentally too. These numbers come together to make up your “damages”. There is no such thing as a magic personal injury calculator. Each case is very different. The only way to get a sense of the value of your case is to speak with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.
How Is Compensation Distributed in a Personal Injury Case?
After a personal injury case is over, whether it has been settled or it was decided in a court, a monetary sum, or damages, is paid to the injured person or the surviving members who brought the case forward. This sum is paid by the person or corporation that was found to be legally responsible for the plaintiff’s accident and injuries. This can either be paid out by the defendant themselves or by their insurance company. If the case is settled, the sum will be negotiated between the parties, the insurance companies, and their respective attorneys. If the case is litigated court and the plaintiff wins, then the sum is decided by a judge or a jury.
We’ve broken down the different types of damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case below. We’ve also detailed how certain actions you take, or your lack of action, can affect the damages and the award given.
Compensatory Damages In A Lawsuit
A majority of the damages that are included in a personal injury case are listed as “compensatory”. This means that they are intended to compensate for what the plaintiff lost due to the accident or injury. These damages are meant to make the plaintiff “whole” again in the monetary sense.
Putting a dollar amount on the damages from the accident can be complicated. Some damages are easy to monetize, such as reimbursement for medical bills or property damages, but other damages can be extremely difficult to quantify. Assigning a monetary value to pain and suffering and loss of quality of life due to injuries related to the accident can be very difficult. We’ve broken down the different types of compensatory damages for you below:
- Medical Treatment – The damages included in a personal injury case award almost always cover the cost of the plaintiff’s medical care associated with the accident. This will serve as both a reimbursement for treatment you already have received due to the accident and to cover the cost of future medical care.
- Lost Income – Part of the compensation you receive may be to compensate for the accident’s impact on your wages and earnings. This could cover the income you lost due to the accident but also income you will not be able to make in the future. In specific legal terms, the victim’s “loss of earning capacity” dictates the damage based award.
- Property Loss – If there were items damaged in the accident, automobiles, personal objects, etc, you will probably be entitled to reimbursement for the required repairs or if the item was damaged beyond repair, you will probably receive compensation at market value to replace the item.
- Pain and Suffering – We are now moving into the damages that are more difficult to quantify. Compensation for pain and suffering is meant to try to amend for any pain you suffered from during and after the accident.
- Emotional Distress – Damages listed for emotional distress are intended to compensate you for any psychological distress caused by the accident such as fear, anxiety, loss of sleep, and depression. In some states, emotional distress damages fall under the pain and suffering category.
- Loss of Enjoyment — In cases where the injuries you sustained from the accident prevent you from participating in recreational activities, exercise, and hobbies you enjoyed before the accident, you may receive damages to compensate for this.
- Loss of Consortium – These damages are meant to compensate for the impact the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries had on your relationship with your spouse. It can mean either a loss of companionship, the loss of a sexual relationship, or a combination of these factors. These damages can also be awarded because of the impact of the accident on the relationship between a parent and their child. These damages can be awarded directly to the family member who is suffering as opposed to the plaintiff.
In some cases, you may receive an award for punitive damage in addition to any compensation you may have received. These punitive damages are awarded in cases where the conduct of the defendant was found to be excessively careless and more egregious than usual. Although these damages are awarded to the plaintiff, instead of being awarded with the intention to make the plaintiff ‘whole’ again, they are awarded with the intention to punish the defendant and act as a deterrent. Many states have set a maximum limit for punitive damages since it is not unusual for these awards to exceed the ten million dollar mark.
How Can My Actions Affect My Damage Award?
If you had a role in causing the accident or failed to take immediate action after you were injured, the damages in your personal injury case can sometimes reflect that. We’ve outlined the ways in which your action can affect your ultimate reward value below:
- Comparative Negligence – Most states have a standard set for comparative negligence, meaning that damages awarded are linked to your degree of fault in your accident. If you are even the smallest bit at fault for the accident that injured you, your ultimate reward will probably reflect that.
- Contributory Negligence – This is much different from comparative negligence even though they sound similar. Only a few states have this law in place, meaning that in the event that you are deemed partially to blame for the accident, you will not be able to recover any compensation.
- Failure to Mitigate Damages – In most states, personal injury laws expect the injured person to take steps after the accident to minimize the financial impact of the harm caused by the accident. If the plaintiff fails to take necessary actions, such as seeking medical treatment, or if the plaintiff deliberately takes actions to make their injuries worse, the damage award could be significantly less than it would be in a scenario where they took necessary steps and action immediately.
Following the Four Crucial Steps To Take After An Accident will help ensure that you will be able to recoup the maximum amount of damages from your personal injury case.
If you have any more questions about personal injury cases, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page and do not hesitate to contact us for a free case evaluation and consultation.