Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases
When a party causes an injury because of negligence or wrongdoing, the judicial system cannot undo the injury or the damage to the victim.
The only way the courts can try to make the victim “whole” again is to hold the responsible party liable financially for the victim’s damages.
Damages in personal injury cases include a variety of economic and noneconomic injuries and losses.
The value of those damages depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. A personal injury lawyer fights for injury victims’ legal rights to receive fair compensation for personal injury damages.
What is a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is a legal allegation that a person or party is liable for your damages. Personal injury claims arise from numerous types of accidents and wrongdoing.
Common situations that can result in a personal injury claim include:
- Bicycle accidents
- Car crashes
- Dog bites
- Construction accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Defective product injuries
- Boating accidents
- Birth injuries
- Premises liability claims
There are many other incidents and accidents that can lead to a personal injury claim. If you are unsure whether personal injury laws cover your injuries, talk to a personal injury lawyer.
What Damages Can I Include in a Personal Injury Claim?
The damages you can include in your personal injury claim depend on the facts in your case. If you include economic damages, you must have proof of the financial losses to include the amounts in your claim. Receipts, bills, invoices, and other documentation must prove that you incurred the loss, and the loss is related to the accident.
Common Financial Damages in Personal Injury Claims
Your out-of-pocket financial losses related to the accident, your injuries, and your recovery are included in your injury claim. Common financial losses in a personal injury claim include:
- Loss of income, including salaries, benefits, wages, and other forms of income
- Medical expenses and bills, including physicians, hospitals, therapy, etc.
- Over-the-counter medications and medical supplies
- Cost of personal care or in-home health care
- Help with household chores
- Travel expenses to and from medical appointments
- Property damage claims
The value of your economic damages is the total of all actual financial losses and expenses. Keep in mind that you need proof of each expense or financial loss to include it in the total for a personal injury claim.
Common Noneconomic Damages in Personal Injury Claims
Noneconomic damages are much more challenging to value in a personal injury case. They represent the pain and suffering caused by the accident and your injuries. There is not a bill or invoice to prove the value of noneconomic damages.
Common damages related to pain and suffering include:
- Physical suffering and pain
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life
- Psychological injuries, including depression and PTSD
- Mental trauma and emotional distress
There is not a formula or standard for calculating pain and suffering damages. Per diems and multipliers are frequently used to value noneconomic damages.
The per diem or multiplier is based on the type and severity of the person’s injuries. The more severe the injury, the greater the multiplier or per diem.
For example, a hairline fracture could result in a multiplier of 1.5, but a traumatic brain injury might have a multiplier of four. Multipliers generally range from 1.5 to five.
The total of your financial damages is multiplied by the multiplier to calculate the value of pain and suffering damages. If a per diem is used, the per diem is multiplied by the number of days it took for you to recover from your injuries.
It is not an exact method of valuing damages, and there is a great deal of flexibility. The victim argues for higher multipliers and per diems. The insurance company aggressively argues for the lowest figures.
Future Damages in Personal Injury Claims
If you sustain a permanent impairment or disability, you could be entitled to future damages. Catastrophic injuries, such as amputations, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries, can result in disabling conditions.
Future damages are the financial losses, pain, and suffering caused by a disabling condition. Damage could include:
- Future loss of income
- A decrease in earning potential
- Ongoing medical treatment or care
- Future costs of personal care
- Pain and suffering
The value of future damages is also difficult to calculate. In most cases, a medical expert and financial expert assist in calculating future damages. Factors such as age, career, education, life expectancy, and skills are used to estimate future damages.
Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Claims
Punitive damages are not very common in personal injury cases. A court uses punitive damages to punish a defendant for conduct that exhibits a willful, wanton disregard for other people’s safety or is grossly negligent. DUI accidents are common examples of cases that might include an award for punitive damages.
Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
You might not need a lawyer for a personal injury claim, but it is wise to talk with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Insurance companies have one goal – to make as much money as possible. They are for-profit companies.
Therefore, paying injury claims is not a priority. An insurance company wants to pay as little as possible to settle your claim, if the company cannot find a way to deny your claim. The company trains its claims adjusters to search for ways to limit liability in injury cases.
If you answer questions or give a statement to the insurance company without talking to a lawyer, you could say something that would hurt your case. Signing medical releases and accepting settlement offers within an attorney reviewing the documents can also be unwise.
If you settle your injury claim, the settlement is final. A settlement agreement is a legally binding contract that can be enforced in court. If you change your mind or discover additional damages, you are barred from suing the parties because the settlement agreement released the parties from all known and “unknown” claims or damages.
You should also remember that your time to file a personal injury claim is limited by law. Failing to file your personal injury claim before the deadline in the statute of limitations expires results in forfeiting your right to hold the person responsible for your damages accountable in court.