Damages in a personal injury case are intended to help make the plaintiff whole following an injury. However, it is not always possible to make the plaintiff whole and it can be difficult to put a dollar amount on pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other factors related to the case. The goal, though, is to attempt to put the injured person back into the position he or she would have been in had the injury never occurred.
Types of damages
The types of damages available in a personal injury claim vary depending on the circumstances of the case, including the injury to the victim and the applicable state laws. In general terms, personal injury damages may include the following:
Medical bills can become quite expensive depending on the severity of the injury. Often the injured party must undergo testing or treatment and physical therapy as well as hospital or nursing home stays. In cases where the injured party has become permanently disabled or is in need of adaptive devices or lifelong nursing care the costs can become even more significant. In general, the medical portion of damages should include every expense that the injured party has had to pay out while receiving treatment and possible future costs related to treatment for the injury or injuries sustained.
In personal injury cases where the injured party is unable to work it is not uncommon for the damages to include lost wages or lost income. This includes payment for any work the injured party had to miss due to the injury itself or treatment for the injury. If the injury has resulted in the permanent inability to work the defendant may be liable for paying the lost wages that would have been earned over a lifetime. This is also true if the injured party has been disabled in such a way that their future ability to earn is reduced or removed entirely.
Pain and Suffering
Juries have a tendency to award large sums for damages related to pain and suffering, especially when the injury is significant. Often, the insurance company will be inclined to settle and will use a technique known as a “pain multiplier” in order to arrive at a fair and reasonable number for pain and suffering damages. The pain multiplier typically means taking actual financial losses, such as medical bills and lost wages, and multiplying that by a number the insurance company deems appropriate. The resulting figure may be proposed to the injured party in an attempt to settle the case.
An accident or injury can cause emotional distress. Emotional distress typically must be proven by psychiatric records and the results of the diagnosis can potentially add to the amount of compensation awarded for emotional distress damages.
In cases where the victim has been killed as a result of an accident or injury caused by someone else’s negligence, it may be possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, a family member must have standing to bring a wrongful death action against the defendant. For example, every state allows the spouse of the victim to bring a wrongful death action, and parents can bring a wrongful death action on behalf of minor children.
Punitive damages are not always allowed. Punitive damages differ from the damages listed above in the fact that they are intended to punish the defendant and act as a deterrent.
As you can see there are a variety of economic and non-economic damages that may be available in personal injury cases. It is advised that you seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation where you can ask questions and confidentially discuss the details of your case.