After experiencing an injury through no fault of your own, an important consideration is whether or not to pursue litigation. The potential amount of a settlement or jury award must be balanced against the financial, emotional, and mental costs. Trials and even settlement negotiations can be time consuming. Every case is different, and until you consult a personal injury attorney, you may not have a clear picture of your best options. Below are some general guidelines that you may find helpful.
In a personal injury case, any damages awarded to the plaintiff are compensatory. They are intended to compensate the victim for the damages that resulted from the negligence of the defendant. From a legal standpoint, compensatory damages are meant to make the victim financially “whole,” by reimbursing medical and other expenses, and in some cases, to make up financially what will be lost forever, such as a lost limb.
Compensatory damages can be relatively easy to calculate if the losses are simply medical bills and car repairs, but in many cases, losses can be difficult to determine. This is where a personal injury attorney may be especially helpful, because they may know what a jury is likely to accept as a dollar figure. Many attorneys also have medical experts with whom they can consult to help estimate future costs, and the chances of a full recovery.
Though every case is different, the following types of compensatory damages are very common:
- Medical costs. This will include what the victim has already spent for treatments, medications, medical imaging, etc. It may also include future costs for everything from surgery to specialized medical aids, and physical therapy.
- Lost wages. In addition to income that the victim has lost due to their injury, compensatory damages may include future lost income. During the victim’s anticipated recovery time when he or she will not be able to work or will have reduced hours, the lost income may be added to the claim. If the victim cannot return to his or her job because of the injury, and must take a lesser paying job, the difference in wages until retirement might also be included.
- Property damage. During the course of the accident, any property belonging to the victim that was damaged is subject to recovery. Common property damage includes:
- Vehicle repairs or replacement
- Items inside the vehicle such as computer equipment, cell phone, trunk contents, etc.
- Pain and suffering. The physical and emotional pain the victim experienced during and after the accident can be included in the damages. If the victim experiences Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome as a result of the accident, their costs for counseling may qualify for compensation.
- Punitive damages. If a judge or jury finds that the defendant’s actions were extremely careless or intentionally harmful, he or she may be subject to punitive damages. The goal of determining punitive damages is to financially punish the guilty person. Many states have a maximum dollar amount for punitive damages, as they can otherwise amount to millions of dollars. An attorney can review your case to determine if punitive damages are warranted.
For more information and to discuss your case, contact a local attorney today.