Types of Personal Injury Damages | Determing the Value of Your Claim
If you get injured and someone else is responsible, then you can file a personal injury claim.
A successful claim results in damages, which is money to compensate you for your loss. However, there are several types of damages available depending on the injury you sustained.
Are you considering filing a personal injury lawsuit? You may be eligible for more than just money to pay your medical bills. Read this introduction to personal injury damages to learn more.
1. Compensatory Damages/Actual Damages
The first and most prevalent types of damages are compensatory. These exist to “make [you] whole again.” They pay for bills, lost income, and other receipt-based losses that you wouldn’t have paid if you never got hurt.
One reason these damages are so prevalent is that there is an easily countable number attached.
To request these damages, you combine:
- Medical expenses (including prescriptions)
- Out of Pocket Expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
Compensatory damages may also include all the above plus funeral expenses. A surviving family member can also claim these.
What About Pain and Suffering?
While the damages that come with receipts are the easiest to win, not everything you go through after an injury comes with a bill demanding payment.
These non-monetary losses are most commonly known as pain and suffering damages.
Pain and suffering account for both physical damage and emotional distress.
They exist because, for example, a medical bill for a broken leg doesn’t account for the pain you went through during and for months after the accident. Being uncomfortable, combined with trouble sleeping, loss of mobility, and an inability to do certain things for yourself all count as physical suffering.
You can also count emotional stress, which can include a general loss of enjoyment of life and fear, anxiety, anger, depression, or frustration. These feelings are directly related to your injury – and you wouldn’t be going through them if it weren’t for the injury.
Pain and suffering can be substantially more than your compensatory damages. However, they are usually in line with the severity of the injury. You also need to present proof of the suffering, often through verified documents and expert witnesses.
If you undergo five surgeries, suffer a partial disability, and need to leave your job and your favorite hobby, then your pain and suffering can reach significantly higher levels than the other damages.
How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering?
How much is pain and suffering worth? The answer is complicated, but there are two methods used by insurance companies to calculate it.
Perhaps the simplest way is calculating the figure by multiplying your medical bills (and other damages) by a number between 1.5 and 5. The most severe injuries can use 5, while more minor issues fall to 1.5 or 2.
When determining your ideal number, it’s important to remember that pain and suffering damages are still designed to compensate you fairly. It is not intended to punish someone. Instead, that’s where punitive damages come in.
2. Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are rarer than compensatory damages and show up in only around five percent of verdicts. Usually, compensatory damages are a pre-requisite for the court to consider the potential for punitive.
The difference between punitive and compensatory damages is that punitive damages are a punishment. It means that the court found the defendant acted intentionally (either generally or specifically). These often apply in contractual cases, but they can also apply to criminal cases like assault and battery.
Punitive damages differ in personal injury cases where no crime occurred. When there’s an injury, the law doesn’t look for intent but negligence. You can only ask for punitive damages if you can prove negligence, and this is much harder to do than proving an injury occurred.
What Is Negligence?
Almost every personal injury claim – no matter where or how it happens – earns the legal title “negligence-based tort.” It means that someone committed a legal wrong against another person (in your personal injury case, someone wronged you).
The case mostly rides on the concept of negligence. Negligence isn’t carelessness, thoughtlessness, or malintent alone. It has four parts, and each part must exist for negligence to appear.
First, the defendant must owe you a duty. If you’re talking about a doctor, they owe you evidence-based care in line with current medical opinion. Drivers also owe a duty of care: they must obey traffic laws, maintain their vehicle, and be wary in poor weather.
Second, you must prove that the defendant breached that duty. For example, if a driver gets behind the wheel after drinking and runs a stop sign, they have breached the duty of care they have to all other drivers.
Third, you need to show how the breach of duty of care led to your injuries. If the driver above was drunk and ran a stop sign before t-boning you in an intersection, causing significant damage to your car and injuries, then this serves as proof.
Fourth, you must show that there were damages because of the injuries. These usually include the compensatory damages noted above. Medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering all count.
What Are Your Personal Injury Damages Worth?
Determining your personal injury damages depends mostly on the factors involved in your case, including the extent of your injuries, liability, duration, and other costs.
Whatever the issue, you should seek legal advice.
Were you injured in a car accident or because of someone else’s negligence? Your fight is our fight. Contact us for a free consultation on your personal injury case.