You may be asking yourself, “What’s my case worth?” It all comes down to damages, which is determining what your injuries have cost you financially, mentally, and physically (and in some cases whether the defendant should be punished).
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Personal injury cases are where money damages are awarded to the plaintiff (the injured person) by the defendant (or their insurance company) who is found legally responsible for the accident. After a settlement between the parties, their lawyers, their insurance companies and their attorneys, a damages award can be reached. Learn more about how insurance companies value injury claims. A judge or jury may order a damages award in the unlikely event that a personal injuries lawsuit goes to trial.
Compensation in personal injury cases
Personal injury damages that are “compensatory” are meant to compensate an injured plaintiff for the loss or damage caused by the accident. Compensatory damages are awarded to the injured plaintiff in order to make them “whole” from a financial standpoint. This is a way to quantify all the effects of an accident. Some compensatory damages, such as reimbursement for property damage or medical bills, are easy to quantify. It’s more difficult to quantify “pain and suffering”, or the inability of enjoying hobbies due to lingering injuries from an accident.
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Here is a list of common types of compensatory damages in personal injury cases.
Medical treatment. A personal injury damages award almost always includes the cost of medical care associated with the accident–reimbursement for treatment you’ve already received and compensation for the estimated cost of medical care you’ll need in the future because of the accident.
Income. Compensation may be available for the impact of the accident on your income and wages. This includes the income you have lost, but also any future earnings. A damage award that is based on future income can often be described as compensation for the victim of an accident’s “loss in earning capacity”.
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Property damage. Property loss.
You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. You could be eligible for compensation for the pain and suffering you have suffered as a result of the accident or its immediate aftermath. Learn more about suffering and pain in a personal injury claim.
Emotional distress. Emotional distress damages are usually linked to more severe accidents. They are intended to compensate personal injury plaintiffs for the psychological effects of an injury, including fear, anxiety and sleep loss. Some states include emotional distress in any “pain-and-suffering” damages awarded to personal injury plaintiffs.
Loss of enjoyment. You may be eligible for “loss-of-enjoyment” damages if injuries from an accident prevent you from engaging in daily activities such as hobbies, exercise, or other recreational pursuits.
Loss of consortium. Personal injury cases often include “loss of consortium” damages. This refers to the effect that the injuries have on the plaintiff’s marriage. For example, the loss of companionship, or inability to maintain a sexual connection. If one parent is hurt, some states consider the impact it has on their relationship with their child. In some cases, loss-of-consortia damages are awarded to the victim’s family member and not to the plaintiff.
Punitive Damages in Personal Injuries
A personal injury plaintiff can be awarded punitive damages in addition to any compensatory damages if the defendant’s conduct was deemed especially egregious. Punitive damages are based on a different reasoning than compensatory damages. They seek to “make someone whole”.
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Although punitive damages are paid to the plaintiff who was injured, the main purpose of these types of damages is to punish and deter the defendant. It is not uncommon for punitive damages to exceed tens of million dollars. Most states have a cap on the amount of punitive damages in personal injury cases.