If you think you can file a personal injury lawsuit after suffering from an automobile accident, you may also wonder if your case is worth anything. The answer to that question is based on the “damages” – how much has your injury cost you not only monetarily, but also emotionally and physically.
In cases involving bodily injury, compensation is paid by the person or entity that is found to be legally responsible for the accident. With the assistance of an attorney, you may reach a negotiated settlement and agree to a damage award that will compensate you for the person or entity’s negligence.
Either a judge or jury can award you a certain amount in compensatory damages and/or punitive damages.
A majority of the damages awarded in personal injury cases are classified as compensatory. This means the damages are to compensate you for what was lost due to the injury. Basically, this is an attempt to make you whole financially.
The goal is to place a monetary value on the consequences you have suffered since the accident. The following summarizes the different types of compensation you may receive after filing an injury claim with your lawyer.
- Medical expenses for treatment – awarded damages for the cost of medical care are usually part of your compensation. Any injury you suffered because of the accident that led to one time or continual medical care is part of the total. Estimated costs for future treatment can also be part of your compensation.
- Loss of income – you may also be titled to receive compensation for the impact an accident has had on your earning capacity. Lost salary and wages that you have already lost – and may lose in the future because of diminished health – that would otherwise be earned if you were not injured in the accident are calculated.
- Property loss – your property, whether clothes, vehicle or any other type of items that were damaged during the accident may also be reimbursed. Repairs or the fair market value of your property becomes part of the awarded damages.
- Pain and suffering – serious discomfort that you have had to endure will also become part of your attorney’s argument that the judge or jury allow. This includes the serious pain you endured during and the immediate aftermath of the accident. Ongoing pain is also part of the considered award.
- Emotional distress – more serious accidents may include awards for being emotionally traumatized. This type of award is meant to compensate you for the psychological impact the injury has had on you. These may include anxiety, loss of sleep and fear. In some states, emotional stress is automatically considered as part of the victim’s pain and suffering.
- Lost enjoyment of lifestyle activities – if your injuries are keeping you from daily pursuits such as exercise, recreational functions or hobbies, you may also be entitled to receive damages under this category.
- Loss of consortium – typically, this type of damage award relates to the relational impact your injuries may have had with your spouse. Things such as the loss of a sexual relationship or companionship is taken into consideration. Some states include parent/child relationships as well. Typically, this award is paid to the affected family member.
Another consideration for compensation during a personal injury claim is punitive damages. Your lawyer will also advocate for you to receive an award in this category. Typically, the defendant’s conduct has been deemed to be outrageously careless or particularly egregious and leads to your injuries. Therefore, you may be entitled to receive punitive damages in addition to the compensatory award.
The rationale for awarding punitive damages is very different from how compensatory damages are justified. While compensatory damages are an attempt to make you whole, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for the conduct that led to your accident and subsequent injuries.
Generally, the amount of theses damages are so high that the additional goal is for the award to act as a deterrent for the defendant, or any other person or entity, to act in the same careless manner.
It is not unusual for punitive damages to be multimillion dollar awards, although some states have placed caps on the amount that can be awarded.