Personal Injury Damages
Before filing a lawsuit for personal injury, you should first consider what your case may be worth- in other words, how much are you entitled to? The answer to this question depends on how much your injuries have cost you in terms of physical and mental pain, suffering, and money lost (and, in some cases, whether the defendant’s conduct should be punished).
In a personal injury case, damages may be determined by settlement or by a judge or jury following a court trial. Below you’ll find an explanation of the different kinds of damages that are common in many personal injury cases and how a personal injury damages award can be affected by the plaintiff’s action (or inaction).
Compensatory Damages in Personal Injury Cases
Most personal injury damages are “compensatory,” in that they are intended to compensate for what you may have lost as a result of the defendant’s negligence- in other words, to make you “whole” again, at least monetarily. To determine compensatory damages, you’ll need to put a dollar figure on all the consequences of an accident. This includes such obvious costs as property damage and medical bills, but also includes more intangible damage, such as your pain and suffering or the inability to enjoy life as you used to due to ongoing physical limitations. The following is a brief description of the different types of compensatory damages that are common in many personal injury cases.
Medical Bills. A personal injury damages award almost always includes reimbursement for your past medical treatment, and the bills you’re likely to incur in the future because of the accident.
Lost Income. You may be entitled to be compensated for any income you lost as a result of the accident. This not only includes lost wages in the past, but also the money you would have been able to make in the future, if ongoing injuries will limit your earning ability.
Property Loss. If any vehicles, clothing, or other items were damaged as a result of the accident, you’ll likely be entitled to reimbursement for repairs or compensation for the fair market value of the property that was lost.
Pain and Suffering. You may be entitled to get compensation for pain and serious discomfort you endured during and after the accident, along with any ongoing pain you may experience in the future. For more about how this works, read the article on Pain and Suffering.
Emotional Distress. Emotional distress damages are meant to compensate for the psychological impact of an injury — including fear, anxiety, and sleep loss. This may be seen as an aspect of pain and suffering.
Loss of Enjoyment. When your injuries prevent you from enjoying day-to-day pursuits like hobbies, exercise, and other recreational activities, you may be entitled to receive “loss of enjoyment” damages.
Loss of Consortium. Loss of consortium damages are determined by how your injuries may have affected your relationship with your spouse. For example, a scar or other disfigurement that makes it difficult for your spouse to enjoy a a sexual relationship with you. In some cases, loss of consortium damages are awarded directly to the affected family member rather than to the injured plaintiff.
Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases
In cases where the defendant’s conduct is deemed particularly outrageous, a personal injury plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages on top of any compensatory damages award. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for his (or its) conduct, and to deter others from engaging in the same reckless behavior. Although punitive damages are designed for punishment, they are still awarded to the plaintiff.