Personal Injury Damages: What Can I Recover?
Posted on Friday, December 29, 2017
If you’re thinking about filing a personal injury claim, you’re probably wondering how much money you might be able to recover. If your claim is valid, there are many factors you and your lawyer will be considering to arrive at a reasonable estimate, but it’s important for you to first understand the types of damages for which you might be eligible.
There are two primary types of damages for which you could receive compensation in a personal injury case: Economic and non-economic.
Economic damages include damages that can be calculated or fairly estimated, such as past and future medical expenses, lost wages and lost earnings potential. Expert witnesses can testify about how the injury impacted the person’s ability to earn a living in the future. These types of damages are sometimes referred to as “out of pocket” expenses.
Non-economic damages compensate victims for losses that are much harder to assign a specific dollar amount. Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, the loss of companionship from a loved one, or permanent loss of function or permanent disfigurement are all types of non-economic damages.
A third type of damages — punitive damages — is rare in personal injury cases, but does sometimes apply. Punitive damages are assessed by a judge or jury against a defendant to punish them for acting recklessly or intentionally, and to deter others from committing similar harmful acts.
If your case goes to trial and a jury agrees you deserve compensation, the jury members will decide how much money you should receive for each category of damages.
Here are some brief definitions of the most common types of damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits.
- Medical Expenses
Medical costs that are incurred for treatment of injuries related to your accident are almost always included in damages. This allows the plaintiff to reimburse hospitals, doctors, specialists, and other heathcare providers for care given as a result of your accident. If you can prove that you will need continued medical care, and can approximate the cost, then you can also seek to recover future medical expenses
- Lost Wages/Salary
Loss of income can be a severe burden on an individual or their family. When someone is injured and can’t work due to the accident, they’re entitled to compensation for lost salary and wages. This category covers the amount of money the plaintiff would have earned had he or she not been injured, from the time of injury to the time of settlement or jury verdict.
- Lost Earning Capacity
Besides lost wages, the victim of an accident can also sue for the loss of future earnings. To claim these damages, you will need the testimony of doctors and possibly other experts to demonstrate that your ability to earn money in the future has been harmed because of the accident. Your age, health, educational level, career trajectory, and life expectancy are some of the factors that help determine if you should be compensated for lost earning capacity.
- Property Loss
You may be entitled to the fair market value of the property that was damaged or destroyed in the accident. This could be a car, bike, home, or any personal item you own. The amount of recovery for property damage may be established by evidence of replacement value, cost of repairs, loss of use until repaired or replaced or, in the case of heirlooms or very personal items (e.g. wedding pictures), by subjective testimony as to sentimental value.
- Emotional Distress
Accidents can be damaging not just physically, but psychologically as well. Plaintiffs can sometimes recover money for emotional distress if the accident impacts their psychological well being. Mental suffering can include shock, grief, loss of dignity, anxiety, depression, and many other manifestations of distress.
- Loss of Enjoyment
Whether you enjoy gardening, exercising, or other recreational activities, an accident can severely hinder your ability to participate in those activities. As a plaintiff, in order to recover damages for loss of enjoyment of life, you will need to testify about the activities and pastimes you engaged in before the injury, and how the injury limited your ability to enjoy those same activities.
- Pain and Suffering
This category of damages compensates plaintiff for past and future physical pain associated with the accident or injury. In deciding on whether to award damages for pain and suffering, jury members consider many factors, including the nature of the injury, expert testimony, the likelihood of future pain and its severity.
- Loss of Consortium
The diminishment of a relationship with a spouse, including the loss of affection, solace, help and assistance, sexual relations, comfort, and companionship, is a category of damages that can be claimed in a personal injury case. A value is placed on this loss by considering the couple's individual life expectancies, the length and stability of the marriage, the prior level of care and companionship between spouses, and the extent to which the marriage has been impacted.
Plaintiffs may be awarded punitive damages if the acts of the defendant are considered overly reckless and/or egregious. The point of recovering for punitive damages is to deter the defendant from acting in the same way again and to provide compensation for the plaintiff in addition to compensatory damages.
See a recent blog post on why it’s essential to act quickly on your personal injury claim to ensure you can properly recover from an accident.
Why choose Berman & Simmons to represent you in personal injury, medical malpractice, and other types of claims:
Results. We have won many of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in Maine history. Two of our landmark cases have been recognized in The National Law Journal’s Top 100 U.S. Verdicts and many of our cases have advanced Maine law to protect the rights of those who have been injured or harmed because of someone else's negligence.
Reputation. Founded more than 100 years ago, the firm is recognized nationally for its record of success in trials, a fearless approach to litigation, and for standing up for working people against powerful defendants.
Relationships. We care about our clients. We listen. We follow through on our promises. You’ll have a team behind you.