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If you or a loved one recently sustained injuries in an accident, you probably have more questions than answers. You may be fighting with your insurance company to pay for medical bills and property damage, all while missing work due to your injuries. Fortunately, the civil justice system provides an important avenue of recourse for victims of negligence. An injury lawsuit allows victims to collect financial compensation, called “damages,” when their injuries arise from negligence.
There are two different categories of damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages, which courts may also call special damages, involve any expenses related to the recovery from your injuries. Examples include:
You may have had to undergo expensive testing and treatment after your accident. Considering that an MRI alone can cost thousands of dollars, it should be no surprise that medical bills can add up quickly. Compensation may also stem from hospital stays, nursing home bills, physical therapy, or the cost of ongoing care. Medical bill damages consider not only the cost of current bills, but future treatment, as well.
Victims of injuries often miss time from work, which can result in lost income. These form another important avenue for compensation in a personal injury case. Even if plaintiffs are able to group their sick days and vacation days to avoid income loss, they should be compensated for the loss of these days. If you suffer a permanently disabling injury, the courts may also require the defendant to pay out what you would have made throughout the rest of your career. This is called compensation for “loss in earning capacity.”
The law provides compensation under wrongful death law in the event that you lose a loved one in a catastrophic accident. If your loved one’s death was the result of negligence, you may be able to collect damages for their final expenses, their lost wages, and their loss of earning capacity. This can be a powerful source of financial protection for surviving family members, especially if they lose their family member’s income.
The next category of damages compensate for the intangible losses associated with an accident or injury. These damages must be reasonable under Federal Law, meaning that there can be limits placed on the dollar amount recovered. These include:
It can be difficult to put a dollar amount on the pain and suffering you endured during the injury and recovery process. Attorneys and claims adjusters will use one of several techniques to arrive at a fair and reasonable settlement. This usually includes multiplying your actual damages by a multiplier between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity and circumstances surrounding your injuries.
Some accidents leave an emotional mark long after the physical wounds heal. Your attorney may prove emotional distress by providing psychiatric records, and this can add to your total compensation. A common source of emotional distress is a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In some instances, a jury may award punitive damages, which punish the defendant for gross negligence or misconduct. The decision to pursue punitive damages will depend on the unique circumstances surrounding your case.