If you have filed a personal injury lawsuit against someone whose negligence caused you to be injured, or you are considering filing such a claim for damages, you may be wondering just what the term “damages” refers to. You have read that your attorney will obtain for you “all the damages to which you are legally entitled.” That sounds great, but what does it mean?
What damages are you legally entitled to? There are three categories of damages: economic, noneconomic, and punitive. Each case is different, and the amount of the damages depends on the circumstances of each individual case.
Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Economic damages are those for which an actual number can be calculated or reasonably estimated.
- All medical expenses incurred, such as doctor visits, hospital stay, physical therapy. These can be added together so an actual number is determined.
- Medical expenses you expect to incur in the future. These will be estimated based on expert testimony from a physician about what your future entails. For example, will you need plastic surgery in the future due to scars caused by the injury that will need to be repaired. If you were paralyzed in the accident and will need long-term physical therapy or further operations, these will be estimated and included in your economic damages.
- Expenses if you had to travel for special medical treatment. Save your receipts and you will be reimbursed for these costs.
- Child-care, household help, outdoor maintenance costs if these are tasks you normally would have performed yourself if you had not been injured.
- Wages you lost since you were unable to work due to the injury.
- Wages you expect to lose in the future if you are unable to work, or unable to work in your former profession if you will not be making as much as you could before the accident. This will require expert testimony to calculate the estimated loss.
- Job or vocational retraining if required, if you can work, but cannot return to your regular job due to your injury.
- Lost opportunity. If a doctor who was in training to be surgeon has his or her hand cut off and must change careers, that is an example of lost opportunity.
Noneconomic Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
These are damages for which no amount of money can be calculated. These vary according to the circumstances of each individual case. They are generally based on pain and suffering as well as emotional distress and loss of the enjoyment of life.
For example, someone with a broken arm that heals nicely may have suffered emotional distress due to the seriousness of the accident that caused the injury, but the noneconomic losses will not be as great as those for someone who has lost the enjoyment of life because they are paralyzed and can no longer compete in athletic contests like they could before the accident.
Some people are injured in a way that causes them to have physical pain every single day of their lives. They cannot perform routine tasks, like driving to work or standing long enough in the kitchen to cook a meal.
Someone who enjoyed hiking, dancing, taking long walks, and other activities may be unable to participate in any of those activities due to the extent of their injuries. Their pain and suffering is pretty severe.
In some cases, a spouse may be able to collect damages for loss of consortium since their spouse can no longer participate in activities together.
Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Punitive damages are those imposed to punish a defendant whose conduct was particularly egregious. They are rarely available in personal injury cases and depend specifically on the conduct of the defendant.
For help with your personal injury case, and to learn about the damages that may be available to you, contact our personal injury attorneys at the AMS Law Group for a free consultation. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.