Damages in a Personal Injury Case
One of the first questions many clients ask us is what the damages in a personal injury case include. In other words, what can that client recover? It’s a basic and important question. Damages in a personal injury case generally fall into two categories known as (1) economic damages; and (2) non-economic damages. Both are recoverable. What are they?
First, on the economic side of things, you’re entitled to recover your medical expenses as damages in a personal injury case. This includes all out-of-pocket medical expenses that you had. If you’re uninsured, this covers the entire bill. If you’re insured, it covers your out-of-pocket costs, such as for a deductible or co-pay, as well as what was paid or incurred on your behalf by the insurance company, depending on the location of the suit.
While that may seem straightforward, it brings up a couple of other issues worth mentioning. If you have insurance, the company is entitled to a lien on any recovery you get whether by settlement or at trial. In other words, the insurance company gets paid back. The amount of that payment is negotiated, so it is generally less that it otherwise could be. Another issue is what is called paid versus incurred. If you’re insured, then the insurance company likely paid much less than what was billed. This is due to the insurance company contract with medical providers. In some states, a plaintiff is entitled to recover what was incurred (billed) even though it is often much higher than what was actually paid. In some states, you’re limited to what was paid.
In addition to your medical expenses, you can recover any other economic damages that resulted from the injury. This includes, for example, lost wages if you were unable to work because of the injury. It may also include future lost wages or costs for in home care if you are permanently disabled because of the injury.
Second, on the non-economic side of things, you’re also entitled to recover for things such as the pain and suffering and mental anguish or distress that you suffered as a result of the accident. If the injury is severe enough to affect your relationship with your spouse or children, you may be entitled to recover that as well.
Non-economic damages in a personal injury case are not easily calculated. If a settlement is not reached, and the case is tried before a jury, then the jury sets that number. The jury would consider factors like how serious the injuries were, what type of medical treatment was required, whether there is any long-term or permanent disability or disfigurement because of the injury, and any future medical treatment that may be necessary, just to name a few.
A second question many clients ask is who to sue? It depends on the accident of course, but generally anyone or any company that was responsible — in whole or in part — may be liable for the damages in a personal injury case. If the injured party was partly at fault too, that raises a host of other issues, which we’ll talk about in another blog or you can call us to discuss it further now.
Also, it’s important to point out that this article applies to damages in personal injury cases, not to damages in a wrongful death case. In the event of death, there are a number of other things to discuss. Those will also be the discussed in another future blog. If you have questions about what damages you may be entitled to recover, either as damages in a personal injury case or on behalf of a loved on in a wrongful death case, please feel free to contact us.