One of the most common questions that people considering filing a personal injury lawsuit ask is how much compensation they can expect to receive. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t entirely straightforward and depends on a wide number of factors related to the extent of the injury and when, where and how the accident occurred. The court looks at how the accident affected the victim physically, mentally and financially and then awards monetary damages to help compensate for these various effects. In this sense, the only way to estimate the total settlement you may be entitled to is to examine each of the different types of damage awards.
Compensatory Damages vs. Punitive Damages
The court breaks down damages into two main categories, compensatory and punitive. As the name suggests, compensatory damages are those that compensate the victim for any losses or consequences they suffered as a result of their accident and injury. The vast majority of damages are compensatory, but in particularly negligent or egregious cases, the court may also award the victim punitive damages. Although punitive damages are still awarded to the victim, the main purpose of these damages is to punish the defendant for their negligent actions.
How Are Damage Awards Determined?
The goal of compensatory damages is negate any potential financial consequences that the injury has on the victim’s life. Of course, some of these financial consequences are far easier to determine. For instance, determining the cost of any medical bills and lost wages are both fairly straightforward, but it becomes much more difficult to place a monetary value on a person’s mental state and any pain they were forced to endure. This can make determining the total damage award or negotiating a settlement extremely difficult and is one of the main reasons why it is essential that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to assist you through the process of filing a claim and negotiating a settlement.
Types of Compensatory Damages
The specific types of damage awards you can expect depend in large part on the severity of your injury and the situations surrounding the accident. Based on these factors, you could potentially be entitled to any or all of the following types of damages.
Almost every personal injury settlement will include the cost of all associated medical treatments related to the injury. This means you will generally be reimbursed for the cost of any necessary medical treatments. As well, you should be entitled to compensation for the estimated total cost of any future treatments and medical care you will require due to the injury.
Pain and Suffering
In cases of more serious injuries, victims may also be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering they went through during the accident and as a result of their injuries.
Loss of Income and Earning Potential
Most injury settlements will also include a damage award that covers the cost of any income lost as a result of the injury. If the injury left you disabled or unable to perform in your current profession, you can also receive compensation for any lost future earnings. In some cases, a personal injury lawyer may also help you to receive compensation to cover the costs of professional training to allow you to learn a new skill or trade should you be unable to continue your old role.
Although it may sound similar to pain and suffering, emotional distress generally refers to other psychological effects of the accident or injury, such as sudden fears, anxiety or inability to sleep. Still, come courts tend to just lump this in with pain and suffering.
Loss of Enjoyment
Although this type of damage award is less common and also sometimes included with pain and suffering or emotional distress, some victims have also received loss of enjoyment damages. In this case, the damage is designed to compensate victims who are no longer able to take part in hobbies, sports or other activities that they used to enjoy.
If any of your personal property was damaged or destroyed as a result of the accident, you may also be eligible for compensation to repair or replace the property.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a special legal term that refers to when an injury affects the victim’s ability to continue to have a normal relationship with their spouse. Serious brain injuries that affect a person’s ability to properly communicate with their spouse or injuries that affect a person’s ability to have a sexual relationship are just two examples where a victim may be entitled to damages for loss of consortium.
The fact that there are so many potential types of damage awards means negotiating a settlement can be extremely difficult. Therefore, it is vital that you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to negotiate on your behalf. By doing so, you should give yourself a better chance of being properly compensated for all of the effects of your injury.