After suffering an injury, your whole world might be turned upside-down. Even minor injuries can set you back financially and put you on course toward crippling debt.
If your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages – i.e. pursue compensation for any losses. However, what (and how much) you’re able to recover depends on a number of factors – including the severity of the injury, the amount of treatment required and your income level.
To better understand the process of determining compensation, it’s important that you grasp the different types of damages and how these might relate to your case. The following will explain the types of damages, breaking them down into two broad categories: compensatory and punitive.
First and foremost, you want to keep a record of all economic damages related to the accident. These refer to all losses that can be quantified through financial calculation. They include:
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitation costs
- Costs associated with relevant home renovations
- Lost income (present and future)
- Property damage
- Incidental expenses
Basically, any expense that you wouldn’t have incurred if not for the accident can be added to this list. So if you spend money on gas or food during your trip to the hospital, keep these receipts and submit them as economic damages.
It’s important to highlight the fact that lost income refers to both present and future damages. So if you missed work directly after the accident occurred, you of course want to get your hands on paystubs or any other documents that show your income, so that you can be compensated for missed work. In addition, if your injury requires long-term treatment, such as rehabilitation or in-home health care, you may be able to provide an estimate for projected lost income. This is important to underscore because this can greatly increase your compensation.
Pain and Suffering Damages
You may also recover noneconomic damages – also known as pain and suffering damages. These refer to any losses that elude quantification but that negatively impact the quality of your life. So if you suffer from severe depression or if your injury is life-altering, you may be able to claim these as noneconomic damages. Other examples of pain and suffering damages include:
- Severed relationships
- Emotional turmoil
- Diminished quality of life
Of course, proving that you’ve sustained such injuries can be difficult, as they are, by their very nature, intangible. To facilitate this process, it’s very important to keep any pertinent records that help paint a picture of your life before and after the injury. For instance, if you’re seeing a mental health professional, ask them for a written note explaining the psychological effects of the accident. This might go a long way in supporting your claims. As with most things, each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding pain and suffering damages. Some states have capped noneconomic damages because of a perception that they lead to irrationally high awards. Be sure to ask your attorney about the rules in your jurisdiction and how they might apply to your case.
Finally, in some very extreme cases you may also be able to recover, what are known as, punitive damages. Punitive damages refer to those damages deemed necessary to prevent further wrongdoing. Thus, we might say, they are preventative in nature and employed only when the actions that led to the injury are considered particularly egregious. In addition, punitive damages are usually offered at the discretion of the court, after the plaintiff has sufficiently shown that the defendant’s misconduct was especially harmful and willful. These damages are very rare, being applied in less than five percent of cases.
Getting an Attorney
In most cases, you will be dealing with compensatory damages, attempting to obtain remuneration for any losses – economic or noneconomic – incurred at someone else’s hands. Because it can be difficult to make such a determination, you should reach out to a personal injury attorney – someone who understands the types of documentation and evidence required to build a sufficiently strong case. Here at the Law Offices of J. Ransdell Keene, we can help you sort through all aspects of your case and negotiate a settlement with the insurance company that ensures you are fully paid for your losses. Please call us today.