Personal injury claims are intended to compensate those injured in accidents through no fault of their own. If you are considering any of these claims, you are probably wondering how much compensation you could claim back. However, because the Personal Injury Act covers so many situations and causes of action, there is no set number or formula for calculating the harm. Every single case is different and there are a number of different questions a jury will consider before deciding on an appropriate amount of compensation.
What Kinds of Damage Can a Plaintiff Seek?
In most cases, personal injury falls into two categories. This is economic and not economic damage. Economic damage will reimburse the plaintiff for what he lost from the injury or accident. Non-economic damage compensates the victim for non-monetary losses that are not readily quantifiable.
Economic damage explained
The most common damage awarded in personal injury suits is economic damage. They compensate the injured person for the quantifiable losses they suffered as a result of the accident. Some economic losses are easier to determine than others. For example, it’s much easier to show a hospital bill for treatment for a broken leg than it is to wager a dollar amount on the physical pain caused by a fracture. So what is economic damage?
Almost all personal injuries include compensation for the medical bills incurred as a result of the accident. In addition, a plaintiff can estimate how much money they will need for future treatments, therapies, operations, medications, etc.
Loss of wages
If the accident makes you unable to work for a certain period of time, you will likely lose that source of income and be able to claim the amount of damages. You can also claim damages based on future income if you are unable to do your previous work due to the accident. This is often referred to as “loss of ability to work”.
Damage to a claimant’s personal property can also be repaid. Repairs or replacements of cars and trucks after a car accident are a common example.
Non-economic damage explained
Non-economic damage is much more subjective than economic damage. They also vary widely from case to case and can be difficult for juries to wrap their heads around. For this reason, each state has its own guidelines for calculating them. There are several common types of non-economic damage.
Physical pain and suffering
Injuries can cause physical pain and discomfort to the victim. This can occur during the accident, immediately after it, and in the weeks and months after it. A plaintiff can seek compensation for this pain.
Emotional and psychological trauma
Man sits on the sofa and puts his head in his hand; Image by Nik Shuliahin via Unsplash.com.
A plaintiff can also receive compensation for post-accident trauma such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other disorders.
Loss of the consortium
The ability to recover loss from consortium damage and the amount of that damage often depends on the nature of the relationship between family members. It is usually available to spouses, but in some states parents or children can claim loss of the consortium as well. In some states, loss of consortium damage can be attributed to the victim and in others only the family member.
Punitive damages and personal injury
In cases where the guilty party’s conduct is particularly egregious or negligent, a jury can award punitive damages. The idea is to punish the accused for his outrageous acts and to deter others. In some cases, the punitive damage can reach thousands or even millions of dollars. While the big money cases like class actions get a lot of press, the fact is that most personal injury cases are not eligible for punitive damages.
Some states limit the amount of damage a plaintiff can claim. Caps usually do not apply to economic damage, but they can apply to non-economic and criminal damage. The applicable caps depend on your state. Damage controls can also depend on the nature of your case. For example, some states have caps on damages resulting from medical misconduct but not on other types of personal injury.
What if the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident?
While there are certainly cases where one party is wholly to blame for an accident, in many cases all parties involved had their own roles to play. In personal injury law, assessing liability can be complicated if several parties are at fault. This affects how much a plaintiff can potentially collect in a lawsuit, or whether they can collect at all. There are two basic approaches: contributory negligence and comparative negligence.
What is comparative negligence?
In the simplest sense, comparative negligence reduces the damage suffered by a plaintiff by the percentage that they are responsible for the accident. States that follow this principle follow one of three approaches.
Pure comparative negligence
In the case of purely comparative negligence, the plaintiffs can continue to claim damages for the defendant’s fault in percentage terms, regardless of the percentage fault of the compensation. Even if the plaintiff is 99% guilty, he can request that 1% in a lawsuit. Few states like California and Alaska take this approach.
Modified comparative negligence (50% cash rule)
In some states, such as Colorado and Maine, a plaintiff cannot recover if the jury determines that he or she is equally (50%) or more responsible for an accident. If they are less than 50%, they can claim back a percentage of the damage equal to the percentage of fault of the other party.
Modified comparative negligence (51% cash rule)
Hawaii, Iowa, Texas (click this link to learn more) say a plaintiff cannot recover if found more responsible (51% or more) than the defendant. If they are 50% or less responsible, they can claim a percentage of their damage back. This is known as the 51% bar rule.
What is contributory negligence?
In the case of contributory negligence, a plaintiff cannot claim compensation if he contributed to the accident at all. If the jury blames the plaintiff for an accident even 1%, the plaintiff receives nothing. In the past, contributory negligence was the rule in all federal states. This approach was viewed as unnecessarily harsh, leading many states to switch to comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence laws. Today, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, DC are the only jurisdictions that still use the contributory negligence approach
Comparative / Contributing Negligence Effects on Personal Injury
Knowing which of these approaches your state uses when calculating claims can have a huge impact on your claim. This can lead to your attorney proposing different strategies than a lawyer in another state. When there are questions of responsibility, some states may find it easier to negotiate an agreement, while others may be better to push for a process. Speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about the laws in your state and how it could affect your personal injury claim.
Can insurance affect my pay?
Insurance coverage can have a huge impact on your repair, especially if the accident is covered by third party liability or homeowner liability insurance. The culpable party’s insurance coverage usually covers the costs and losses of personal injury. However, insurers only pay up to the insurance limits, regardless of how high the jury’s prize is. If the policy doesn’t cover all of the damages awarded, you can try to recover the rest of the damage from the defendant. But your average person probably doesn’t have that kind of money just sitting around. You may be able to enforce mortgages on part of their property or garnish their wages, but it takes more time and thousands of dollars in additional legal costs that may not be worthwhile for a plaintiff.
Should I speak to an attorney about my personal injury claim?
After an accident, most people are just looking for adequate compensation in order to recover physically and financially. Taking the time to speak to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can pay off.
A lawyer can look into your case, calculate how much compensation you deserve under your state law, and put together a plan to make sure you don’t miss out on the other party’s lawyer or insurance company. You don’t want to accept an agreement of less than you deserve, which means you need to have a clear idea of what your case is worth. Ultimately, there isn’t a predetermined amount or formula here that you can use to determine how much your personal injury case is really worth. To do this, you need a lawyer who can assess the specific facts of your case.
How long do I have to file a personal injury claim?
The period within which a plaintiff must file a plea is known as the statute of limitations. Every civil claim has one. Most personal injury suits have a statute of limitations of around two years, but this depends on the claim and the state. In some states, you might only have a year to file a personal injury claim; in others, you might have up to four.
This is where consulting with a lawyer is crucial. You know exactly what restrictions apply and whether the limit can be extended or “chargeable” in your circumstances. Even if the statute of limitations appears to be very long, keep in mind that it sometimes takes time to properly investigate a case. Don’t leave just a few weeks to file your lawsuit. If you do not make your claim in time, you may not be able to claim any compensation at all.
As with anything that is legal, personal injury claims are not one size fits all. The type of accident, the injuries you suffer, and many other factors can ultimately affect the damage you end up receiving. Always speak to a personal injury attorney before accepting a settlement or filing a lawsuit to make sure your rights and interests are represented every step of the way.