There are several misperceptions as to how damages are calculated in a personal injury case. Common misbeliefs range from thinking that there is a standard formula for calculating damages to believing that punitive damages are common. The truth of the matter is that damages are determined on a case-by-case basis. If the matter does not settle then a victim’s final award will be determined by the jury. In order to better understand how compensation is calculated, it is best to discuss the different components of a victim’s damages, how these components are proven, and why the issue is typically highly contested.
The Calculation of Damages is Based on the Total of Several Components
Determining a Victim’s Economic Damages
The first component of compensation in a personal injury case is your economic damages. These consist of lost income, lost business profits, and other expenses which you have had to pay as a result of the accident. This is further broken down into losses you have already incurred as well as losses you can be expected to incur in the future.
Suppose, for example, that an individual is a welder by trade. Now suppose that they are involved in a car accident and that they suffer a serious blow to the head during the wreck. As a result, the person has ongoing issues with hand-eye coordination. After some time, it is determined that these issues are permanent and that the individual will not be able to return to their career as a welder. They will be entitled to lost wages for time they missed from work already as a result of the accident. It will then be determined, typically through the use of experts, how much the individual would have made for the rest of their life as a welder and what they can now be expected to make in another occupation. Any difference in lifetime earnings will be added to their economic losses.
Economic losses go beyond lost wages or business profits. Continuing with the example from above, suppose the individual’s head injury will also restrict their ability to drive for the rest of their life. As such, they can expect to pay extensive money for alternative transportation (bus rides, Uber rides, etc.). Their economic losses will include this money, which they must now pay out.
Determining a Victim’s Medical Damages
As with economic losses, a personal injury victim is entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses. Past medical bills will include all money paid to date for care, medications, ambulance rides, etc. Determining this amount is a straightforward task of adding up all bills incurred to date. The determination of future losses is more complicated. A medical expert will offer an opinion as to the extent to which the victim will require future care and their prospects of making a full recovery. This opinion will include an estimate of costs for future surgery, future rehabilitative care, needed medications, etc. It will also include estimates of special accommodations a victim may need if they are not expected to make a full recovery. These accommodations can include the cost of wheelchairs, in-home devices that are required to assist with living, and more.
Calculating Pain and Suffering
There is more to an accident victim’s damages than the dollars lost from work and medical care. You are also entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. Pain and suffering will include physical discomfort which you suffered during the accident, during any treatment to date, and that you can be expected to endure going forward. It also includes general discomfort that is now part of your life. Another component of pain and suffering is the aggravation, stress, and grief which you have suffered and will continue to suffer going forward.
How To Prove Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Establishing Your Damages If Your Case Settles Before Trial
The bulk of personal injury cases settle without going to trial. The initial step in requesting a settlement is to send a demand letter to the insurance adjuster. This letter will detail the amount you are requesting and will include documentation which supports that request. This documentation will include medical bills, wage statements, a timeline showing how you have been inconvenienced by the accident, records showing the amount of time you have spent in hospitals, etc. Your attorney will use this type of documentary evidence to engage in back-and-forth negotiations and reach a settlement on your behalf.
Establishing Your Damages at Trial
If a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance adjuster then your matter will proceed to litigation, which will conclude with a trial. The jury will be the sole decider as to the amount of compensation which you receive. They will be able to consider evidence such as testimony from yourself, your family and friends, your treating physicians, as well as others. They will also often be offered testimony from expert witnesses in regard to your need for future care and how the accident has impacted your future earning potential. The type of evidence presented to a jury in any given case will always depend on the specifics of your situation.
The Calculation of Damages Is Often Highly Contested
The determination of a victim’s damages is highly contested in most personal injury cases. It is important that you retain an attorney with extensive trial experience so that your case is presented to the jurors in a way that is concise and easy to follow. Doing so increases the likelihood that what you have been through is not lost as it is relayed to the jurors.
Contact A Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have been injured due to the negligence of another then it is important that you take immediate steps to protect your interests. Contacting a lawyer is one of the first steps which you should take.