Damages and Compensation in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
I speak to many potential clients on a weekly basis, many of whom have suffered a car accident injury. The most common questions I hear are “what am I entitled to if I have been injured in an accident?” or “what is the driver responsible to pay after a car accident?”
In this post, I am going to explain the compensatory damages available to you if you have been involved in a car accident.
We commonly group the types of damages into two classes:
- Economic Damages
- Non-Economic Damages
Economic Damage Compensation
These damages are what we typically call “out of pocket” expenses. The most common types of personal injury damages in this class include:
- Property Damage – This category includes those to your vehicle, and any personal items in the vehicle that were damaged or destroyed in the accident.
- Loss of Use Damages – These are damages for not being able to use your property because of the accident. The most common item in this category is the amount you spend on renting a car.
- Medical Expenses, Past and Future – If you have health insurance, this is more than your co-pay. It includes the full amount of your bill. In some states, such as California, this is limited to the amount paid by your health insurance company.
- This category, if you have health insurance, is essentially recovered to pay back your health insurance company since the bills were incurred due to the negligence of another. Although your attorney can usually negotiate a discount off of the reimbursement since you are essentially collecting the funds for the health insurance company.
- Loss or Earnings – If you missed time from work and/or will miss time in the future, you are able to recover for that lost time. If you own your own business and can prove that you lost profits, or will lose profits in the future from the accident, then you can recover for these as well.
Pain and Suffering: Non-Economic Damage Claims
These damages are what we typically call “general damages.” They are known by most people as damages for “pain and suffering.”
Non-economic damages most often include compensation for:
- Physical pain, impairment and disfigurement from physical injuries sustained in the accident.
- Mental suffering and emotional distress related to the accident and physical injuries.
- Loss of enjoyment of life due to the injuries suffered.
- Grief, anxiety, humiliation and inconvenience from the accident.
Non-economic damages are often the biggest damages in a case. If you’ve been burned by a defective product or attacked by a dog, the medical expenses may not be astronomical because such injuries do not typically require future medical care.
However, the general damages for the disfigurement and emotional distress from the permanent scarring for the rest of your life will be significant.
Likewise, if you are catastrophically injured or if a loved one is killed in an accident, the non-economic damages for your loss of enjoyment of life and grief over your loss will be the major part of your personal injury settlement, or claim at trial.
The claims discussed above are not an exhaustive list of the damages available in every case, but they are the most typical. And certainly, not all of these damages apply to every personal injury case. But this should give you a good idea of what’s available to recover if you are unfortunately injured by the negligence of someone else.