If you were injured due to the wrongful behavior of another, you deserve compensation. Yes, you will need a lawyer, but you don’t need to worry that you can’t afford one. Personal injury lawyer compensation is simply deducted as a percentage of whatever amount you win. Following is a brief personal injury compensation guide.
Types of Personal Injury Damages
What are compensatory damages and punitive damages? They are two types of personal injury damages. When comparing compensatory damages vs. punitive damages, note two different purposes. The purpose of compensatory damages is to restore you to the position you would have been in had the accident never occurred. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for misconduct.
Punitive damages are not considered compensatory. Instead, they punish the defendant for “willful and wanton” misconduct.
What Are Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages come in two different types:
- Economic damages, known as special damages;
- Non-economic damages, known as general damages.
These two types of compensatory damages are designed to compensate you for both your tangible losses and your intangible losses.
Special compensatory damages, such as medical expenses, are easy to count. General compensatory damages, such as psychological losses, are more difficult to count. Despite this difficulty, general damages often amount to more than 50% of an entire award. The persuasiveness of your lawyer often plays a decisive role in the amount of general compensatory damages you receive.
Special Compensatory Damages (Monetary Losses)
You are entitled to compensation for any monetary losses that you suffered as a result of the defendant’s wrongful conduct, as long as the losses are reasonably related to that conduct.
Medical expenses include past, present, and estimated future medical expenses. In addition to hospital bills, you might require compensation for:
- Lab testing;
- Medical equipment such as a dialysis machine or a wheelchair;
- Doctor’s visits; and
- Various other items.
Calculating medical expenses can be tricky if you suffer long-term disability. It is critical that you accurately calculate future medical expenses so that you don’t run out of money, say, 30 years from now.
Lost Income and Earning Capacity
If you needed two weeks off of work due to your injury, you should receive compensation for your lost earnings. The difficult part of this calculation, however, lies in calculating future earning capacity in case of long-term injury. If your injury forces you to retire early, how much would you have been earning 20 years from now if the accident had never occurred? It is important to get this right.
You might have suffered damage to your property as well as your body. The most common type of property loss in a personal injury case is a damaged or totaled automobile. Although strictly speaking, property damage does not constitute “personal injury”, you can include it as a component of your damages claim.
Loss of Irreplaceable Items
You might have lost certain items of property that cannot be replaced and that were worth more to you than their economic value alone. You can claim compensation for these items as well.
General Compensatory Damages (Non-Monetary Losses)
Non-economic compensatory damages are usually psychological losses, which are typically difficult to calculate. Nevertheless, they can be very high.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering compensatory damages compensate you for physical pain and suffering, not purely psychological pain. Of course, physical pain necessarily carries with it corresponding psychological anguish, and this is included within pain and suffering damages.
Lowered Quality of Life
Suppose that your injury left you confined to a wheelchair or unable to exercise or play sports. This would result in a decreased quality of life for you, apart from physical pain, that the defendant should compensate you for.
Emotional distress damages might be high if, for example, an accident disfigured your face, causing you to experience social isolation and low self-esteem. Another example would be a PTSD or pathological fear of dogs resulting from a dog attack.
If someone dies in an accident, they cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit. If they were adults when they died, however, the personal representative of their probate estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. If they were a child at the time of death, their parents or guardian can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Punitive damages are a unique form of personal injury compensation. They are intended to deter particularly irresponsible or wrongful behavior, rather than to compensate the victim. Nevertheless, it is the victim who receives these damages. Indiana limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater.
Examples of cases where punitive damages might be appropriate include:
- A “road rage” intentional assault;
- An accident caused by a severely intoxicated driver; or
- Medical malpractice that occurs when a surgeon performs an operation while intoxicated.
Courts normally do not award punitive damages in most cases.
How to Calculate Personal Injury Damages?
How much compensation can you get for a personal injury claim? It is easy to find a compensation personal injury claims calculator on the Internet. Although this might give you a very general idea of how much your claim is worth, you need to have your lawyer issue a formal personal injury compensation estimate after sufficient investigation before you will really know a proper number.
To calculate the value of your personal injury claim, divide your potential compensation into the categories of compensatory and punitive damages. Further divide compensatory damages into special and general damages. After that, add individual components such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost earnings, etc.
The final step is to consider practical limitations. How great are the defendant’s financial resources? What are the limits of the applicable insurance policy? Finally, how good is your lawyer at negotiating a generous settlement?
How to Claim Compensation for Personal Injury?
Claiming compensation for personal injury (or wrongful death, for that matter) is a tricky business. You must separately consider each component of damages. In a serious long-term injury, the consequences of underestimating the value of your claim could spell disaster years or even decades later.
That’s OK, because we know how to calculate the true value of your claim. Call Stracci Law Group at 219-525-1000, or contact us online. We serve clients in Crown Point [46307, 46308], Merrillville [46410, 46411], Hammond [46320, 46323], and elsewhere in Northwest Indiana.