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Types of Personal Injury Compensation

Types of Personal Injury Compensation

If you were injured due to the negligent actions of another (such as in a car accident, in a slip and fall accident, or due to a dog bite), you may be entitled to financial compensation. Although it is possible to receive compensation from an insurance company directly, a personal injury lawyer can help you maximize the value of your claim by advocating for the full and fair damages you deserve. 

Personal injury cases are typically handled on a contingency fee basis, which means that the lawyer is only paid for their services if - and when - money is recovered. There is no retainer, up front fees, or costs along the way in a personal injury case. 

There are two types of personal injury damages that are compensatory: “special” damages (measurable) and “general” damages (not measurable). These are also called economic and non-economic damages. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim and, to the extent possible, make them “whole”. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant. Under Ind. Code § 34-51-3-4, punitive damages are subject to a cap (limit) which is the greater of (1) three times the amount of compensatory damages; or (2) $50,000. 

Special Compensatory Damages 

We are often asked how are damages calculated in a personal injury case. Special compensatory damages include health care expenses, lost income and earning capacity, property damage, and loss of irreplaceable items. 

Medical Expenses 

A big part of your general damages claim is your medical bills and expenses related to your accident. These “medical special damages” are sometimes referred to simply as “specials” and include everything past, present, and future related to your accident and resulting health condition: 

  • Ambulance transport (ground and air)
  • Anesthesia
  • Chiropractic care
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Emergency room care
  • Hospitalization
  • Pain management
  • Physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Specialist healthcare provider visits 
  • Surgeries. 

When injuries are long-lasting or permanent, future care needs are calculated based on estimates of care you will need. 

Lost Income and Earning Capacity

If you need a month off from your job to recover from your injuries, your injury settlement can include compensation for your lost earnings. When your injuries cause permanent damage, you may be entitled to compensation for loss of earning capacity. This can sometimes be difficult to calculate if someone is early in their career and may be challenged or debated. Having a lawyer knowledgeable in the damages portion of a claim can be extremely valuable. 

Property Damage

Although not technically part of a “personal injury” claim, damage to your property includes damage to your vehicle and any other personal property. For example, if a crash destroyed your laptop, iPad, GoPro camera, Apple Watch, or AirPods, replacement of your property may be part 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, like a wedding album or family heirloom. You can claim compensation for these items as well.

General Compensatory Damages 

injury cases

General compensatory damages in injury cases include pain and suffering, lowered quality of life, and emotional distress. 

Pain and Suffering

Injuries are painful! 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 emotional suffering, and this is included within pain and suffering damages.

Lowered Quality of Life

Unfortunately, injuries are life-changing, and accidents can take away the ability to play certain sports, complete physical activities, or even simply walk. Apart from your pain and suffering, a component of your damages can compensate you for your lowered quality of life. 

Emotional Distress

Accident victims can be left with lasting fears and psychological trauma. Thanks to advocacy by the mental health community, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its long lasting effects are recognized. As emotional distress is not something that “appears” in an X-ray or blood test, your personal injury attorney will need to present evidence of your emotional distress to recover damages. 

Wrongful Death Damages

The sudden death of a loved one is a heartbreaking loss, with long-lasting effects beyond grief and sadness. A wrongful death claim is available in cases of fatal accidents, or catastrophic injury accidents that lead to death. If someone dies in an accident, obviously they cannot file a personal injury claim themselves. Yet, their loved ones can be left with devastating emotional and financial effects. A wrongful death claim allows surviving family members to recover the following types of damages:

  • Pre-death medical care (if applicable)
  • Pain and suffering experienced from the time of the accident until death (can be minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months)
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Cremation costs
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of future inheritance
  • Loss of income 
  • Loss of value of services around the home (raising children, preparing meals, home maintenance, etc.

If the victim was an adult when they died, 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 legal guardian would file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Punitive Damages 

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:

  • Acts of road rage 
  • An accident caused by a distracted or severely intoxicated driver; or
  • A treatment mistake caused by medical malpractice or negligence 

In the majority of cases, courts do not award punitive damages. It is important that damages in a personal injury claim award the victim appropriately, without counting on punitive damages. 

How to Calculate Personal Injury Damages?

There is no exact science to calculating pain and suffering damages, but many insurance adjusters use a “multiplier” formula that multiplies the special damages times 1-5 (depending on the severity of an injury and the length of recovery). Lost earnings/income are added to that figure to determine total damages. 

This formula is just a starting point and every case is different. Having a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer advocating for you and the care you will need in the future can make the difference between minimal and maximum compensation - which can be significant. Another factor is the amount of insurance available. 

How to Claim Compensation for Personal Injury?

You have one opportunity to obtain compensation for your injuries. When they are long-lasting or permanent injuries, it is important that damages in personal injury cases or wrongful death cases properly compensate you (and your family) as long as necessary, or for your lifetime. 

Insurance companies often tell accident victims that a settlement offer is the highest and best they will receive, in an effort to get them to settle quickly. If you’d like to know how much your claim may be worth, and what personal injury compensation payments you may recover, call Stracci Law Group at 219-525-1000, or contact us online. Our personal injury law firm serves clients in Crown Point [46307, 46308], Merrillville [46410, 46411], Hammond [46320, 46323], and elsewhere in Northwest Indiana. Your case evaluation is free and if we represent you, we are only paid if we recover money for you. 

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It is a fact that personal injury cases of all kinds can be very expensive to litigate.  A law office needs to make countless calls to insurance adjusters

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Still have questions? Take a look at some of these answers to the most common questions people ask us. 
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