Have you experienced an injury due to another person's negligence? After all negotiation attempts fail, you may decide to sue for damages — and chances are you would like to evaluate how much your personal injury case is worth.
To make an accurate assessment, you will first need to determine how much the accident has cost you in financial, physical, and emotional damages. Ask yourself the following questions to get a sense of the factors at play in your case, and as a result, of the compensation you will receive:
- How did the incident take place?
- What injuries did you experience as a result of the incident? Were any of these injuries preexisting?
- Have you lost wages as a result of the incident? How about loss of long-term earning capacity?
- What medical care have you received following the incident? Will you need ongoing treatment?
- How has your life changed as a result of the incident? What challenges are you facing in your daily life?
- Have your family members suffered as well?
Now that we've gone over these questions, let's explore the damages you may have incurred in more detail. Remember that because we're talking about a one-time settlement, you must account for past, present, and future damages linked to the incident.
What Are Compensatory Damages?
In a personal injury case, compensatory damages include both special and general damages. Special or economic damages are objective, and refer to the medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and other losses you are facing as a result of the incident. Since they are quantifiable, special damages must be proven with specific evidence, including witness testimony in many cases. Their sum will help you determine how much your personal injury case is worth early on in the process.
Say John Smith gets into an accident that leaves him with an $8,000 medical bill and $45,000 in lost wages while he recovers. These numbers will help determine the value of the special damages at play in his personal injury case.
That said, in some situations there are also more subjective factors involved. Known as general or non-economic damages, these are much more challenging to quantify, and include consequences such as depression and scarring. In addition, the defendant will often be held responsible for the plaintiff's “pain and suffering” — a legal term that includes the physical and emotional duress the plaintiff experiences, and will continue to experience, as a result of the accident. Perhaps John Smith, despite his four-figure medical bill, will receive an additional $20,000 in pain and suffering damages.
Ultimately, to evaluate the worth of your personal injury case in terms of compensatory damages, the best thing you can do is to research the outcome of similar cases. Your attorney will help you with this.
And in some cases, the defendant will also be asked to pay punitive damages as a result of the incident.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are designed to deter the defendant from repeating the behavior that caused the incident. The defendant may be ordered to pay punitive damages if they have acted negligently or intentionally — especially when compensatory damages are deemed inadequate.
It's also worth noting that since punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant, they tend to vary based on the defendant's wealth. In simple terms, a wealthy individual or large corporation will pay a higher settlement than someone with little money to spare. Many states will also cap the amount of punitive damages a plaintiff can receive.
That's not the only limit imposed. In addition, in some jurisdictions a plaintiff must prove compensatory damages in order to be awarded punitive damages. No court will punish anyone for being grossly negligent if their negligence did not directly harm the victim.
Proceeding With Your Case
While your attorney will give you an idea of what your personal injury case is worth, please note that it takes an extensive evaluation and quite a bit of time to determine the true value. Accordingly, many plaintiffs decide to settle their case out of court for less money in order to put the incident behind them.
For more information on Personal Injury Claims and Lawsuits, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (855) 451-1260 today.