If you’re considering filing a personal injury lawsuit over a car accident, slip and fall, or any other kind of injury, you may be wondering “What is my case really worth?” The answer comes down to “damages” — figuring out what your injuries have cost you monetarily, physically, and emotionally.
In a personal injury case, money damages are paid to an injured person by the person or company who is found to be legally responsible for the accident. A damage award can be agreed upon after a negotiated settlement — among the parties, their insurance companies, and their attorneys, for example — or may be ordered by a judge or jury following a court trial.
Compensatory Damages in Personal Injury Cases
Most personal injury damages are classified as “compensatory,” meaning that they are intended to compensate the injured person for what was lost due to the accident or injury. A compensatory damages award is meant to make the injured person “whole” again from a monetary standpoint (to the extent that’s possible). They include:
- Medical treatment. Personal injury damages awards almost always includes the cost of medical care associated with the accident — reimbursement for treatment you’ve already received and compensation for the estimated cost of medical care you’ll need in the future because of the accident.
- Income. You may be entitled to compensation for the accident’s impact on your salary and wages — not just income you’ve already lost but also the money you would have been able to make in the future, were it not for the accident. In personal injury cases, a damage award based on future income is characterized as compensation for an accident victim’s “loss of earning capacity.”
- Property loss. You’ll likely be entitled to reimbursement for repairs or compensation for the fair market value if any vehicles, clothing, or other items were damaged or lost as a result of the accident.
- Pain and suffering. If you experienced any pain and/or serious discomfort during the accident and in its immediate aftermath, you may be entitled to compensation.
- Emotional distress. Usually linked to more serious accidents, emotional distress damages are meant to compensate a personal injury plaintiff for the psychological impact of an injury — including fear, anxiety, and sleep loss. Some states consider emotional distress as part of any “pain and suffering” damage that is awarded to a personal injury plaintiff.
- Loss of enjoyment. When injuries caused by an accident keep you from enjoying day-to-day pursuits like hobbies, exercise, and other recreational activities, you may be entitled to receive “loss of enjoyment” damages.
- Loss of society and companionship. This typically relate to the impact the injuries have on the plaintiff’s relationship with their spouse or minor children. For example, if an injured parent cannot play catch with his or her child, that is a loss that can be compensated. In fact, the family members might have claims of their own for the loss. These are called “derivative claims.”
Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases
A personal injury victim may be awarded punitive damages on top of any compensatory damages award in cases where the defendant’s conduct is deemed outrageously careless. Punitive damages are awarded to the injured person, but the real goal is to punish the defendant for its conduct — to “hit them in the pocketbook,” so to speak — and to act as a deterrent. In Wisconsin, punitive damages are capped at twice the amount of compensatory damages or $200,000, whichever is greater. Punitive damages are rarely awarded in negligence cases.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s important that you follow your doctor’s treatment plan and recommendations when you’re recovering from an accident. If you’re able to return to work, do so. And if your doctor recommends physical therapy, go to physical therapy. Failure to follow your doctor’s orders could potentially weaken your case and lower the amount of damages you receive.
Contact a GCW Personal Injury Lawyer
Our team is dedicated to helping you get the compensation you deserve. If you have any questions about the deadlines for filing a personal injury claim, or if you have any other questions about your rights to compensation for your injury, please contact us at GCW. We would be glad to help. Call us toll-free at 888-357-7661 or send us your contact information on our website.