Calculating damages in a personal injury case depends on the losses suffered by the injured party. Damages usually include medical expenses to treat injuries. Damages also include the cost to replace or fix the damaged property. However, damages can include more than just money directly used to address injuries.
For example, if the injuries caused a person to miss work, damages can include medical bills and lost wages. There's even a chance that you can recover for lost future wages. These are known as losses of earning capacity. There's a chance you can recover such damages if your injuries prevent you from working in the future.
Courts may award punitive damages, which can include extra costs, to punish the negligent party for the damage they have caused. Additionally, compensatory damages may be awarded to make up for pain and suffering.
If a wrongful death occurred, your personal injury attorney can also ask for funeral costs and compensation for emotional distress for the family.
FindLaw's Injury Damages section provides information about how economic compensation plays out in personal injury cases. In this section, you can find the basics of personal injury law (also known as tort law). This includes articles about damages caps, a plaintiff's duty to mitigate damages, and a helpful damage estimate worksheet.
Types of Personal Injury Claims
There are many types of personal injury claims, including:
- Slip and fall cases
- Automobile accidents
- Dog bites
- Torts like defamation, assault and battery, and more
In a typical personal injury case, the victim suffers harm due to another party's negligence or intentional acts. They have the right to seek compensation for their injuries through a civil lawsuit.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit is a legal dispute that arises when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible for falling below their duty of care. The responsible person's insurance company pays money to the injured person for:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Other ongoing medical expenses
Strict liability is a legal doctrine that holds a defendant liable for harm, regardless of their intent or carelessness. It's most commonly applied in product liability cases where a consumer is harmed by a defective product. Under strict liability, the injured person only needs to prove that harm occurred and that the defendant was responsible.
Dealing With Fall Accidents
Fall accidents, such as slip and fall (or trip and fall) incidents, can lead to severe injuries. These accidents often occur due to hazardous conditions like wet floors, uneven surfaces, or poor lighting. Property owners have a legal duty to maintain safe conditions. They may be held liable for injuries caused by their negligence.
The Role of Medical Records in Personal Injury Cases
Medical records play a crucial role in personal injury cases. They provide evidence of the injuries sustained and the treatment received. They can help establish the extent of the injury, the prognosis, and the cost of treatment. These are all crucial factors when determining compensation.
Understanding Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate an injured person for non-monetary losses. This can include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
Claiming Property Damages
Property damage claims can be made to recover the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property, such as a vehicle, after a car accident. This is usually handled through the at-fault party's insurance company.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider, such as a doctor or hospital, fails to provide a standard of care that a competent healthcare provider would have provided, resulting in harm to the patient. Examples can include:
- Surgical errors
- Improper treatment
- Failure to diagnose a serious disease
Understanding the Statute of Limitations
In the context of personal injury law, the statute of limitations is the time limit within which you must file a lawsuit after an injury or wrongful death has occurred. The length of time depends on the type of case and the state in which the injury occurred. It can also depend on when you discovered the injury, also called the discovery rule. The statute of limitations does not run until the time of discovery or when a reasonable person should have known of the injury. If you do not file a lawsuit within this time frame, you may forfeit your right to seek compensation for your injuries.
Dealing With Car Accidents
Car accidents can lead to serious injuries and are a common type of personal injury claim. After a vehicle accident, you may be able to file a claim against the other driver if they were at fault and caused your injuries. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering after an auto accident.
What Is Product Liability?
Product liability refers to a manufacturer or seller being held liable for placing a defective product into the hands of a consumer. All sellers of the product who are in the distribution chain can bear responsibility for a product defect that causes injury. This can include the product manufacturer, a manufacturer of component parts, the wholesaler, and the retail store owner.
What Is an Independent Medical Examination?
When injuries are serious and severe, they usually result in high monetary payments. These payments can come from either an insurance company or the person who caused the injuries. Because the amount is usually high, the person who has to pay for the injuries usually wants to make sure the injuries are real and as severe as the victim claims they are. For this reason, an evaluation from a doctor who isn't the victim's regular doctor may be required. In the personal injury claim context, this is known as an "independent medical examination."
Generally, a person who sustains injuries will go to their own doctor to be examined and treated. The concern for a defendant or insurance company is that the doctor could be biased because they have a prior relationship with the victim. An independent medical examination, or IME, allows an independent physician to examine the victim to make sure that the victim really did sustain injuries, the injuries are as serious as the victim claims, and the injuries were not caused by someone or something else.
In some circumstances, an injured party can be required to submit to an IME. Many states, for example, have passed laws that allow insurance companies to require an IME when a claim seems questionable. However, if the IME would cause an undue burden, the injured party may not be compelled to attend the exam. An example of an undue burden could be traveling a long distance from home. Many states also have court rules that allow a judge to order an IME under certain circumstances.
The Requirement To Mitigate Damages
Even if your injuries occurred because of the intentional or negligent actions of another person, you still have a duty to minimize or mitigate your damages. Mitigating damages means that the injured party takes certain steps to reduce the effects and loss related to the injuries. If a plaintiff fails to mitigate damages, a defendant can use that fact to reduce the amount of damages the defendant must pay to the plaintiff.
The duty to mitigate damages requires a plaintiff to act in a way that an ordinary and reasonable person would have acted in a similar situation. This includes acting in good faith and with due diligence when choosing a doctor or treatment. It also possibly includes looking for another job. For example, failing to seek medical attention or refusing medical treatment could be seen as a failure to mitigate damages. Whether or not the plaintiff failed the duty to mitigate would depend on whether a reasonable person would have sought medical attention or accepted that particular medical treatment. Similarly, if an injured person can do some kind of work, even if it's not their usual line of work, and work is available, the injured person's damages will probably be reduced for failure to mitigate damages.
Speak With a Personal Injury Lawyer for Legal Advice
If you or a loved one has suffered harm or injuries because of someone else's intentional or negligent actions, you might want to contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options. A reputable law office can explain the basics of personal injury to you without necessarily establishing an attorney-client relationship.
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