What Can You Recoup from a Lawsuit?
Being injured as a result of another’s negligence often comes with a large price tag. In addition to healing from both mental and physical injuries, a victim often misses out on work, family events, and the things they enjoy.
It is possible to regain financial compensation for the losses that accompany a personal injury. The financial loss suffered due to an accident are defined as damages. There are many types of damages, but within personal injury cases we typically look at two main categories: compensatory and punitive.
If you or someone you love has recently been injured in an accident and suffered financial loss, a trusted personal injury lawyer can help calculate personal injury damages as well as the most accurate estimate of what to expect.
Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case
The two primary categories of damages awarded in personal injury claims are compensatory and punitive.
True to the name, compensatory damages aim to compensate a victim for the injuries they’ve suffered. Compensatory damages reimburse a victim for the harm they’ve suffered due to the accident, and are available in almost all injury cases, including slip and falls, medical malpractice, auto accidents, and pedestrian accidents.
Compensatory damages encompass many different types of expenses, however, they are commonly broken down into general or special damages.
General Compensatory Damages
General damages reimburse a victim for non-monetary damages sustained in a personal injury claim. These damages are also referred to as non-economic, as they do not have a specific billed dollar amount. Instead, the amount received for general compensatory damages is typically calculated by a personal injury attorney or decided upon by a jury.
General damages get their name because they are just that – general. They do not focus on the specific injury or medical bill incurred, and rather focus on the suffering that is generally sustained from an injury. The most common types of general damages are:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional duress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium or companionship
While the amount varies, all personal injury victims are expected to be owed at least some amount of general damages.
When accident injuries put you out of work for days, weeks, or even months, lost wages refer to the money you would have earned from the time of the accident to the date of your settlement. A type of special compensatory damages, lost wages amount to the money you should have earned had you not been injured. Lost wages are calculated using the amount of money your employer pays you for your work, such as a company paycheck or direct deposit paid to you by your employer on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
However, lost wages are far from just what’s listed on your paycheck. A variety of damages are compensated under lost wages, including:
- Sick and vacation days
- Perks, such as gym memberships, use of company-owned vehicle, and so on
Learn more about lost wages.
Special Compensatory Damages
Special damages compensate a victim for monetary expenses acquired due to an injury. These types of damages are more commonly referred to as economic damages, as they typically equate to an actual dollar amount. Special damages vary significantly from one case to another as they are unique to each individual.
The purpose of special damages is to reimburse a victim for all money lost due to the accident that caused their injuries. Therefore, these damages cover any expenses related to an injury, including:
- Past, current, and future medical bills
- Medical equipment
- Home healthcare expenses
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of future earnings
- Costs associated with cancelled trips or altered plans
Aside from compensatory damages, punitive damages are another type of reimbursement seen in personal injury cases. Typically, most cases do not seek punitive damages. This is because punitive damages do not actually compensate for any losses, but are more so a means to punish the at-fault individual.
Punitive damages are only awarded to a victim when the wrongful behavior was outrageously negligent or reprehensible. Examples of when a plaintiff typically seeks punitive damages include:
- Health risks linked to prescription drugs
- Defective products
- Medical malpractice
Wrongful Death Damages
No amount of compensation can bring back your loved one, but recovering damages can help to ease the financial strain of funeral expenses, lost income, medical expenses, and more. In the case of wrongful death, families are entitled to a variety of damages, including:
- Loss of income
- Loss of benefits, such as insurance
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium or companionship
In the case that gross negligence on behalf of an individual or business contributed to the wrongful death of your loved one, it is possible to seek punitive damages as well.
Caps on Damages
Caps are limitations placed on the potential damages a victim may receive. Special compensatory damages, such as hospital bills and rehabilitative therapy costs, have no caps in place. Due to “future medical treatment” and “loss of future earnings” falling under this umbrella of economic damages, the law does not place any restriction on how much compensation a victim can receive in order to adequately be reimbursed for their injuries, which could be lifelong.
Nonetheless, this was not always the case for general, or non-economic, damages. In 2003, Florida Legislature enacted Florida Statute 766.118, which cracked down on the amount of compensation available as a victim of personal injury. The law limited non-economic damages at the fault of a medical practitioner to $500,000 per claimant, except where the negligence resulted in a permanent vegetative state, death, or catastrophic injury, in which case damages reached up to $1 million. The law also limited damages to $750,000 and $1.5 million, respectively, when the injury was the result of the negligence of a non-practitioner.
However, in March 2014, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the damage caps on non-economic damages as unconstitutional. The majority opinion was that damage caps, “arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer the most drastic injuries.” With this ruling, caps on non-economic damages were lifted, meaning there is no limit to the damages a victim can seek in a personal injury case.
Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries
Suffering any type of injury at the hand of a negligent individual can wreak havoc on your mental and physical state, as well as the state of your bank account. From medical bills to lost time at work, losing time with your family, and possibly losing the way of life you previously afforded, these damages can quickly and easily stack up.
Pain may not come with a price tag, but damages do. If you or someone you love has recently been injured, contact Weinstein Legal today to discuss the individual facts of your case.