If you’ve suffered injury in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you may recognize that you have a legal claim to compensation, but you may not be sure how much compensation you are entitled to. In a personal injury case, you are typically compensated for your “damages,” or the financial, physical, and emotional loss you’ve suffered due to your injuries.
Compensation in a personal injury case can either be the result of a negotiated settlement between the at-fault party and the injured person, or it may be an amount that is determined by a jury or a judge following a trial.
Calculating Economic Damages
Most damages received in a personal injury claim fall into one of two categories. The first category are economic damages. This includes things like the costs of your medical treatment, lost wages or income for time that you missed from work while you were recovering from your injuries, lost earning capacity if your injuries cause you to suffer a disability that prevents you from working at your full earning potential, and any other out-of-pocket costs you incur due to your accident, such as the cost to repair or replace property that was damaged or destroyed in the accident. These damages are fairly easily calculated by reference to an injured party’s bills, invoices, receipts, pay stubs, income statements, or tax returns.
Determining Non-Economic Damages
The second type of damages typically awarded in personal injury cases are non-economic damages, which includes things like pain and suffering and lost enjoyment or quality of life, or your spouse’s loss of consortium (the loss of your companionship or intimate relationship). Unlike economic damages, calculating non-economic damages is a more subjective matter. Proving non-economic damages often requires testimony from the injured individual, his or her family members and friends, and his or her treating medical providers regarding the impacts that the injured victim’s injuries have had on his or her ability to live and enjoy life.
Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases
In less common personal injury cases where the defendant’s conduct is determined to be especially egregious or wanton (for example, a drunk driver with a long history of DUIs kills a pedestrian in a reckless driving incident), the injured party may also be awarded punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages such as economic and non-economic damages that, as the name suggests, compensates the injured party for some loss, punitive damages (again, as the name suggests) are intended to punish the wrongdoer for his or her conduct, and also to serve a deterrent effect against others who might engage in similar conduct in the future. Since punitive damages aren’t tied to any particular loss, most states have set a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case.
Potential Impacts on a Plaintiff’s Award
Even once an injured plaintiff’s damages are calculated, there may be additional considerations that impact the final amount of compensation that he or she receives. For example, if the injured party is determined to have been partially at fault for his or her accident and injuries, the amount of compensation he or she ultimately receives will be reduced by the assigned percentage of fault; in Florida, this is known as the comparative negligence rule. As an example, if an injured plaintiff incurs $100,000 in damages in an accident he or she is found to be 25 percent responsible for, his or her award will be reduced by $25,000 to reflect his or her percentage of fault.
A compensation award may also be reduced if an injured plaintiff fails to mitigate his or her damages, such as by failing to undertake all recommended medical treatment or failing to go back to work when medically clear to do so.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Case in Florida
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries in Florida? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Lawlor, White & Murphey represent clients injured in Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Weston, Coconut Creek, and throughout Florida. Call 954-525-2345 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 2211 Davie Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, as well as offices in Pembroke Pines, Weston, Coconut Creek, Plantation, and Pompano Beach.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.