Compensation in the field of personal injury law is a complicated subject. When someone is wrongfully injured, made sick, or killed, the cost for the victim and their family can climb well above their means. It’s clear that some amount of money is owed to them, but how do we determine what that sum is?
When deciding on the monetary amount for a personal injury suit, the cost is a matter of “damages” to the victim. Some expenses are obvious—money from a personal injury lawsuit should always cover any medical, funeral, and/or property damage. These expenses usually have a bottom line that is easily expressed.
For example, you might be injured in a car accident where the other driver was at fault. In a personal injury suit, the other driver can be held responsible to cover any medical bills from hospital treatment you receive for that injury, as well as rehabilitation and medication. He or she would also pay for the property damage to your car.
Other expenses have less obvious bottom lines. Here we will look at the many different types of compensation you can be entitled to receive in a personal injury suit.
Types of Compensation Available In Accident Lawsuits
Medical Treatment. As mentioned above, a personal injury lawsuit almost always seeks to award compensation for the cost of medical treatment to the plaintiff. This is a combination of the treatment you have already received in addition to an estimated amount of costs for any future treatment.
Income. Accidents don’t only cost money—they often prevent victims from earning money as well. In a personal injury case, the plaintiff may sue for “loss of earning capacity” in addition to loss of income. If an injury has prevented a victim from working, or if a wrongful death has left the victim’s next of kin without a source of income, they should be compensated.
Property Loss. The material damages in personal injury cases can be high. You can be compensated for any vehicles, clothes, or other items damaged in the accident. Reimbursement can be the cost of repairs or the market value to replace the damaged items.
Pain and Suffering. Though difficult to quantify, pain and suffering is something victims of negligence should be compensated for. During the accident, the recovery period, and even afterward, the victim may experience significant mental and/or physical suffering. Plaintiffs can sue for an appropriate monetary sum of money to make up for this. You can read more about pain and suffering here.
Emotional Distress. Usually this claim is limited to serious injuries and accidents. Emotional distress refers to psychological damage following the accident—anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD, and so on. Some states include this under “pain and suffering.”
Loss of Enjoyment. Plaintiffs may sue for any loss of enjoyment in their lives following an accident. Injury can prevent a victim from engaging in the hobbies, exercise, or other activities they previously enjoyed. For example, if an avid soccer player breaks their ankle in a slip-and-fall incident, they may no longer be able to participate in an activity they love. Thus, they can be compensated monetarily for the loss of enjoyment in their life.
Loss of Consortium. This refers to the damage an accident or injury can do to the victim’s relationship with his or her spouse. In other words, they are unable to engage in sexual intimacy or experience a loss of companionship. Some states also will consider the damage to a parent-child relationship under the “loss of consortium” category.
Injury Lawsuits and Punitive Damage
Though not strictly a type of compensation, in instances where the defendant displayed a particularly reprehensible amount of misconduct or negligence, the court may award the plaintiff punitive damages. This money is not intended to help the victim get back on their feet, like the above forms of compensation are intended to.
Instead, this money seeks to punish the defendant for their behavior—somewhat like the fines that criminals pay to the government. The money does go to the defendant, however. Punitive damages often have a limit in civil courts that varies from state to state.
How the Plaintiff’s Behavior Affects Their Case
The victim’s behavior during and following the accident can have a significant impact on the compensation they receive for damages. What you do—or don’t do—if you are a victim of negligence or other wrongful behavior is critical to winning the award you deserve.
Comparative Negligence. If the plaintiff is in some way partially responsible for the accident, their compensation will reflect this. They are likely to receive less when they are found to be partially at fault.
Failure to Mitigate Damages. The courts expect victims to take reasonable steps to keep the costs associated with recovery for an accident low. For example, if a plaintiff continues to drive their car after an accident instead of having it repaired immediately, they may do more damage to the vehicle.
If you believe you have been wrongfully injured, or if you would like expert consultation on whether you might have a personal injury case, we would like to hear from you. Contact us today.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.