Part II: How Much Is My Case...

Damages Recoverable in a Personal Injury Case

If you have been injured due to the carelessness of another, the negligent party is responsible for paying all necessary and reasonable medical costs associated with the injury or injuries. Examples could include: (1) the cost of an ambulance to transport you to the hospital; (2) doctors’ and hospital expenses; and (3) the costs of all other medical services. The negligent party is also legally responsible for all of your future medical costs attributable to the accident. Additionally, if you need a wheelchair or a full- or part-time attendant, the negligent party must also pay for these.

You are also entitled to recover monetary damages for all of your lost wages past, present, and future. If you are permanently disabled from working as a result of the accident, the amount of your lost wages will be determined by what you would have expected to earn had you not been injured, including raises, bonuses, and promotions. That amount, however, will be reduced (“discounted”) to its current value. This means that the amount you would have earned during your lifetime will be reduced to a lump sum that, if invested, would yield how much you would have earned over the next 10, 20, or however many years you would have expected to go on working. If you are permanently injured but are still able to work, although not at your old job and not for the same amount of money you were earning, you are entitled to recover the difference between what you would have made and what you are actually making, the difference being your loss of earning power.

In addition to all medical-related costs and lost earnings, you are entitled to be compensated for pain and suffering arising from the accident, as well as all psychological injuries you suffered as a result of the accident, which often must be supported by the testimony of a psychologist or psychiatrist.

There are two types of damages that can be recovered: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include such things as: (1) past, present, and future medical expenses (bills from emergency rooms, hospitals, doctors, physical therapists, rehabilitation therapists, prosthetist, prostheses, wheelchairs, special beds, personal attendants, etc.), and (2) the amount of lost wages or lost earning power, whether the victim will be able to return to work or will have to be retrained for a different profession or occupation, or will be permanently unable to work.

The so-called “non-economic” losses for which you can recover monetary damages include: (1) the intensity and duration of your pain and suffering, (2) emotional distress and mental anguish, (3) physical impairment, (4) grief (but not in wrongful death cases), (5) anxiety, (6) humiliation, (7) inconvenience, (8) fear, anger, and worry, (9) disfigurement, and (10) the “loss of enjoyment of life.” Loss of enjoyment of life covers things you used to be able to do but are no longer capable of doing. For instance, if a right-handed father has his right arm amputated and is no longer able to play catch with his son, this is considered part of his loss of enjoyment of life and he deserves to be compensated.

The amount of damages should not only compensate you for damages and injuries you have already suffered, but include compensation for future medical expenses, pain and suffering, new prostheses, complications, etc. Also considered in the amount of your monetary recovery are whether you were in any way responsible for the accident or your injuries (“comparative negligence”), and the amount of insurance and assets the party at fault has.