After you have been injured, you are entitled to compensation. The type and amount of compensation depends on the injury, bills, the cause of the injury, negligence/bad faith of the defendant, etc. The attorney you retain can also heavy influence your recovery through knowledge, experience, and dedication. Legal terms and phrases can be confusing even after you retain an attorney. If you have been injured, you may wonder how much your case is worth or what your “damages” are. The worse the injuries, the higher the value of the case and the greater need for an experienced attorney
Most personal injury plaintiffs’ damages flow from compensatory damages. Compensatory damages focus on making the injured party whole again, placing them in the same or similar position as before the injury. Compensatory damages are classified as either special damages or general damages. Special or economic damages include things such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damages. General damages include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other non-monetary damages. The dollar amount is more easily apparent for special damages like medical bills, lost wages, and lost property, though recent Supreme Court cases have even made them difficult to determine.
A plaintiff may also be compensated for general or non-economic damages like emotion distress, loss of future income, loss of enjoyment, pain and suffering, and future medical costs. Placing a price tag on emotional and physical pain caused from an accident is not an easy task. The monetary value for a plaintiff’s loss of the ability to enjoy a hobby is difficult to calculate and easily disputed by opposing counsel. An experienced litigation attorney can further explain the value of your damages and fight for your deserved compensation. Ultimately general damages are worth what a jury of your peers decides their worth. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to give a you an estimate or range of what that amount might be.
In addition to compensatory damages, a plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages. Though punitive damages are used to punish and deter bad behavior from defendants. State law varies on the amount of punitive damages available. Some states have caps on the amount of punitive damages a jury may award. For example, in Indiana an award of punitive damages may not be more than 3 times the amount of compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater. Most of these damages are also awarded to the State as opposed to the Plaintiff. In Tennessee, a law placing a cap on punitive damages was ruled unconstitutional. This ruling came after a case in which the jury awarded $3 million in punitive damages. Whether punitive damages are available in your case depends on how a state defines punitive conduct, familiar language includes maliciously, recklessly, intentionally, or fraudulently.
If you have been injured, understanding the potential value of your case is important when deciding whether to pursue a claim. Retaining a personal injury lawyer can ease the stress of an accident and ensure you receive compensation for your injuries.