This is a legitimate question to ask, and it plays a major role in the thinking of most injury victims. In effect, you’re asking: will a lawsuit be worth it? But the law is complicated, and so were the circumstances of your slip and fall accident. Without a thorough investigation, there’s no way of telling how much your claim is worth. We won’t even try.
But we can tell you about the various types of damages that you might be able to secure in a personal injury lawsuit.
The Many Types Of Damages In Personal Injury Lawsuits
In court, “damages” are the monetary awards that successful plaintiffs receive as compensation for their losses. And just like there are many different “things” you can lose in an accident, there are many types of award that you can be granted to make up for it.
Before we go into detail, let’s distinguish between two overarching categories of “damage.”
Compensatory Vs. Punitive Damages
Compensatory damages are meant to “make you whole.” In so far as money can, these damages are designed to return injury victims to the emotional, physical, and financial state they would have occupied if the accident had never occurred.
This category can be divided again into two subsets: special (or “monetary” damages) and general (or “non-monetary”) damages. Special damages are ones you can point to; they have a specific, financial expenses attached. Think medical care. You can’t directly put a number on special damages, but they’re very important. Think the emotional trauma of being in a car accident; a therapist’s bills don’t quite cover sleepless nights.
Punitive damages are not as common as compensatory ones, because they go above and beyond making a victim whole. They’re intended as punishment, and usually restricted to cases in which defendants demonstrated actual intent to cause harm.
Plaintiffs usually receive at least some, if not all, of these damages. In his textbook Modern American Remedies, UVA Law professor Douglas Laycock noted that only 2% of civil cases involve punitive damages.
Some policy experts argue that punitive damages also have a deterrent effect; they act as an extra disincentive for other people who would be negligent in their actions.
Types Of Monetary Compensatory Damages
These damages cover the costs of present and future medical care, including surgeries and rehabilitative treatment.
Costs Of Living With A Disability
If a victim suffers disability, these damages can cover the costs of altering one’s lifestyle. For example, renovating a living space to make it wheel-chair accessible.
These damages can directly compensate for lost time at work while recovering, or make up for a future loss of earning potential.
Compensation For Lost Or Damaged Property
These damages can cover repairs to damaged property, or its replacement. Usually, property is valued using the fair market price at the time of the accident.
In the event of death, family members can secure the cost of funeral services.
Types Of Non-Monetary Compensatory Damages
Pain & Suffering
These damages are designed to cover actual physical pain, the hardship of feeling pain, along with emotional trauma. But if only you can feel your pain, how can anyone else put a dollar value on it? Insurance companies use two methods to determine pain and suffering damages: multiplication and per diem.
The multiplication method simply takes the amount of your monetary damages and multiplies it by an agreed-upon number. That number, of course, is tricky to agree on. It will take into account the seriousness of your injury and its impact on your daily life.
Per diem decides on a daily cost, which is usually determined with reference to how much you make at work, and then multiplies it by the number of days you were in pain. Obviously, this doesn’t quite work for long-term injuries.
Loss Of Consortium
Spouses or dependent family members may receive compensation, both for monetary and intangible losses associated with a loved one’s injury.
Personal injury lawyers often use past cases to estimate the value of a potential claim. But the subjective nature of general, non-monetary, damages means that amounts may vary substantially between seemingly similar cases.