Personal Injury Damages
If you have recently been injured in an accident that was caused by somebody else, you may be under financial strain due to medical bills, lost wages and other expenses you aren’t sure how you will pay for. You may be wondering if going through the trouble of filing a lawsuit is really ‘worth it.’ To answer these questions, this overview will cover what type of personal injury damages you can recover money for, and what factors may affect the potential value of your case.
A Personal Injury Lawsuit, in theory, is supposed to return the Plaintiff to the condition they were in before the accident occurred. This is rarely possible and often imprecise, but our system of justice attempts to reach this elusive ideal by awarding fair and reasonable monetary damages to compensate a Plaintiff for what has changed in their life. These compensatory damages factor in both objective, economic damages, as well as more subjective, non-economic damages. Economic damages include:
- Medical bills, including the cost of rehabilitation
- Lost wages caused by being forced to miss work
- Loss of future earning capacity due to disability
- Property damage
If you are in a lot of pain or severely disabled or disfigured because of your injury, know that you can recover non-economic damages such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish or emotional distress
- Loss of consortium for new limitations placed on families
- The loss of your ability to enjoy your life
Block O’Toole & Murphy has won more personal injury results exceeding $1,000,000 than any other law firm in New York, every year since 2012. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form to speak with one of our experienced attorneys – there is no fee or obligation.
Medical bills can be extremely expensive and are generally the starting point for discussing damages or potential case value. In a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover money not just for the initial visit to treat your injury, but also for any expenses associated with the rehab and continued treatment of that injury. Medical expenses which could drive the value of a potential lawsuit include:
- Copays and other fees from doctor visits and hospital stays
- Medication necessary to treat symptoms from the accident, whether physical or mental
- Surgery, including the initial operation and any revision surgeries necessary
- Rehab, including general physical therapy and specific occupational therapy
- Necessary medical devices such as crutches, a wheelchair or a prosthetic limb
Medical bills can be daunting, especially in the wake of a serious injury. However, a quick and complete recovery should always be your top priority, so you should never have to forego medical treatment because you don’t think you can afford it. If you are currently treating for a serious injury, follow all expert medical opinions and contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible, so that you don’t have to worry about bills when you should be focused on your health.
Lost Wages and Loss of Future Earning Capabilities
Lost wages are another important component of personal injury lawsuits. In the short-term, the Plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit may claim lost wages for time from work they were forced to miss while treating for their injuries. For example, if you make $800 per week, and were forced to miss two months to treat and recover from a broken leg that you suffered in a work accident, you may be able to recover that $6,400 in lost wages in a personal injury lawsuit.
Where lost wages really start to drive up the potential value of a case, however, is if your injury has left you with a disability that has negatively impacted your ability to earn the same wage you were earning prior to your accident. This is known as “lost earning capacity,” and it is a way to anticipate financial struggles you may have due to disabilities suffered in your accident.
Unfortunately, these types of long-term impacts from an accident are not uncommon. If a construction worker suffers multiple herniated discs in a scaffolding accident, for example, and is then no longer able to work in construction because he is limited in his ability to handle heavy objects, that worker’s ability to earn a livelihood has been directly and negatively impacted.
Filing for lost wages in a personal injury lawsuit can provide long-term security to a person who wants to work, but has had their ability to do so impeded by somebody else’s negligence.
Claims for property damage are most common in car crashes and other motor vehicle accidents. If you have been injured in a traffic accident, you should notify your insurer as soon as possible, so that the claims process can begin. When you delay reporting an accident that wasn’t your fault, you create opportunities for unnecessary delays in processing your claim, tying up money that you might need.
There are two things to keep in mind when dealing with property damage after a traffic accident. One, never discuss fault with other parties involved, whether it is the police, the other driver, or an insurance adjuster. Whether intentional or not, any admission of guilt on your part could disqualify you from successfully filing a suit, particularly if such a comment ends up in a police report.
The other thing to keep in mind in the wake of a motor vehicle accident is to never accept an offer to settle your claim from the insurance company before you have spoken with an experienced attorney. While this may seem counterintuitive, an insurance company is not generally looking to make you a fair offer that covers all of the bills you’ll be facing. Instead, it’s much more likely that they will try to low-ball you, hopeful that you will accept the first offer they make without realizing that there could be significantly more available.
Pain and Suffering
Generally, for an injury that is severe enough to cause significant medical bills and force missed time from work, there is considerable pain that comes along with the injury itself and the recovery efforts that follow. In a personal injury lawsuit, a Plaintiff can recover for the physical pain and suffering their injury has caused them. But how can a court fairly assign a dollar amount to something as abstract as pain?
One factor that will be looked for is the amount of pain medication you have been prescribed. Pain is subjective, but if your doctor agrees that your injury was painful enough to warrant medication, that could help to validate your claim. Another factor to consider is how much treatment and rehabilitation your injury requires before your doctor declares that you’ve received the maximum benefit from your medical treatment.
This is one reason why you don’t want to neglect professional medical advice because you are facing the pressure of rising medical bills. Fully communicating with your doctor and following up on all medical appointments are important indicators to insurance companies and can go a long way towards supporting your claims for pain and suffering damages.
Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress
Closely related to pain and suffering, damages related to emotional distress are meant to compensate you for the psychological impact your accident and injury have had on your day-to-day life. Emotional distress includes afflictions such as depression, insomnia, anxiety, or fear of leaving the house. If you have recently been in a traumatic accident, some combination of these may be familiar to you.
If you are experiencing one of or a variety of these symptoms, the best thing you can do is make notes about how you are feeling and how this is affecting your life. If newly-developed insomnia is affecting your ability to get to work on time, you should take note of this. If depression or embarrassment over your injuries has caused you to withdraw from social events that you would otherwise be attending, you should share this with your medical provider.
A doctor can’t cure you if you don’t communicate your symptoms, and this is doubly true when dealing with mental illnesses invisible to the human eye. And once you make that critical step of sharing your emotional and psychological suffering with a trained medical professional, insurance companies involved in a personal injury lawsuit will take those claims more seriously.
Loss of Consortium
The Cornell Law School Wex Legal Dictionary defines loss of consortium as “deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship” caused by an injury. In layman’s terms, a loss of consortium claim can provide compensation when a family member is unable to give the same level of love, companionship, sexual relations or emotional support that they were before the accident occurred.
Loss of consortium claims are generally reserved for extremely serious cases involving death, paralysis, amputation, or other permanent conditions that fundamentally alter existing family relationships. Loss of consortium claims are often a separate claim made by the spouse or children of the Plaintiff.
These claims are calculated using similar factors as the ones which influence physical and mental suffering: intense humiliation, depression brought on by loneliness, loss of socio-economic status caused by lost income – dark, heartbreaking topics that nobody should ever have to deal with on their own. But personal injury lawsuits are intended to try and make somebody whole again, as much as that is possible, in the face of severe physical, mental and emotional injuries. Nobody ever wants to have to file a personal injury lawsuit – but if you have been put into that position, the compensation that you could receive could be life-changing at a time when you really need it.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today
Personal injury lawsuits can be intimidating, particularly to people who have just been seriously injured because of somebody else’s negligence. If you have more questions about potentially filing a personal injury lawsuit, visit our personal injury lawsuit FAQ to find answers to some of the most common questions we hear from our clients.
If you are unsure whether you should file a lawsuit or not, please call 212-736-5300 to receive a free legal consultation. There is no fee or obligation, because we do not charge unless and until your lawsuit is won.
Block O’Toole & Murphy proudly serves clients all across New York City, New York State, and New Jersey.