Before you settle your personal injury case, you should understand the types of damages you are entitled to receive. The insurance company for the other party and defense attorneys will not tell you if you are leaving money on the settlement table.
Generally, accident victims can recover compensation for economic damages, which are the financial losses you incur because of an accident and injury. They may also recover compensation for non-economic damages, or “pain and suffering” damages. In rare cases, punitive damages may also be awarded for a personal injury claim.
Let’s discuss each type of damage you might recover in a personal injury case in more detail.
Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Compensatory damages compensate you for losses caused by the at-fault party’s negligence or wrongdoing. These damages are divided into two categories – economic damages (special damages) and non-economic damages (general damages).
Examples of items in a compensatory damage award for personal injuries include:
Medical Bills and Expenses
You may incur a variety of medical expenses after your accident and injury. These expenses can be included in a Florida personal injury case. You should be able to recover reimbursement for any reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to your injuries.
Examples of medical bills included in an injury claim are:
- Ambulance and emergency room costs
- Urgent care facilities
- Physicians’ bills
- Surgical and hospital costs
- Medications and medical equipment
- Physical therapy
- Home health and personal care
- Diagnostic tests
- Mobility devices (i.e., wheelchairs, walkers, etc.)
- Medical supplies, including wraps, band-aids, and braces
- Rehabilitative therapy, including occupational therapy
Any expenses related to your injuries could be included in a claim. Keep receipts for all expenses and payments to maximize recovery.
Loss of Income and Benefits
You are also entitled to reimbursement for your loss of income caused by the accident.
If you are out of work to recover from accident injuries, you can claim compensation for all lost income, including:
- Self-employment income
- Contributions to retirements
- Benefits, such as the use of a company car and cell phone service
Copies of tax returns, pay stubs, and statements from your employer can be used to prove your lost wages. Additionally, if you sustain a permanent impairment, you could be entitled to compensation for future loss of income and reduced earning potential.
Other Out-of-Pocket Expenses
You may also be entitled to reimbursement for other out-of-pocket costs.
For example, if you need to hire someone to clean your home or care for your children because of your injuries, you can claim these expenses as economic damages. Hiring someone to mow the lawn, purchase groceries, and cook would also be included.
If you need to modify your home because of a permanent disability, those costs may be included in your claim. For instance, you might need to widen doorways or install a ramp on the outside of your home to accommodate a wheelchair.
Travel expenses are another common out-of-pocket expense. You can claim mileage to and from doctor’s visits and medical treatments. The standard rate used to calculate mileage is the federal mileage rate.
The amount of compensatory damages equals the total out-of-pocket costs for all damages.
Pain and Suffering Damages
You are entitled to recover compensation for the pain and suffering you experience because of the accident and your injuries.
These damages include:
- Physical discomfort and pain caused by injuries, surgery, therapy, and healing
- Emotional distress and mental anguish, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, fear, grief, and depression
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Permanent disabilities and impairments, such as a brain injury or spinal cord injury
- Loss of enjoyment of life or a reduction in your quality of life because of changes caused by the accident (loss of use damages)
An accidental injury impacts your life in more than just physical ways. You may not be able to do the activities and hobbies you enjoyed before the accident. You might not be able to be as involved with your family and friends as you were before the injury.
The value of pain and suffering damages depends on many factors. Catastrophic injuries and disabilities increase the value of non-economic damages. The duration of your recovery can also increase the value of your claim.
Your personal injury lawyer will help you document these damages and determine the maximum value for your pain and suffering damages.
Loss of Consortium
Your injury might impact your relationship with your spouse. The non-economic harm your spouse incurs because of your injury is called loss of consortium.
Damages for a loss of consortium claim may include the loss of:
- Help to raise children
- Sexual relations
- Household services
- Emotional damages, such as mental pain, shock, and emotional distress
A loss of consortium claim requires your spouse to prove that your injuries were significant enough to cause these damages. They must also show that the defendant’s conduct is the direct and proximate cause of their damages. You must have a valid marriage to claim loss of consortium damages in Florida.
Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Punitive damages are not compensatory in nature. Instead, they “punish” a defendant for intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
The Florida statutes define gross negligence as conduct that constitutes a conscious disregard for the safety, life, and rights of others. Although the damages punish the defendant, they are paid to the accident victim.
However, punitive damages are rarely awarded in personal injury cases. When they are available, you must prove they are warranted by clear and convincing evidence. This burden of proof is higher than for compensatory damages, which is by a preponderance of the evidence.
Property damages claims are separate from personal injury claims. Most property damage claims are settled early in the case. The compensation is for damage to personal property, such as a motor vehicle, cell phone, laptop, or car seat.
The value of a property damage claim is based on the current fair market value of the item or the amount of the repairs.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
A lawyer understands all of the various types of damages allowed in a personal injury case. In addition, the attorney knows what evidence is required to maximize the value of your damages.
A personal injury lawyer protects you from aggressive insurance adjusters pressuring you to accept a settlement offer that is significantly lower than the full value of your personal injury claim.
Having an attorney to help you document, value, and negotiate damages gives you a better chance of recovering a fair settlement amount for your personal injury claim.
Contact Our Florida Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you have questions about your accident claim, contact our office to schedule a free consultation with one of our Tampa personal injury attorneys.