If you’ve been injured due to the negligent actions of another, one of the first questions you may have is, “what is my personal injury claim worth?”
While that answer is complex and best answered by consulting an award winning personal injury lawyer in St. Louis, you can get an idea by understanding damages, or the financial compensation intended to serve justice to the injured party.
This article uncovers the basics of damages in personal injury claims and the process behind how they are calculated.
Understanding Damages in Personal Injury Cases
In personal injury law, “damages” refers to the sum of money awarded to the injured party, or plaintiff, by the party responsible for the injury, the defendant, or their insurer.
Damages are divided into two main types: economic damages, which are easily quantifiable costs incurred by the plaintiff, and non-economic damages, which cover the more intangible losses suffered due to the injury.
Calculating Economic Damages
Economic damages are the main component of personal injury claims since they cover financial losses directly related to an injury. There are several different classifications.
- Medical expenses are compensation for past and future medical bills. This includes everything from emergency room visits to ongoing physical therapy, and rehabilitation. Calculating future medical expenses requires an understanding of the injury party’s prognosis and future healthcare needs.
Lost Wages and Earning Capacity
- If your injury prevents you from working, you’re entitled to compensation for wages you’ve lost. Additionally, if your injury affects your ability to make an income in the future, loss of earning capacity can also be factored into your claim. This calculation often involves expert testimony regarding your industry, career trajectory, and potential earnings.
- Read here to learn more about the differences between lost wages and earning capacity.
- In cases where your personal property is damaged, such as your vehicle in a car accident claim, the cost of repairs or replacement can be included in the economic damages.
Calculating Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages compensate for intangible losses that don’t have a direct financial burden on victims, but still significantly impact their lives.
Pain and Suffering
- This category compensates for the physical pain and discomfort endured during and after the injury. Lawyers and insurers often use multipliers or per diem methods to estimate these costs, based on the severity and duration of the pain.
- Compensation for emotional distress covers the psychological impact of the injury. This includes disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Because of the nature of emotional distress, the effect on the plaintiff’s daily life is considered in the valuation.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- When injuries prevent you from enjoying hobbies and activities you once loved, compensation for loss of enjoyment of life can be sought. This acknowledges the diminished quality of life resulting from the injuries.
Loss of Consortium
- This compensates for the impact on the plaintiff’s relationships, particularly the loss of companionship and affection in marital relationships. It recognizes the broader emotional toll of the injury.
Factors Influencing the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
Beyond damages, several other factors influence the value of a personal injury claim. For instance, if the plaintiff had any role in causing the accident, their compensation might be reduced under the principles of comparative or contributory negligence. You might want to look at the negligence laws for your state.
Additionally, the defendant’s insurance policy limits might cap the amount of compensation available.
Every personal injury case is unique, and calculating the damages requires a thorough understanding of all losses involved. While this article provides a basic framework for understanding how damages are calculated, the nuances of each case require the expertise of a personal injury lawyer for an accurate valuation. Consulting with a legal professional can help ensure that all aspects of your injury and its impact on your life are fully accounted for and that you receive the compensation you deserve.