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Determining Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

If an individual incurs losses due to a serious personal injury, they have the right to seek compensation for their losses from the negligent party or parties that caused the accident. However, a victim cannot simply head into a courtroom, claim a certain amount, and expect the court and the other party to take their word for it. Instead, damages–the money sought in a personal injury case–must be carefully calculated and evidence presented to prove the losses. Because these calculations can often be extremely complex, it is always wise to have the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how to accurately calculate damages.

When a victim claims inaccurate damages, it can affect their entire case. If they overstate income, it may make the other party less likely to trust them or be less willing to come to a favorable settlement agreement. In addition, courts do not like it when parties seek damages to which they are not truly entitled. On the other hand, if an injured individual understates their damages, they will not have another chance to go back and seek the rest of their compensation at a later date. For this reason, it is important to fully consider all damages in a personal injury case but to be careful that the calculations are not overstated. The following are ways to determine different types of damages in a personal injury claim.

Special Damages

Special damages refer to the tangible financial losses incurred as a result of an injury. Because these losses are quantifiable, they are often fairly straightforward to calculate. For past losses, a victim will need to add up the bills they have received for medical expenses and the income they lost if they missed work. Special damages can include:

  • Expenses for all medical treatments, including emergency care, hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitative therapy, and more;
  • Any out-of-pocket costs, such as parking fees at the hospital, medical equipment, or prescription medications;
  • Costs to repair or replace damaged property; and
  • Lost wages, overtime payments, and other work compensation missed.

These types of damages are concrete and can generally be proved by presenting medical bills, pay statements, receipts, and more.

A victim can also recover for future special damages, which are more complicated to calculate. For example, a medical expert is often used to estimate the future medical treatment the victim will need for the duration of their injury and the costs thereof. The expert will generally have to testify to justify their estimations. Similarly, occupational and financial experts may be necessary to calculate future lost income, especially if the victim cannot return to their previous position due to their injuries. Such calculations can take into consideration worklife expectancy, age, occupational abilities, inflation, and much more. It is important to have qualified experts who can accurately estimate both past and future special damages.

General Damages

General damages refer to the non-economic losses sustained by a personal injury victim. Because these losses are subjective and are not readily quantifiable, they are more difficult to calculate. The following are examples of general damages:

  • General pain and suffering;
  • Physical aching and pains;
  • Emotional trauma;
  • Loss of consortium;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life;
  • Depression and anxiety; and
  • Sleep disruptions.

While it is more challenging to demonstrate the extent of personal pain and suffering, this can be accomplished through journals that regularly note the victim’s mood and state of mind, “day in the life” videos that can demonstrate the limitations they experience on a daily basis, as well as experts who can testify to the usual level of pain associated with certain physical injuries or psychological professionals who can conduct a thorough evaluation of a person’s emotional state.

The way that damages are determined varies from case to case depending on the particular losses incurred. An attorney can help to identify and calculate all relevant damages so that a victim can fully recover.

Determining Who Is at Fault for an Injury

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