Since every personal injury case is different, it is impossible to give a definitive, one-size-fits-all answer to the question of “How much is my personal injury claim worth?” One answer that enjoys broad applicability, however, is “Probably a lot more than you think.”
A complete personal injury claim involves many components of damages, and some of them are not intuitively obvious.
The Various Components of a Personal Injury Claim
Following is a description of some of the most common components of a typical personal injury claim.
Medical expenses include hospital bills, doctor visits, surgery, pharmaceuticals, and every other necessary and appropriate medical treatment. Questions might be raised about the legitimacy of your treatment, however, if you resorted to alternative remedies such as homeopathy or acupuncture.
Future Medical Expenses
Normally, you should wait to file your claim until you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement, the point where you have already recovered as much as you are ever going to. In most cases, this means a full recovery, which will not require you to claim any future medical expenses. If you suffer a catastrophic injury, however, you may incur medical expenses far into the future. You will need to estimate and claim them now.
If you were working at the time of your accident, and if you spent time in the hospital and convalescing at home due to your injuries, you will need to claim lost earnings. It doesn’t matter if you used your sick leave – your consumption of available sick leave is a loss as well, and you can demand compensation for it.
Occupational disability occurs when you are unable to return to your old job due to your injuries. You might switch to a less demanding job, or you might not be able to work at all. You might even need an expert to calculate your total future losses due to occupational disability. The younger you are, the more compensation you are likely to receive for a permanent disability.
If you have children living at home, especially small children, someone has to look after them. If you cannot do it because of your injury, you will need to pay for child care. You can claim reimbursement for these expenses.
You can claim any expenses that arise from your accident, provided that the relationship between your expenses and the accident is not too attenuated. Did you spend money on parking fees to visit your doctor? You can claim these expenses and potentially many more.
You can claim damage to your property arising from the accident, even though property damage is not a personal injury claim. The most common property damage claim is damage to a vehicle from a car accident.
Pain and Suffering
“Pain and suffering” means physical pain and suffering arising from your accident. Pain and suffering damages often amount to several times the amount of the medical expense compensation that you receive. In fact, pain and suffering damages often constitute well over half the total amount of a personal injury claim.
Emotional distress damages compensate you for more intangible distress than pain and suffering damages do. You might receive emotional distress damages, for example, if a dog attack left you with a lifelong fear of dogs. Another example would be fear of automobiles after a car crash. Depression, PTSD, and a host of other conditions can justify emotional distress damages.
Loss of Consortium
“Loss of consortium” means loss of sexual function, intimacy, and companionship. Generally, the spouse of an injured victim will bring this claim. In some cases, other relatives bring it.
Compensating you for medical expenses and pain and suffering would not be enough if you suffered from, say, severe facial scarring or the loss of a limb. Compensation for permanent disfigurement aims to make up the difference.
Lost Enjoyment of Life
Do you find yourself unable to enjoy hobbies and leisure? Do you miss your former once-a-day walk in the park? Do you miss your fishing buddies? Do you long to return to the gym? You can claim damages for loss of enjoyment of life.
Courts award punitive damages only when the defendant’s conduct was outrageous. Although the goal is to punish the defendant and thereby deter similar future behavior, the money goes to the injured victim. Courts only occasionally award punitive damages. You probably won’t get punitive damages even if you win your case. Since it is possible, however, you should look into it with your lawyer.
A Workers’ Compensation Claim is Not a Personal Injury Claim
Workers’ compensation claims are not personal injury claims, and you cannot claim noneconomic damages even if you win. Usually, all you can claim is medical expenses and lost earnings.
This means no pain and suffering damages, no emotional distress damages, no loss of consortium damages, etc. A good lawyer might be able to find a loophole you can use to file a personal injury claim, however.
You Usually Cannot Obtain Full Personal Injury Damages for a Florida Car Accident Claim
Florida operates a “no-fault” auto insurance system that does not pay non-economic damages. Like workers’ compensation claims, all you can normally receive is compensation for medical expenses and lost earnings.
Even these amounts top out at $10,000. Although in some cases you can exit the no-fault system and file a personal injury lawsuit, Florida drivers do not have to carry the liability insurance that you would need to pay such a claim. For more information, is important you speak with a car accident attorney for legal help.
Limitations on the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim
Certain factors operate to limit the value of many personal injury claims, including:
- Comparative fault: The victim was partly to blame for the accident.
- Weak evidence: The weaker your evidence is, the less money an insurance company is likely to offer you.
- Insurance coverage limitations: No matter how large your claim is or how strong your evidence is, no insurance company is obligated to pay you more than the amount of their coverage limits.
- Negotiating skills: Insurance adjusters are professional accident claim investigators. Are you? If not, your attorney might be.
In addition to the foregoing limitations, consider the unpredictable nature of a jury if you go to trial. Different juries can look at the same evidence in completely different ways. Of course, this unpredictability can redound to your benefit if you get a “runaway jury” that awards you a dizzying amount of compensation.
Let Us Handle Your Claim While You Focus on Recovery
Here is a harsh truth: most personal injury claims settle out of court, and most personal injury victims settle for far less than their claim is worth. Don’t let that be you.
At Kibbey Wagner, we can help you fight for every dime you deserve. Don’t worry about money because our legal services are free unless we win your case. Contact us today to get a free consultation with a Stuart injury attorney to discuss your case as well.