Damages Available in a Personal Injury Claim
By: Jeremy Schatz, Managing Attorney, Virtus Law Group, Birmingham Alabama.
When you are injured as a result of someone else’s actions you will undoubtedly have many questions, but one of the most what damages are available to you.
In a personal injury action, damages can be broken down into two general categories: Compensatory and Punitive.
Compensatory damages are meant to make the injured party whole by compensating the injured party through monetary disbursement.
Generally, compensatory damages are broken down into non-economic damages and economic damages.
Non-economic damages are what injured parties are often most familiar with. They include pain and suffering (which may include future pain and suffering), mental anguish, and scarring and disfigurement. These types of damages are unique to every single case and each injured party. Unfortunately, there is no exact formula to determine the dollar amount of non-economic damages that an injured party may recover.
Economic Damages are what can be best explained as a hard cost to the injured party. This most commonly includes medical expenses and any lost wages from inability to work due to the injury.
These types of damages are meant to be punishment and are focused on the at-fault’s party’s actions, not the damages caused. They are not available for simple acts of negligence, To receive punitive damages the at-fault party’s conduct must be severe, outrageous, or intentional.
The amount of punitive damages is at the sole discretion of the jury( or judge if it’s a bench trial) and must be constitutionally proportionate.
For example, a driver is not paying attention and rear-ends you causing a neck injury. You are in pain and forced to go to your doctor who diagnoses you with severe whiplash. As a result, you miss 3 days of work and receive a $1,000 bill from your Doctor.
In this example, you would be entitled to recover the amount you lost in income for three days of missed work along with the $1,000 bill from your Doctor. Additionally, you could recover money for the pain and suffering you have endured along with possibly any future pain and suffering you may have.
However, in the above example, you are not likely to recover punitive damages. But, change the facts to the at-fault party being intoxicated and punitive damages may now be available.