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Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases

Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases

A person who suffers an injury that someone else is legally liable for might demand damages in compensation. Typically, the target of a damages claim is an at-fault party or their liability insurance company.

If you suffer a physical injury, there are many different types of damages that you might qualify for, depending on the circumstances. The three main types of available damages are economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive (exemplary) damages.

Economic Damages

Economic Damages

If you want to know whether a particular loss generates a claim for economic damages, ask yourself whether it is easy to count the compensation you seek. If it is easy to count, you are probably seeking economic damages. Following are some examples.

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses include, among other items:

  • Ambulance fees,
  • Hospital bills,
  • Surgery fees,
  • Doctor’s visits,
  • Prescription and non-prescription medication,
  • Lab testing fees,
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation,
  • Pain management treatment, and
  • Medical equipment.

Beyond these items, you can recover for any reasonable and necessary medical expense.

Anticipated Future Medical Expenses

Under normal circumstances, you should wait until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before you seek reimbursement for your medical bills. MMI is the point where you have improved as much as you probably ever will. It is typically the point where medical treatment ends.

Once medical treatment ends, you will be in a position to calculate your total medical expenses. That way, you will know how much to ask for without having to speculate.

Sometimes it is impossible to wait until all your medical bills are in before you pursue your claim. If you have to file your claim before you have finished accumulating medical bills, you will have to include some anticipated future medical expenses.

This can be dangerous because these amounts can be immense. If you underestimate them, you could face huge future financial problems. If necessary, hire an expert witness to help you calculate these amounts.

Lost Earnings and Benefits

How many days (or weeks) of work did you miss due to your injuries? Did you lose benefits as well as your salary? If you are an employee, your employer can help you calculate and document your losses. Things can get complicated if, for example, you are a sales representative working on commission since your income is probably unstable.

Things can get even more complicated if you are self-employed and your income is variable. You might need to calculate your average weekly or monthly income, document missed appointments, and include copies of your tax returns to prove your losses. This is another way in which a lawyer can help you.

Diminished Earning Capacity

“Diminished earning capacity” means something like “anticipated future lost earnings.” If you haven’t made it back to full-time work by the time you file your personal injury claim, you might still be accumulating lost earnings while you negotiate (or litigate) your claim.

For instance, if you suffered a catastrophic injury, you might be forced into early retirement. An expert witness can help you calculate and prove the extent to which your injuries diminished your lifetime earning capacity.

Property Damage

The most common form of property damage is damage to (or loss of) your automobile during a car accident. Your car is totaled if it will cost more to fix it than to replace it. Texas requires its drivers to carry at least $25,000 in property damage liability insurance. Nevertheless, many Texans are uninsured.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Out-of-pocket expenses typically include the following types of losses:

  • Childcare expenses while you were in the hospital;
  • Travel expenses related to medical care;
  • Medical equipment; and
  • Caregiver assistance to help you with cooking, bathing, and more.

You should at least try to claim any expense coming out of your pocket that is reasonably related to your injuries.

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Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages represent your intangible losses. While these damages might be “only” psychological, they often add up to much more than half of a full personal injury compensation package. Following is a brief overview of the most common types of non-economic damages.

Pain and Suffering

“Pain and suffering” almost always arise after sustaining a personal injury. Pain and suffering damages can be minor if your injuries aren’t particularly burdensome. If your injuries will cause you a lifetime of chronic pain, by contrast, they can be immense. For most people, pain and suffering damages fall somewhere between these two extremes.

Emotional Distress

Emotional distress also often comes about in personal injury incidents. You might suffer nightmares or a phobia resulting from a dog attack, for example. You might suffer insomnia, depression, or other purely psychological symptoms after a car accident.

If you did not suffer physical injuries in your accident, you generally cannot recover for these damages. If they arose as a byproduct of an accident in which you suffered physical injuries, however, you can recover damages for them.

Scarring and Disfigurement

Imagine, for example, that you suffered extensive facial scarring in your accident. Alternatively, imagine that you lost an arm. Compensation for medical care incident to these injuries simply will not be enough. That is why the “scarring and disfigurement” category exists.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Your injuries might prevent you from participating in activities you once enjoyed, such as:

  • Exercise,
  • Playing with your dog,
  • Chess, or
  • Sports.

You can claim loss of enjoyment of life damages for any activity that your injuries prevent you from enjoying, as long as you were enjoying them on a regular basis prior to your accident.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is a unique claim because it is your parent, spouse, or child who files this claim. The assertion is that your injuries deprived them of the benefits of their relationship with you. This might mean love, affection, care, companionship, protection, or, in the case of your spouse, a sexual relationship.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are additional damages that courts sometimes award plaintiffs. Since their primary purpose is to punish the defendant, not to compensate the victim, courts seldom award them. To qualify for punitive damages, you must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant acted with fraud, malice, or gross negligence.

For example, if someone intentionally assaults you, you may be eligible to recover punitive damages. Nevertheless, there is never any guarantee of punitive damages.

Legal Limitations on the Amount of Damages Available

Texas personal injury law limits the amount that a court can award you for certain types of damages. These limits also effectively limit the amount you can obtain from a private settlement. After all, why should an opposing party agree to provide you with an amount that a court will not even agree to? Texas limits personal injury damages in the following three instances:

  • Non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims. Texas limits these to $250,000 per defendant and $750,000 per claim. This means if there are more than three defendants, you cannot receive $250,000 from all of them.
  • State government defendants. The applicable limits for bodily injury are $250,000 per defendant and $500,000 per case. These limits apply to total damages, including economic and non-economic damages. There is a $100,000 limit for property damage.
  • Punitive damages. Texas limits punitive damages to $200,000 or twice the value of your non-economic damages, whichever is greater, with an ultimate limit of $750,000 per case.

A Texas court is free to limit its award to an amount below these limits as it sees fit and as justice requires.

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An Austin Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Recover Compensation After an Accident

You may very well be underestimating the value of your personal injury claim. Alternatively, you might be overestimating it. Either way, seeking the advice of an experienced Austin personal injury attorney at FVF Law can help you come to a more realistic view of what to expect. Statistically, people who hire attorneys end up with much higher personal injury damages than people who don’t, so reach out today at (512) 982-9328 or contact us online.

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