A majority of the time it takes to resolve a personal injury case is dedicated to negotiating a settlement amount that is acceptable to both parties. Before any negotiations can begin, the damages need to be quantified into a figure. For many people, however, deciding what actually constitutes damages and putting a monetary figure on them often seems quite abstract. There is sometimes even a perception that there is some sort of secret formula insurance adjusters use to do this. While there is a loose formula in place to calculate damages, it is not really a secret and it does not necessarily mean this is what the plaintiff will receive. The figure is meant to serve as a benchmark for them to begin with.
Here is what to keep in mind as you begin determining the damages in your personal injury case in Chicago.
Types of Damages to Consider
There are a variety of different types of damage that a person can seek compensation for in a personal injury claim. Depending on the circumstances of their specific case, a plaintiff could seek the following types of damages:
- Compensation for medical expenses related to the injury – Medical expenses are a very common type of damage associated with personal injuries. This can include everything from hospitalization to testing and physical therapy. Damages in this category are not restricted to the past medical bills, but can also include any future medical expenses if, for instance, the injuries lead to a permanent disability that requires use of medical devices or lifelong nursing care. Sometimes a portion of the money awarded for medical expenses must be turned over to a health insurer if they were paying the plaintiff’s bills prior to the settlement being decided.
- Lost income/wages connected to the injury – When a person is obligated to miss work due to their injuries, the liable party is also responsible for compensating them for any wages they lost due to missing work. In addition, if the injuries do not recover fully and the person is unable to return to their normal work activities, compensation for future lost income can also be awarded.
- Pain and suffering – Personal injury cases very often include some amount for pain and suffering, an amount that can be quite significant especially for serious injury cases. Since these type of damages are abstract, insurers and lawyers will typically use a multiplier, depending on the severity of injuries, with the concrete financial losses to calculate pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress – For certain personal injury cases where there are emotional ramifications on the plaintiff, the jury may award this type of damages. Proof of emotional distress, such as the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, is often proven through psychiatric records.
- Wrongful death – These types of damages are awarded specifically to family members of injured persons whose injuries resulted in death. What these damages entail depends on the nature of the case and the survivors bringing up the action. For instance, a spouse may claim damages for the loss of a sexual relationship whereas a child might claim loss of care or moral guidance.
- Loss of consortium or loss of companionship – This category of damages is related to wrongful deaths and seeks to compensate survivors for their loss of relationship with the deceased.
- Punitive damages – These types of damages are often awarded in intentional tort cases. Although also awarded as a monetary sum, unlike other damages, which are meant to heal the plaintiff, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing.
Damages may also be categorized as economic and noneconomic, with medical expenses and income being considered the former and items such as pain and suffering being the latter.
The Damage Formula
Once the types of damage present in a particular case have been determined, they can be added together to come up with a benchmark figure for the value of the claim. An insurance adjuster will come up with their own figure based on the damages they think the case merits. However, they will not share how they came up with their figure. This is why it is important to understand how to calculate the damages of your own claim.
First, collect any medical bills already associated with the injury and lost income. Add to this an estimate of future medical expenses and loss of wages. This will likely require the help of an attorney who has access to experts who can provide an accurate estimate for permanent damage caused by serious injuries. Once the total of all economic damages has been determined, use the multiplier to come up with a figure for pain and suffering.
Factors That Affect the Formula
While the economic damages can easily be supported by medical bills and other documentation, the non economic damages like pain and suffering must be multiplied. The more serious the injury, the greater this multiplier should be. The following factors are taken into account for the multiplier:
- Severity and pain of the injury;
- Whether the treatment was invasive and time-consuming;
- Existence of medical evidence and apparentness of your injuries;
- Length of the recovery period; and
- Existence of any visible or permanent damage from the injury.
If you have difficulty determining what types of damage are present in your case and quantifying them, it can be helpful to consult with an attorney.