In life, you want certainty. Fear of the unknown forces us to make choices. This is often true in matters of personal injury law as well.
Before embarking on a personal injury suit, you want to know exactly what you’ll get out of it. It’s a long, expensive process, and you must know if it’s worth your time and effort. Unfortunately, there are no sure-fire, guarantees when it comes to a lawsuit. How much money can you get from a personal injury suit? The answer, as with any legal matter, is, “it depends.”
Personal injury law is designed to pay you back for injuries that aren’t your fault. Within that system, there are variables. It may not be possible to know exactly what you’ll get from a lawsuit. Here are some reasons why.
THE UNKNOWN EXTENT OF YOUR INJURY
It sounds odd, but you could be seriously injured without realizing it. At the scene of a car crash, for example, you are probably coursing with hormones that dull your pain. You may not be aware of your injury until hours or even days later. Furthermore, injuries can compound. One injury could lead to another. For instance, when someone suffers internal damage, the initial injury causes more problems. A misplaced bone could puncture an organ. If your injuries lead to more difficulties, this only drags the process out further.
Injuries can cause problems indirectly, too. An injury could alter the way you move, sit, stand, etc. This puts strain somewhere else on your body, causing problems.
Because you can’t be certain of how injured you are, you can’t accurately estimate how much your medical bills will cost. Treatment is gradual. It takes several visits, follow-ups, diagnoses, treatments, therapies, prescriptions, and more to get well.
Even surgery can’t guarantee a perfect outcome. Often, these procedures create a “wait and see” situation. You go under the knife, and then you go back to your doctor to make sure everything is okay. If not, you may require more invasive treatments and recoveries.
MULTIPLE CAR REPAIRS
In a car accident, property expenses often mirror medical costs. Fixing your car can require multiple trips to the mechanic. Like an internal injury leading to further complications, the damage inside a car can cause more problems to other parts. Multiple repairs make calculating your total compensation difficult.
UNCLEAR FIGURES FOR LOST INCOME
While recovering from your injury, you may have lost income. Perhaps you went over your allotted sick time, forced to use non-paid days off. Maybe you were unable to return to work, or your continued absence resulted in termination. Any income you missed because of your injury counts as a loss, and you can include it in your claim.
Furthermore, you can include the loss of “future income,” requesting payment for income you would have earned. You can even include “potential income.” Imagine a writer who, because of their car accident, temporarily loses the use of their hands. They could have been on the verge of a book deal but lost the opportunity because they physically couldn’t work. This is income they could have made, and it can be included in their claim.
Calculating a loss of income is difficult. There are several factors to consider, including your work history, the job market, the median income in your field, and more.
CREATING A VERY ROUGH ESTIMATE
Don’t be disheartened. If you can’t calculate a definitive amount for damages, there are still ways to estimate this value.
You can easily find an online calculator for just about anything. This includes lawsuit damages. After locating one, plug in your numbers. It should ask for expenses connected to your injury. With the click of a button, you’ll receive an amount representing what you could receive in a lawsuit. However, your expenses may change over time. When that happens, you may be better off with the next calculation method.
ADD IT UP YOURSELF
We’ve discussed medical costs, property repairs, and lost income, all of which can be recovered in a lawsuit.
You can add all the money you spent and lost because of your injury, creating a clearer picture of what you could gain in a personal injury suit. Remember, however, the continued message: you cannot predict the future. The money you already spent does not account for any future expenses. Furthermore, there are “non-economic” damages you could win in a lawsuit.
Personal injury law allows a plaintiff to be awarded “non-economic damages.” Essentially, this is financial compensation for your troubles, not for the money you’ve already lost. Even when you’ve created a rough estimate for damages you can receive, you can’t account for these damages on your own.
PAIN AND SUFFERING
Sometimes, an attorney requests additional damages for the plaintiff’s suffering. They use several complex formulas to reach a reasonable dollar amount. Essentially, the longer a plaintiff suffered and the worse their pain, the more pain and suffering damages they can receive.
Sometimes, damages aren’t meant to compensate the plaintiff. Instead, they are designed to punish the defendant. In some cases, a defendant’s behavior is so egregious, the judge believes they deserve a harsh penalty. Judges can’t sentence someone to jail in a civil case, so they use money as punishment.
Punitive damages are rare. The defendant would have to be engaged in behavior so dangerous that it borders on evil. Maybe they drove 80 miles per hour in a school zone, killing a crossing guard. Perhaps they targeted someone with their car, willfully injuring them. If you believe that you were maliciously harmed, your attorney could make a plea for punitive damages.
YOUR ATTORNEY IS THERE TO HELP
Remember, any estimate you calculate is a mere baseline. You should never use this figure as a precise amount. Your total exists only to help you decide whether pursuing a lawsuit is worth the time, effort, and expense.
Ultimately, estimating your damages requires the skills of a legal professional. You may be able to add up your expenses, but only your lawyer can figure out the rest. They can, for instance, formulate the dollar amount for your pain and suffering damages.
Even after creating a final claim for damages, the process isn’t over. This amount must be negotiated, and it can change radically.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact our firm for a free consultation. We may be able to help you calculate the damages you could receive in a personal injury suit. Call us at 918-492-7674 today, or contact us online.