Seeking Damages and Collecting Compensation with a Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal and financial losses often ensue from accidents. To save you from sinking down further, the law allows you to pursue compensation from the party at fault. A personal injury lawsuit aims to make you financially whole again and ease the burden of the accident.
Filing a personal injury claim and collecting damages can be a complicated and confusing process, given the complicated state laws. That’s why working with a personal injury lawyer is an important part of your success.
Different Types of Damages
The point of a personal injury claim is to seek just compensation from the wrongful or negligent party. How much money your claim is worth depends on a wide variety of factors, and it can be very helpful to understand how damages are awarded or calculated. Compensatory damages are usually divided into three basic groups: special compensatory, general compensatory, and punitive.
Special compensatory damages, also called economic damages, refer to the specific and calculatable losses caused by an accident or injury. This includes items like medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and costs associated with changing plans or additional household expenses. A major part of any lawsuit is collecting information and adding up the total amounts of special compensatory damages, ensuring that no expenses, including possible future expenses, are missed.
General compensatory damages, or non-economic damages, are those amounts related to general injury or loss for the accident. They cannot be as easily defined or calculated as economic damages. These include such things as pain and suffering, loss of companionship or mental anguish. While amounts for general compensatory damages can vary widely, they are included in most settlement offers or awarded by jury if the lawsuit goes to court.
Punitive damages are rarer than special or general compensatory damages. The motive behind punitive damages goes beyond making you whole again or restoring your losses and is intended to serve as financial punishment to the wrongdoer. Punitive damages may be leveled against a person who intentionally committed a heinous crime such as assault. It is most often used against larger corporations or manufacturers who intentionally provided defective products or misinformation that harmed consumers.
Deciding on a Settlement Offer
The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court by negotiating with insurance companies. Lawyers can still provide their legal expertise in this manner, as they can decide if you’re dealing with a fair settlement offer. Insurance companies are notorious for shortchanging plaintiffs, especially in the early stages of the lawsuit. Ensuring that a settlement offer is fair and includes payment for all applicable damages is difficult for most plaintiffs to do alone.
Gaining damages or settlement is only half the process, though. A court award entitles the plaintiff to an amount of money, but the money they actually receive is dependent on the defendant’s ability to pay. This means most settlement amounts are limited by the maximum values payable from insurance.
For example, if a defendant’s insurance liability covers them up to $150,000, a plaintiff may not be able to fully collect an award of $250,000, or it may take a long time to receive the full amount. Insurance companies rarely agree to a settlement for more than the amount of a policy, but higher damages may be awarded by a jury in court.
If damages are awarded higher than a defendant’s insurance coverage, a plaintiff must begin the process of collecting the additional money from the defendant’s own pocket. While not technically a lawsuit, a person may need to take many additional legal steps to collect their compensation. This could include discovering hidden assets, placing liens on property or garnishing wages. A personal injury lawyer may be needed even after a settlement is reached.
By understanding the possible damages to be collected and how a settlement may be reached and received, a plaintiff is better prepared to face the challenges of a personal injury lawsuit.
Damages: How Much is a Personal Injury Case Worth?, nolo.com
Types of Compensation in a Personal Injury Case, alllaw.com