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If you suffer through an automobile accident and decide to file a lawsuit, you may be entitled to damages. Personal injury damages come in a wide variety of forms, and the amounts change depending on the circumstances of the case.

Compensatory Economic Damages. 

Compensatory damages are those designed to reimburse plaintiffs for identifiable losses. Compensatory damages are said to “make the plaintiff whole.” Compensatory economic damages can include:

  • The cost of medical bills. This can include costs for treatment immediately following the accident as well as the cost of those bills that are likely to accrue in the future due to permanent complications.
  • The cost of any necessary surgeries resulting from the accident. You do not need to have already had the surgery in order to recover from it. As long as a doctor is prepared to testify that you need the surgery, you can recover.
  • The cost of a rental vehicle until such time as the automobile damaged in the accident can be fixed or a new automobile can be found.
  • Wages lost as a result of time spent away from work because of the accident.
  • Future wages lost as a result of the accident. Determining future wages can be complicated. Calculating them depends upon the age of the victim and their potential career path. A postal worker on the verge of retirement, for example, would probably be rewarded less than would a medical student who was just about to become a doctor but now cannot due to her injuries.

Compensatory Non-Economic Damages. 

Non-economic damages are those that are difficult to value and may include remuneration for:

  • Disfigurement. Awards based on disfigurement will be different based on the circumstances of the plaintiff. If, for example, a veteran fire fighter gets a scar on their face, they may be rewarded less than would an inexperienced actor who gets the same scar. The logic is that in the case of the firefighter, the scar probably will not affect their ability to earn money, but in the case of the actor it may.
  • Pain and Suffering. Awards based on pain and suffering compensate the plaintiff for physical pain suffered as well as emotional distress. The longer the physical pain is expected to last into the plaintiff’s life, the bigger the reward will be. Awards for suffering can encompass things like embarrassment, anxiety and stress suffered as a result of the accident.
  • Loss of consortium/affection. In cases where a plaintiff loses a loved one in an accident, they can recover for the corresponding loss in affection.
  • Disability. If the accident leaves the plaintiff unable to engage in activities they enjoyed before the accident, they can be rewarded for their loss of enjoyment.

Non-economic damages like pain and suffering may be difficult to value and prove in court. A personal injury attorney should be able to determine if you should demand compensation for  this type of cases – said Pierre A. Louis with the Louis Law Group, a personal injury firm in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Punitive Damages. 

Unlike compensatory damages, which are designed to put the plaintiff in the position they would be in had the accident not happened, punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, exist to punish defendants who engaged in especially egregious behavior. Punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant:

  • Drove at excessive speeds.
  • Was voluntarily intoxicated.
  • Had knowledge that his vehicle was in poor condition but drove it anyway.
  • Failed to stop at the scene of the accident.
  • Violated traffic or safety laws, such as running red lights or making illegal U-turns.

The rules governing the amount of damages you can receive vary slightly state by state and you should always seek legal help from a licensed attorney. Some states, for example, cap the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded, while some states have no limit. Consult closely with your attorney to understand your potential recoveries.

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Written By
Mark Larson
Mark Larson is a partner at Larson, Larson & Dauer, ALC. Mark's practice is primarily focused on workers' compensation, employment law and personal injury. Mark is from a family of attorneys and has grown up watching insurance companies repeatedly deny benefits to those that have been injured by their insured. This is how Mark began to develop a passion for the law and fighting against insurance companies. Mark Larson is a regular contributor on ListaLegal. You can contact him through his profile.

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