Accident Damages Lawyers

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 What Are Personal Injury Accidents?

A personal injury occurs from an accident that damages a plaintiff’s emotional health, physical health, or both. Mental health injuries include emotional pain and anguish sustained resulting from an accident. Physical injuries include injuries to organs, limbs, or other parts of the plaintiff’s body. It is important to note that the injury does not need to manifest itself instantly, and may develop over time.

A personal injury can occur intentionally, such as when the defendant deliberately injures a victim or intends to commit an act that they know will result in injury. An intentional injury occurs when a defendant commits battery, assault, or false imprisonment.

However, a personal injury may also occur unintentionally. If an unintentional injury is the result of someone’s negligence, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on the negligent behavior. Auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, and injuries resulting from medical malpractice are all considered to be negligence cases.

More specifically, a negligence personal injury claim involves the plaintiff claiming that the defendant injured the plaintiff as a result of breaching a duty of care that the defendant owed to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff can prove that this breach caused an injury which then resulted in damages, the plaintiff has made out a claim for negligence.

The duty of care owed to a plaintiff largely depends on the circumstances. Generally speaking, the defendant is under a legal duty to exercise the same degree of care that an ordinary person would use under a similar set of facts.

Whether a duty of care to a plaintiff exists depends upon the foreseeability, or predictability, of harm that may result if the duty is not exercised. Simply put, the “test” for whether a plaintiff is owed a duty of care asks: would an average person, in the position of the defendant, foresee that the type of injury sustained by the plaintiff was likely to occur?

When yes, the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care. If the defendant breaches that duty which causes an injury resulting in damages, the defendant has committed personal injury through negligence. When no, then no duty is owed, and the defendant cannot have committed negligence.

Personal injuries can occur from any event. However, the most common types of accidents are:

What Are Accident Damages? What Losses Are Covered By Accident Damages?

There are many different types of damages that a person can claim after they were injured in an accident. Generally speaking, these damages are intended to cover:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Lost wages;
  • Lost opportunities; and/or
  • Pain and suffering.

Some specific examples of accidental injuries include, but are not limited to:

  • Slip and fall accidents;
  • Defective products accidents;
  • Dangerous premises, such as faulty stairs and falling objects; and
  • Accidents happening during the holidays, such as those associated with higher alcohol consumption and burns from cooking.

Generally speaking, a damages award is a sum of money that is paid to the victim in a personal injury case. In an accident claim, the award of money is considered to be proportional to the degree of injury that was suffered by the plaintiff. To reiterate, most accident lawsuits are based on a negligence theory, as it is unlikely that the defendant acted intentionally.

The majority of accident damages take the form of a compensatory damages award. This is a general sum that is calculated in order to help the victim recover monetary losses that are directly caused by the defendant. Other damages may include special damages, which cover related costs such as lost wages, or considerably specific medical or therapy-related expenses.

Lost wages and lost opportunities are highly sought after damages in an accident claim. This is because, after an accident, the victim is generally unable to work due to:

  • Physical impairment;
  • Multiple physical therapy sessions; and/or
  • Time spent at a hospital.

The reasoning is that if the accident did not occur, the victim could have been working and making money in order to support themselves. As such, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the injury impaired them in terms of earning future wages, in addition to also affecting past earnings. The jury will consider the following factors when determining an appropriate damages award:

  • Age;
  • Occupation;
  • Skill;
  • Experience; and
  • Whether the injury actually impairs the plaintiff from their job duties.

Are Punitive Damages Allowed In Accident Damages Awards?

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are awarded to the victim by a court as a form of punishment to the wrongdoer. They are intended to discourage others from engaging in the same wrongful actions. It is important to note that punitive damages are rarely awarded, and may only be awarded in specific cases when someone commits an act that is particularly egregious. Punitive damages are also awarded in addition to compensatory damages.

Some states have a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded, while other states limit punitive damages to a “reasonable” amount that is based on the value of the entire case.

Some common examples of conduct that generally result in punitive damages include:

  • Extreme negligence in a medical malpractice case, such as performing the wrong surgery or leaving a surgical implement in the patient’s body;
  • Conduct that is considered to be extremely dangerous and exposes the public to a high degree of harm, such as taking out a weapon in a crowded place; and
  • Conduct that displays an extreme disregard for laws and statutes, such as driving at speeds that are well above the speed limit in crowded areas.

Punitive damages awards may be issued for injuries that are caused either intentionally, or resulting from negligence. If a person acts negligently and should have known that their acts would result in substantial harm, they may face punitive damages. Personal injury lawsuits which generally result in punitive damages include:

  • Auto accidents;
  • Medical malpractice suits;
  • Assault and/or battery;
  • Drunk driving accidents; and
  • Defamation.

To reiterate, most courts only issue this damages award in order to address intentional acts. By nature, accidents are not intentional; as such, a punitive damages award is generally excluded. However, some personal injury cases can result in a damages award, specifically in cases which involve gross negligence or a high disregard for a person’s safety.

An example of this would be if the plaintiff was “joyriding” and sped through a pedestrian crossing zone while accidentally injuring several people. Although the injurious act may not have been intentional, the court may require punitive damages in order to address the grossly negligent act of speeding in a pedestrian zone.

Do I Need An Attorney For Accident Damages?

If you need assistance with a damages award, or would like more information regarding what sort of damages award you may expect, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer that is local to you can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific personal injury laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.

If you are the plaintiff, an attorney can pursue a suitable damages award. If you are the defendant, your attorney can determine whether there are any legal defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case.


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