Personal injury is a legal term used to describe the physical, mental, and emotional injuries and property damages that result from an accident. If an injured accident victim files a personal injury claim, they are requesting financial compensation from the party who caused the accident.
What are Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?
“Compensatory damages” is a legal term describing the financial compensation awarded to the victim in a personal injury claim. The purpose of compensatory damages is to compensate the plaintiff for the losses and damages that they sustained as a result of the accident.
Each state has different laws, limits, and rules regarding compensatory damage awards. In general, a judge or jury can use a great amount of discretion when calculating and awarding compensatory damages to an accident victim.
When calculating compensatory damages in a personal injury claim, the following factors are considered:
- The accident victim’s age;
- The nature and extent of the victim’s injuries;
- Whether or not the victim contributed to the cause of the accident (contributory negligence);
- The costs associated with the medical treatment of a victim’s injuries;
- Any difference in the victim’s earning capacity before and after the injury;
- Loss of income as a result of the injury; and
- Any negative impacts that the injury may have on the victim’s quality of life.
What are Compensatory Damages Awarded For?
Compensatory damages may be awarded to compensate an accident victim for a variety of expenses resulting from the accident. These types of expenses typically include:
- Medical expenses and treatment costs for physical injuries including ambulance transportation costs, hospital bills, prescription medicine costs, and future physical therapy sessions;
- Loss of income and loss of future income if an injury causes a victim to take time off from work or if a victim loses the ability to earn wages in the future;
- The costs associated with the repair or replacement of personal property damaged or destroyed in an accident, such as a car or motorcycle crash;
- Medical expenses associated with the treatment of mental and emotional injuries resulting from the accident such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression;
- Loss of consortium when the spouse of the accident victim receives compensation for the loss of household contributions; and
- Costs related to permanent disability or physical disfigurement for severe and life-altering injuries.
Some jurisdictions limit the amount of compensatory damages that a victim can be awarded in a personal injury claim. In all personal injury claim cases, the compensatory damages that a victim requests must be reasonable and proportionate to the accident victim’s losses and damages.
What Do I Need to Prove to Get Compensatory Damages?
As an accident victim, you need to be able to prove multiple facts to be eligible for recovering compensatory damages in your personal injury claim.
First, in your claim, you need to prove that the person who caused your accident was acting negligently or recklessly. You must demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence or recklessness directly contributed to causing your accident. This may be proven for example by showing that a was speeding while driving, or that a business should have cleaned a wet floor to prevent a slipping hazard.
In your personal injury claim, you will also need to show that the accident itself caused your injuries and property damages. In some cases, a defendant will argue that you sustained your injuries before or after the accident. In these situations, it’s best to seek medical treatment immediately following an accident so that your injuries are properly documented and diagnosed by a medical professional.
To preserve evidence of personal property damages, you may consider taking clear and detailed photographs of any damages sustained by your car following a crash, including collision points, dents, broken glass, and scrapes.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you also need to provide documentation of the financial costs associated with your injuries and damages. This documentation will be used to help calculate your compensatory damages. Medical bills, long term treatment guidelines, repair bills, and written documentation related to your inability to work while your injuries heal, should all reflect the reasonable costs incurred by you as a result of your accident.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help for Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you’ve been the victim of an accident, you may be able to receive compensatory damages on your own, but filing a personal injury claim is difficult. You need to ensure that any compensatory damages that you request in your claim fully cover the costs of all of your accident-related expenses.
It’s in your best interests to contact a personal injury lawyer immediately following your accident. A lawyer can help make sure that you receive the proper compensation for all of your injuries and damages.