A personal injury award is granted to the victim in a personal injury lawsuit in order to provide them with legal relief for injuries caused by the defendant.  Generally speaking, most personal injury lawsuits result in a monetary damages award.  This is a monetary amount paid to the victim by the liable party or parties.  In personal injury cases, monetary damages are paid out to the injured person (the plaintiff) by the person or entity that is found legally responsible for causing the accident and the injuries (the defendant). The plaintiff and the defendant can agree damage awards after a negotiated settlement among the parties, their insurance companies, and their attorneys.

In some cases, the court may issue an injunction (a court order prohibiting conduct or requiring the defendant to take certain actions).  Most personal injury lawsuits result in a damages award to cover the plaintiff’s losses.  These are common in cases such as automobile accidents, slip and fall claims, negligence lawsuits, and class action suits.

What Do Personal Injury Awards Usually Cover?

There can often be many different components to a personal injury award.  Of course, the amount of damages and the scope of coverage will depend on the injuries and losses sustained.  But many personal injury awards may cover:

  • Compensatory Damages:  These are damages that are intended to compensate the plaintiff for their losses.  These should be calculable, and directly caused by the defendant’s conduct
  • Restitutionary Damages:  These are damages that are calculated based on the gain obtained by the defendant for their violation
  • Punitive Damages These damages are intended to punish the defendant.  They are usually only granted in cases of willful or intentional conduct, and if there are also compensatory damages being issued.  Many states place limits on the amount of punitive damages (usually about 3-10 times the amount of compensatory damages)
  • Pain and Suffering:  These are granted in some cases where the victim can prove that they suffered additional hardships from the injury

In most personal injury cases, the bulk of the plaintiff’s losses will be covered through the compensatory damages award.  This usually covers losses such as medical bills, hospital and medicine costs, lost wages, and other direct losses.  However, punitive damages can also be quite high if applied. 

What Are Compensatory Damages in a Personal Claim?

Most personal injury damages are classified as “compensatory” damages. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the injured plaintiff for what was lost because of the accident or injury. Compensatory damages are also intended to make the injured plaintiff whole again and place them in the same position they were prior to the injury.

While the specific rules may vary by jurisdiction, the following personal injury losses can be recovered through a compensatory damages award:

  • Medical Expenses and Cost of Medical Treatment: Compensatory damages usually cover the costs of hospital bills, medical treatment, prescription medicines, and other health care aspects
  • Lost Wages or Future Loss of Earnings: If the personal injury resulted in a loss of wages, these can be recovered through compensatory damages. In some cases the victim can also be compensated if the injury causes them to lose the ability to earn wages in the future.
  • Costs Associated with Repair/Replacement of Property: A victim can usually be compensated for damage to property that was directly caused by the defendant’s actions. This is usually calculated according to the fair market value of the property at the time of the injury.
  • Cost of Living with a Disability: If the plaintiff’s injuries lead to a disability, they can sometimes receive compensation for costs associated with the disability (such as wheelchairs or assisted living arrangements). They can also be compensated for future loss of earnings if the injury reduces their amount of wages that they can earn in the future.

Are There Any Limits on Personal Injury Awards?

In most cases, the amount of compensatory damages needs to be proportional to the damage sustained by the plaintiff.  This is to ensure that the plaintiff doesn’t claim additional losses that are unrelated to the claim or that the defendant didn’t actually cause.  The calculation of compensatory damages can get complicated and generally requires the assistance of a lawyer. There are some states that place limits on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Also, as mentioned, many states may place limits on punitive damages if they are awarded.  Some states also place similar caps on personal injury awards that revolve around medical malpractice.  These types of limits are designed to prevent abuses of the legal system.

How Can I Obtain a Favorable Personal Injury Award?

One of the main aspects in any personal injury claim is to ensure that your damages are calculable to a “reasonable degree of certainty”.  This means that you should be able to prove clearly and accurately exactly which losses you should be compensated for.  In order to do this, it may be necessary to provide written proof of your losses by providing medical receipts, hospital bills, pay stubs from work, and other documents.

In addition, you should understand that your ability to collect a personal injury award may also depend on your own degree of liability.  Some jurisdictions may limit the amount of damages that can be collected if the victim was also at fault in causing their own injuries (for instance, if their own traffic violation contributed to a car accident).

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Obtaining a Personal Injury Award?

Personal injury awards can help a person obtain compensation for losses caused in by a personal injury.  You may wish to contact a personal injury lawyer if you need help obtaining a personal injury award.  Your lawyer can advise you of your options when it comes to filing for an injury award.  Your attorney can provide legal representation in court if you need to file a personal injury lawsuit.