Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Of all the elements of a personal injury claim that must be proved for a plaintiff to recover, showing that the plaintiff suffered some kind of damages may seem like the simplest part. Compared to proving causation, for example, which can require eyewitnesses and accident scene reconstructions, proving that the plaintiff was injured can be less burdensome as the plaintiff has complete access to his or her own medical records, doctors, and physical condition. That said, there are a wide range of damages available in a personal injury case, and the amount that a plaintiff might recover can run the gamut from several thousands of dollars to millions of dollars, even based on the same facts. The extreme difference in amounts of recovery can often be traced to how well a particular personal injury attorney was able to present compelling evidence for the necessity of the various categories of damages. Let’s walk through the types of damages that you might recover in a New Jersey car accident or other injury case.
Medical Care: What Costs are Covered?
In short, all of your medical care costs due to the accident are covered, from surgeries and hospitalizations to in-home nursing care, in-home medical equipment, rehabilitation and so on. Importantly, both past and future medical costs will be included in your award. The challenge will be in calculating the full costs of medical care due to your injury over your lifetime and making a convincing case for those costs to the judge and jury. An experienced personal injury attorney will work with medical professionals and expert witnesses to make those calculations and get you the lifetime costs of care you deserve.
Can I Recover for Lost Wages?
Yes, if you missed work due to your injury, then you may recover the wages that you would have received but for your injury. You can also recover the costs of future lost wages, if your injury has required you to take short-term or long-term disability leave, or if you are now permanently unable to work. Similar to future medical costs, your attorney will work with medical professionals and expert witnesses to determine the full amount of lost wages you will likely suffer over the course of your career and present that evidence to a jury.
How About Lost Career Potential?
An injured plaintiff may also recover for lost career potential, or reduced earning capacity as it is sometimes referred to. This is a little different from lost wages. Here, if you were in a career or perhaps studying for a career or trade that you can no longer pursue because of an injury (for example, if you were a commercial airline pilot whose vision was damaged in an injury, and you can no longer fly), then you may recover for the loss of earning potential you suffered as a result of the injury.
What is Pain and Suffering and How is it Calculated?
Pain and suffering damages are intended to compensate victims for the emotional trauma of having to endure their injuries. Pain and suffering damages are awarded on top of the costs of medical care for those injuries, and can in some cases be much higher than the cost of medical care. The motivation for providing pain and suffering damages is to try to put the plaintiff in the same position as if the injury never happened. That is of course impossible, but pain and suffering damages try to provide financial compensation that is somehow proportional to the trauma of enduring the effects of the injury. A plaintiff can recover both past and future pain and suffering over a lifetime. Trying to quantify the cost of pain and suffering is of course a challenging exercise, especially with regard to future suffering, but an expert personal injury attorney will work with psychological and medical professionals to put together a compelling case, and will work with other precedents of pain and suffering awards in past cases to get you the maximum compensation you deserve.
Can I Get Punitive Damages?
Most categories of damages in a personal injury action are designed to make the plaintiff “whole,” or, in other words, to provide a financial amount that is equivalent to the full range of losses suffered. With punitive damages, the idea is to deter defendants and other parties from engaging in future bad conduct by making them pay beyond the amount of injuries inflicted. Punitive damages can increase a plaintiff’s recovery substantially, but no plaintiff is entitled to always receive them, and they will generally only be rewarded where the defendant acted egregiously or particularly recklessly. Your personal injury attorney can discuss with you whether punitive damages might be available in your action.
Work with Experienced New Jersey Personal Injury Attorneys
If you’ve been injured due to the careless or reckless actions of another, the law is on your side in providing a pathway to compensation for your medical care costs, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. Work with experienced New Jersey personal injury attorneys who will guide you every step of the way in proving your negligence claim and getting the compensation you deserve. In Passaic County and surrounding areas, call De Frank, McCluskey & Kopp in Wayne Township at 1-844-465-4487.