Damages in a Personal Injury Case
In a personal injury case, a plaintiff must show that a defendant breached a duty to the plaintiff which caused a foreseeable injury to the plaintiff, entitling the plaintiff to damages. Proving causation is certainly a critical part of a personal injury case, but, at the end of the day, an injured plaintiff is most interested in how much compensation she will receive for her medical care, lost income, pain and suffering, and so on, and the amount of damages a personal injury attorney can persuade a judge and jury to award will vary dramatically. One lawyer arguing a personal injury case may be able to recover $50,000 from a defendant on behalf of a client, while another lawyer arguing the same case may be able to recover millions, all because of how the question of damages is argued.
In general, a court will instruct a jury to make the plaintiff “whole,” or in other words pay the plaintiff an adequate amount of money to account for all that he or she has lost through the ordeal of the injury. Below are the specific types of damages a plaintiff might recover in a typical personal injury case:
Past and Future Medical Expenses
A plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for all of the medical expenses necessitated by the injury. This certainly includes the cost of emergency care, surgery, hospitalization, outpatient visits, and other medical care required before the filing of the personal injury case, but it also includes all future medical expenses a plaintiff might need as a result of the injury. Future medical expenses include the cost of rehabilitation, future surgeries and hospitalizations, in-home nursing care, and any other medical care that might be needed. Determining a reasonable and sufficient estimate of what these costs will be over a plaintiff’s lifetime and proving this to a jury can be an extremely challenging process, and an experienced personal injury lawyer will work with the plaintiff’s medical team and expert witnesses to put the best case forward to obtain maximum compensation.
Lost Wages and Reduced Income Potential
If your personal injury causes you to miss work and thereby lose wages, you will be entitled to recover those lost wages from the defendant. With serious injuries, a plaintiff may be forced to stop working for months or years after the trial, and may even be permanently disabled from working. Here, the plaintiff will be able to recover those future lost wages as well. In addition, if a plaintiff is forced to take a job that pays less than what he would have made otherwise – for example a surgeon who depends on his vision to do his work but is blinded in an accident – can also recover the value of the income potential he has lost, even if he is able to do other, lower-paying work. As with future medical expenses, determining the cost of future lost wages and reduced income potential and proving it to a jury is a highly complex legal process.
Past and Future Pain and Suffering
A plaintiff in many cases is entitled to be compensated for having to endure the pain and suffering associated with her injuries, which is paid on top of the cost of medical expenses. While no amount of money can take away the pain and suffering, the law recognizes that injured plaintiffs can live in intense pain and deserve compensation for the pain and suffering endured both before and after a trial. Quantifying the emotions of pain and suffering is of course a highly subjective calculation, and this is one area of damages where we see the amounts of awards vary the greatest. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how courts and juries approach this difficult calculation and will present your best possible case.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium refers to the damages suffered when an injury causes a person to be unable to provide necessary emotional services to his or her family, such as providing sexual intimacy, love and affection. While this is another area of damages that can be difficult to quantify, a good personal injury attorney will make a strong case for loss of consortium damages where applicable.
Punitive damages are damages paid to the plaintiff on top of all the damages that are intended to make the plaintiff “whole” and are instead levied against a defendant in order to deter them and others from engaging in future egregious conduct. A plaintiff is not entitled to punitive damages as a matter of course, but a court and jury may award them where the defendant’s conduct has been intentional or especially egregious, such as where a defendant has repeatedly engaged in dangerous conduct at clear risk to others, merely to make a profit.
Get Experienced Legal Representation with Your New York Personal Injury Case
Getting legal representation from experienced New York trial attorneys from the very start is important to ultimately prevailing and achieving the best settlement possible, without making disastrous mistakes or waiving important rights because you did not have the advice of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. For help in a personal injury matter in Orange County and the Hudson Valley region, contact Dupée & Monroe, P.C. in Goshen for a no-cost, confidential consultation.