The goal of a personal injury action is to, in legal terms, make the plaintiff “whole” again. Therefore, every case is different and how much compensation you can get will depend on the losses the crash, or other negligent act, caused you to suffer. To help you better understand your rights and maximize your compensation, we at Cutt, Kendell & Olson are breaking down the types of compensation personal injury claimants can recover and through which avenues.
The Path to Personal Injury Compensation
First and foremost, there are two paths to compensation for your injuries: either through a settlement with the insurance company of the person or company that is at fault or through a civil lawsuit. You can only recover compensation through one of these paths, however. If you accept a settlement offer, you will be barred from filing a lawsuit over the same injury.
Still, the path to personal injury compensation starts with an insurance claim. It is best to hire an attorney early on to help you negotiate, as the insurance agent often will try to pay you as little as possible.
If the insurance company is not willing to pay a fair amount for your personal injury claim, the next path to compensation (a civil lawsuit) may prove more fruitful. You can represent yourself in civil court, but the legal process is notoriously complicated and rife with red tape. It is recommended to have the guidance and representation of a trained legal professional should you want to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages
When you file your claim and/or lawsuit, you will need to state the types of damages you are seeking as compensation. There are two categories of personal injury damages: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are those financial losses you can calculate that are directly related to your injury, including:
- Medical costs, such as hospital and emergency room fees and the cost of an ambulance, chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, and medical tests.
- Lost income, such as wage loss due to missed time from work or a reduced future earning potential.
- Out-of-pocket expenses, such as prescription and over-the-counter medications, rental car payments, wheelchairs, crutches, and parking fees/gas for traveling to medical appointments.
- Personal property damage, such as the cost of vehicle repairs or the fair market value of a totaled vehicle.
Receipts, bills, and other financial documents are usually used to prove these economic damages were incurred. Thus, they are not too difficult to prove. The real challenge will be pushing back when the defense falsely argues that (a) they are not truly at fault for what happened and/or (b) the bills, injury, etc. did not result from the accident/incident.
On the other hand, non-economic damages are to compensate you for your non-financial suffering caused by the injury, such as:
- Pain and suffering: The real pain and discomfort endured at both the time of the accident and in the time since, as well as the pain and discomfort your injury will likely cause you in the future.
- Disfigurement and disability: If the negligence caused you to have a physical disfigurement or disability, whether temporary or permanent.
- Emotional distress: Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health issues caused by the accident/incident.
- Loss of enjoyment: The loss of enjoyment—past, present, and future—of everyday and recreational activities, such as hobbies, spending time with family and friends, etc.
- Loss of consortium: Traditionally, this means the loss of intimacy and sexual companionship of a partner/spouse. In the 21st century, “loss of consortium” is often called “loss of affection” or “loss of companionship,” as it has been expanded to include the loss of the benefits of family relationships. This allows for children and/or parents to file consortium claims when a serious accident results in the loss of a parent-child family relationship.
- Punitive damages: In some cases, the judge or jury will punish the at-fault party for malicious or gross negligence by awarding the plaintiff(s) “punitive” damages.
Please note that non-economic damages cannot be recovered in all cases. For example, pain and suffering cannot be recovered in a workers’ compensation case.
It is harder to prove non-economic damages than it is to prove economic damages. If you are representing yourself, try to research similar cases in your area to see how much non-economic damages were awarded. Settlement amounts are much harder to find than jury verdicts because they are typically not public and subject to confidentiality agreements. If you’re working with a good attorney, they will have the experience to know the range that they believe your non-economic damages are worth.
More Than $400 Million Recovered for Clients
When another’s negligence injures you, our award-winning Salt Lake City trial lawyers are here to help you recover your full and fair compensation. We at Cutt, Kendell & Olson have won over $400 million for our clients through jury verdicts, settlements, and arbitration. We mean it when we say we care about you and your case.
To book a free consultation with a Salt Lake City trial lawyer, call (801) 901-3470 today!