Physical injuries and emotional distress are not the only damages caused by accidents and personal injuries. Victims often sustain significant monetary losses. Compensation for personal injury cases includes compensation for both economic damages and non-economic damages.
What Are Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case?
Economic damages represent the financial losses associated with the accident, your injuries, and your recovery. They are compensatory damages, meaning the victim is “compensated” for these losses through a personal injury settlement or jury damages award.
Let’s go into more detail about what economic damages include.
Medical Expenses and Bills
The medical bills and expenses incurred because of an injury or accident can be significant. They include emergency expenses, medical treatment, and rehabilitation expenses.
Common examples of medical costs in a personal injury case include:
- Ambulance services
- Emergency room charges
- Surgeries and hospitalizations
- Bills from physicians, specialists, therapists, and other medical providers
- Costs of diagnostic tests and labs
- Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications
- Long-term and/or in-home nursing care
As the severity of the injury increases, the cost to treat the injury increases. Generally, you are entitled to reimbursement for all necessary and reasonable medical costs.
Loss of Income and Benefits
Lost wages are another common economic damage in personal injury claims. Loss of earning claims include, but are not limited to:
- Lost wages and other forms of income
- Loss of benefits, including vacation pay, earned PTO, and matching retirement contributions
- Future lost wages and loss of earning capacity
You must have medical evidence proving that your injuries prevented you from earning income after the accident. If you claim future loss of income or a decrease in earning potential, you need opinions and evidence from medical experts and vocational experts to prove your claim.
Other expenses you incur can be included as out-of-pocket expenses. These expenses might include:
- Travel expenses to and from medical appointments
- Cost of personal care and help with household chores
- The cost to modify your home because of a permanent impairment
- The cost of walkers, crutches, and bedside toilets
- The cost of childcare
Many people overlook out-of-pocket costs after an injury or accident. However, these costs could total hundreds or thousands of dollars. Therefore, carefully documenting all expenses related to your injury case increases the value of your claim.
Property damage is another example of an economic damage. Examples include damage to your vehicle and personal property caused by a car accident.
Generally, property damage claims are settled before personal injury claims. However, before signing any documents, it is wise to talk with a personal injury lawyer to ensure you do not waive rights to compensation for other damages.
How Much Can I Receive for Economic Damages?
Typically, injured individuals are entitled to compensation for the full amount of their financial losses. However, several situations could lower the amount of money you receive for economic damages.
Disputes Related to Mitigating Damages
The insurance company might dispute the expense based on allegations of failure to mitigate damages.
The company could allege that you incurred additional medical costs you would not have incurred had you seen a doctor sooner. The claims adjuster might allege that your damages are greater than they should have been because you did not complete physical therapy as prescribed by your doctor.
Allegations of Comparative Fault
California uses a pure comparative fault theory for personal injury cases. If the victim contributes to the cause of their injury, their compensation for damages can be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Therefore, if you were 40% at fault for the cause of a slip and fall accident, the court could reduce your compensation for damages by 40%. Insurance companies often use threats of comparative negligence to pressure accident victims into accepting a low settlement offer.
Lack of Documentation and Evidence
You must prove that you incurred the expense and the expense was necessary and reasonable. It is crucial that you keep copies of all bills, invoices, receipts, and other documents for any costs or expenses related to your injury claim.
Your attorney may retain medical experts to explain the necessity of specific costs and expenses. In addition, statements from your employer help establish how much time you were out of work and the income you would have earned had it not been for the injury.
Your lawyer may retain financial experts to assist in projecting future damages for permanent impairments. The more evidence you have, the better your chance of obtaining reimbursement for all financial losses.
Subrogation Claims and Medical Liens
If your health insurance company paid medical bills related to your personal injury claim, it might assert a subrogation claim. The claim seeks reimbursement for the monies it paid from your settlement funds.
Also, if you owe medical liens or bills, those must be paid from your settlement funds. Otherwise, you would benefit twice from your injury if you were allowed to keep the portion of your economic damages related to medical expenses paid by the health insurance company or that you still owe to a medical provider.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for Economic Damages?
The California statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years. However, there are exceptions.
You should consult a lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing a filing deadline. Missing the filing deadline means you cannot pursue a legal claim for compensation of damages against the party who caused your injuries.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Vista Personal Injury Lawyers
You deserve compensation for the financial losses caused by an accident or injury. Contact our law firm by calling us at (760) 813-3313 to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney in Vista.