If you suffered an injury due to the wrongful conduct of another, a personal injury claim usually arises in your favor. This claim allows you to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, make a third-party claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy, and negotiate a settlement.
Claims do not enforce themselves, however. If you want fair compensation, you will have to fight for it—or hire a lawyer to do the fighting for you.
Economic damages are damages that you can easily count. The following are the main examples of commonly claimed economic damages.
You can claim all of your legitimate medical expenses. This includes:
- Ambulance charges;
- Hospital charges;
- Surgery charges;
- Prescription and OTC drugs;
- Medical equipment (such as a wheelchair);
- Rehabilitation expenses;
- Modifications to your home, such as the installation of an elevator;
- Any other “reasonable and necessary” medical expense.
The insurance company or the defendant might reject “alternative” medical treatments such as acupuncture.
Future Medical Expenses
Normally, you should wait until you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) before you file a lawsuit. This usually means that your main medical expenses are behind you. If your injuries are serious enough, however, you might never make a full recovery. In this case, you need to use an expert witness to estimate your future medical expenses years or even decades into the future. Don’t try to do this without an expert because it is tricky, and the stakes are high.
Your employer can help you calculate and document the extent of your lost earnings. You can claim lost earnings for any sick leave or vacation time you used at the rate you would have been paid if you had worked those days.
Lost Earning Capacity
If you cannot return to your old job, you will need to calculate all your lost earnings between the accident date and your retirement date. You will probably need an expert witness for this task.
You may have incurred expenses for items such as:
- Child care while you were bedridden;
- Insurance deductibles;
- Property damage (to your car, for example);
- Towing and storing your vehicle (in a car accident claim); and
- Other related expenses.
This list is not complete. You can claim any miscellaneous expenses that arose directly from your accident.
Non-economic damages are intangible psychological damages you lost because of the accident. Following is a description of some of the most commonly claimed non-economic damages.
Pain and Suffering
“Pain and suffering” refers to physical pain and suffering. It is not limited to physical pain—it can include things like humiliation, anxiety, and more. Pain and suffering damages might add up to over 50% of your entire claim.
Your injuries likely caused you fear and anguish. You are most likely to recover these damages if you show tangible symptoms such as PTSD or depression.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
What activities are you no longer able to enjoy? Playing with your kids or your dog? Exercising at the gym? Playing baseball? You can claim these losses as a “loss of enjoyment of life.”
Imagine what it must be like for a beautiful young woman to suffer extensive facial disfigurement. Other forms of disfigurement are traumatic as well. Such a victim loses far more than simple convenience. The social costs, for example, could be immense.
Permanent disability is not the same as lost earning capacity. A permanent disability affects you in more ways than just occupational capacity because of what you cannot do when you are not working.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium refers to loss of the ability to engage in intimacy and sexual relations. Your spouse or registered domestic partner must file this claim, not you.
Damage to Relationships With Loved Ones
Your relations with your family might have suffered due to your injuries. You might have lost the ability to engage in sexual relations with your spouse, converse with your family, and take part in many other bonding activities. The stress of caring for you might have resulted in family discord.
To win a punitive damages claim, you must provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant acted outrageously. An intentional injury probably qualifies, but even an unintentional injury, such as an injury inflicted in a DUI accident, might qualify for punitive damages. Courts are somewhat unfriendly toward punitive damages claims.
Deductions and Limitations
A deduction is an amount that is removed from your claim after it is calculated. A limitation is a ceiling that your claim cannot exceed. Following are some of the most common deductions and limitations on personal injury claims.
Legal Fees and Case Expenses
Most personal injury lawyers will charge you based on a contingency fee arrangement. Under a contingency fee arrangement, your legal expenses equal a certain percentage (typically 33% if there is no trial) of the total amount of money your lawyer wins for you. You don’t have to pay your lawyer until the money actually arrives.
Your lawyer will probably pay your case expenses up front and deduct them from your compensation. Case expenses could include expert witness fees, investigation expenses, and any other reasonable case-related expense that came out of the lawyer’s pocket.
If you bear partial liability for your own injuries, California will deduct a proportionate amount from your compensation-–anywhere from 1% to 99%. If the other party was injured in the accident, you might even have to pay them money.
Insurance Policy Limits
No matter how large your claim, insurance policy limits represent the ceiling of how much you can demand from the insurance company. The only exception is that you can file a separate claim known as “insurance bad faith” if the insurance company handles your claim dishonestly. You can still seek damages from the defendant’s personal assets, however.
If your evidence is weak or inadmissible, the opposing party is not likely to offer you much money. The reason is that their likelihood of winning in court is high, leaving them with little motivation to negotiate with you.
Poor Negotiating Skills
Poor negotiating skills have doomed many claims. Even if you “win,” you might have won far less than the true value of your claim. Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators—but so are personal injury lawyers.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
Workers’ compensation claims arise from work-related injuries. Strictly speaking, they are not personal injury claims. Accordingly, you cannot obtain non-economic damages in a workers’ compensation claim. Even your economic damages are limited.
Wrongful Death Claims
Like workers’ compensation claims, wrongful death claims are not personal injury claims. Unlike workers’ compensation claims, however, compensation tends to be high. Wrongful death claims include different components of compensation than personal injury claims as well.
A Vista Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Maximize Your Compensation
If you represent yourself, the opposing party will likely try to take advantage of you. However, a skilled Vista personal injury lawyer can estimate the value of your personal injury claim and negotiate with the opposing party.
Insurance companies, in particular, prefer to settle claims out of court when they realize they are facing a skilled lawyer. Contact our personal injury attorneys at Petrov Law Firm for legal help by calling (619) 344-0360.