What to Know About Personal Injury Damages
UPDATED: June 19, 2018
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Before you finalize your personal injury claim, you will need to make sure that all of your damages are accounted for. Paint your damage calculation with a broad brush, and include any costs that you have had to pay as a result of your injury. Identifying and proving your personal injury damages is critical to recovering the money you need and deserve, so make sure your damages are all included before filing a claim. For assistance, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
Types of Personal Injury Damages
The following types of damages are common in personal injury lawsuits:
(1) Medical expenses - Before you file a personal injury lawsuit, you will need to get medical attention to diagnose and treat your injuries. When you file your suit, include all expenses related to your medical treatment including: hospital bills, invoices from doctor visits, receipts for medication, and any other expense that you incurred during treatment.
(2) Rehabilitation therapy - If your injury requires ongoing therapy and rehabilitation, you need to include the costs in your lawsuit. Keep track of visits to rehab clinics, chiropractors, and other medical professionals who provide the physical therapy you need after an accident. If your rehabilitation therapy is ongoing and required after your personal injury lawsuit, make sure you project the future costs of all the rehabilitation treatment you will need.
(3) Lost wages - If you are unable to work because of your injury, include the wages you lost while recovering. Knowing how to calculate lost wages is important, so make sure you are prepared before filing your claim. If you are self-employed, or are a stay-at-home spouse, you can still include a lost wage calculation in your personal injury lawsuit.
(4) Pain and suffering - Pain and suffering damages in a personal injury lawsuit place a monetary value on the effect your injury has. Calculating pain & suffering damages can be complicated, and your value will be subject to scrutiny and challenge by the opposing party. Pain and suffering damages can be difficult to prove, so make sure you have the necessary evidence and testimony to support your claim.
(5) Punitive damages - Punitive damages are rarely awarded, and only appropriate when the party who caused your injury was either acting intentionally or was extremely negligent. As the name suggests, punitive damages are included only if the opposing party needs to be punished for its behavior that caused your injury. If you are asking for punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit, consult an experienced attorney for assistance.
(6) Costs of a personal injury lawsuit - As part of your damages calculation, you are allowed to include all costs that you have incurred as a result of filing the lawsuit. Common costs include the fees associated with filing a claim, the fee that you pay your attorney, and the money spent on expert witnesses or gathering important pieces of evidence.
How to Prove Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
As you list the damages you intend to pursue in your PI lawsuit, you will need to be prepared to offer evidence that you are entitled to the value that you claim. The best way to support your personal injury damages request is to document everything from the time of your injury - including your medical treatment, ability to work, physical condition, and how your quality of life has changed. The following documents can help you prove your damage calculation:
- Medical documents - including bills from the hospital and invoices from individual doctors or medical specialists, and all written communications regarding your diagnosis and required treatment
- Physical therapy bills - all invoices from chiropractors or therapists, including money that you spend on workout equipment that you need to buy to maintain your physical recovery.
- Documentation from work - often in the form of a letter from your boss or your company's HR department. Make sure your employer details your work attendance after the accident, and notes any special accomodations that had to be made - for example, if you had to switch to a less desirable position due to your injury, make sure that is documented.
- Expert witness reports and testimony - an expert witness can help you prove damages by testifying to the type of pain & suffering usually associated with your injury, and by forcasting how long it will take for you to make a full recovery. Be aware that expert witnesses cost money, so consult an attorney prior to reaching out to an expert.
- Your testimony - make sure your personal injury claim accurately tells the story of your injury and recovery. If your claim progresses to trial, make sure that you testify to the cause of your injury, the medical treatment and diagnosis, the types of things you cannot do as a result of the injury (sleep, eat, workout, etc), and any other aspect of your life that has been altered because of the injury.
- Photos or videos - pictures can be important in proving what caused your injury, and can be used to show its effects. If you have documented lasting bruising or scars, it may be valuable as you pursue your injury claim.
In addition to the above examples, keep track of everything that is related to your injury such as commincations you have with doctors, insurance adjusters, and attorneys. It is better to keep more than you need, and let a personal injury attorney sort out the necessary evidence. If you have questions, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for assistance and consulation.