If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s actions, you probably have the right to file a lawsuit for compensation. You may have questions about how a personal injury case works and how you can be compensated for the harm caused. Speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer can be the best move you make and may be the best way for you to have your questions answered quickly and correctly. This guide goes over some of the basics, and will give you an idea of what to expect.
What is “Fair Compensation”?
The simple truth here is that every case is different. Many people focus on what the “average” or “usual” settlement is for a given set of injuries, and asking about that may seem like a reasonable question. However, this is actually flawed thinking. The purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is not to get a particular amount of money, and the specifics of the case vary the settlement greatly. Even the area of the country in which the case must be filed can impact the outcome of the case. If you have a legal claim and are pursuing a lawsuit, you should not be thinking about “how much can I get?” Rather, you should focus on what you the lost as a result of the injury. Having clear proof of these losses, and being able to articulate those losses is critical. Further, setting aside the issue of “fault”, it is this issue, the clarity of the provable losses, which will ultimately guide your jury or judge when the look to determine “fair” compensation. “Hard” losses, like medical bills, are easy to value. If you paid $5,000 in medical bills, you should expect to receive something close to $5,000. “Soft” losses, like pain and suffering, physical disability, etc., are simply too variable to accurately speak to in the abstract. Consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer will be your best bet to identify the range that can be expected for your specific case.
Types of Damages
There are three categories of damages recognized in the law of personal injury. Your case may include all of these or only one. How many can be included in your case may impact how much you will receive.
- “Special” compensatory damages: This is the most basic type of damages. It covers the “hard” losses – basically anything that has a set monetary value, such as medical expenses, property damages or lost wages.
- “General” compensatory damages: This is the “soft” losses – generally consisting of “pain and suffering”, “disability” and “loss of the enjoyment of life.” For these damages, the judge or jury will rely upon their subjective assessment of the monetary value of your claim. For instance, a judge or jury may rule that one person’s emotional trauma is worth $500 and another is worth $5 Million. The quality of the proof and the relatability of the persons’ particular story, as well as the location or “venue” of the claim, will have a tremendous impact on the results.
- Punitive damages, 3 third category, are extremely rare. Their availability and the potential amount are generally regulated by statute, and the restrictions and parameters vary from state to state. The purpose of this type of damage award is to “punish” the defendant for egregious conduct. Punitive damages are usually only available in cases where someone was acting maliciously, or with actual intent to cause harm, or with willful and wanton disregard for the risk of harm to others.
Should I settle?
The decision to settle is based on risk. For you, the risk of losing or recovering less than the defense is offering. For the defense, the risk of being hit hard by a jury at trial. If you decide to settle, instead of letting the court case run its course, you should expect to receive a little less in exchange for saving court costs, receiving a guaranteed result and getting paid faster. Your lawyer is your best resource for determining if a proposed settlement is fair and reasonable. It is advisable that you consulting a legal professional before deciding whether or not to accept a settlement offer.