Personal Injury Damages
If you are injured in an accident, a slip and fall, or due to medical malpractice, it is a difficult and scary time for you and your family. The bills begin to stack up, you may have additional expenses for co-pays, physical therapy, and prescription medications. What if you have lost time at work? Is any of this going to be recoverable against the responsible party? This is where the law of civil damages becomes important and you should seek the advice of an expert.
What Are Personal Injury Damages?
In a personal injury lawsuit, the goal is to recover damages for the plaintiff. The damages may be used to make the injured victim’s life better, to pay for medical bills or to help deal with the expenses of living now that earning money is more difficult. The underlying policy for damages awarded in a civil lawsuit or settlement is to try and return the plaintiff to the pre-injury position or to make the plaintiff whole. It is very difficult to put an exact value on certain elements, including pain and suffering damages, but the objective is to try and try and put the injured person into the pre-injury position.
What types of personal injury damages are available?
There are three basic types of damages and civil actions.
- Economic Damages
- Non-Economic Damages
- Punitive Damages
Economic damages are those which are mathematically quantifiable through evidence such as doctor testimony, medical bills, lost earning statements and other past loss or future loss calculations.
Non-economic damages are based on intangible aspects of the case such as pain and suffering damages. These types of damages are more difficult for an insurance company or a jury to quantify because there is no tangible method to determine the amounts owed.
Punitive damages are those which are awarded in an effort to punish the defendant for his/her conduct. Punitive damages are only available in cases of serious gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Most personal injury cases do not involve any punitive damages awards. In Florida state courts, punitive damages can only be requested after the plaintiff has approval from the court and presented some evidence of willful misconduct on the part of the defendant.
What different types of economic personal injury damages are available?
The types of economic damages that are available in a personal injury, automobile accident case or medical malpractice case may vary, but generally include the following items of damages:
- past medical bills arising from the injuries;
- past lost wages arising from the injuries;
- future medical expenses, such as therapy or home health care; and
- household services such as lawnmowing and housecleaning that may be necessary as a result of the injuries.
These are the basic types of economic damages although any financial loss may be requested if it is reasonably foreseeable and related to the injury.
What are non-economic damages that are available or personal injury case?
Non-economic damages would include items such as:
- pain and suffering,
- emotional distress,
- loss of companionship, and
- loss of consortium.
These are items which are not mathematically quantifiable through evidence. Juries are allowed to try and determine a value based on the evidence and compensate the victim fully for the damages which he or she has incurred. In requesting an award of pain and suffering damages, attorneys will often refer to a “per diem” approach or daily value relating to the pain and suffering, for instance, $100 per day for the duration of the plaintiff’s life expectancy for his or her suffering.
In other cases, the attorney may direct an insurance adjuster or a jury to a multiplier of the economic damages such as two or three times the amount of medical bills and lost wages. In Florida, non-economic damages are only available in auto accident cases if a permanent injury results from the accident. This can mean scarring, broken bones or other permanent injuries. As an example, an auto case which only causes bruising would not allow the plaintiff to recover for pain and suffering.
What are personal injury compensation caps?
In certain types of cases, the legislature has established caps on non-economic damages. An example of this is, in certain medical malpractice actions, doctors and hospitals may be limited to the amount that a jury can award for pain and suffering against the particular provider. Some laws in Florida have capped doctors and hospitals pain and suffering awards to $500,000 or $750,000. Recently, however, the Florida Supreme Court has indicated that these caps are not constitutional. The law of damages caps in Florida is still in the state of flux and you should speak to a personal injury attorney about your specific situation. Also, even when there are damage caps, there may be exceptions for intentional actions or fraud. Therefore, it is important that you speak with an attorney in detail about your specific case.
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If you would like to speak to an attorney who understands personal injury and medical malpractice damages laws in the state of Florida, you may contact our office and speak with any one of our personal injury attorneys. Even if you are not looking to hire an attorney, we would be glad to speak with you and give you a free injury consultation to advise you of your legal rights surrounding a personal injury settlement. What’s your case worth? Contact Warner, Sechrest & Butts, P.A. in Gainesville, FL, today.