If you have been hurt in Baltimore because someone else acted negligently or recklessly, there are likely numerous ways that you suffered. Some of these are obvious, like your medical expenses, or your pain and suffering, but others are less apparent and often overlooked.
The personal injury law in Maryland aims to rectify all of these losses and put you back in the position you were in before the accident happened. Importantly, the personal injury law divides your losses into two distinct categories: Economic damages and non-economic damages.
Understanding the distinction between these two types of legal damages and knowing all of the types of damages that are recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit are both essential if you want to make an educated decision about whether to pursue your right to compensation in court by filing a personal injury claim.
Economic Damages Versus Non-Economic Damages
Maryland's personal injury law recognizes that there are lots of ways for accident victims to suffer when they were hurt by someone else's poor conduct. Altogether, these losses are called your legal damages. However, your legal damages come in two distinct forms.
The first form is your economic damages. These are all of the ways that you have suffered from the accident where the amount of your suffering is easily distilled into a dollar amount. There are lots of different kinds of economic damages that you can suffer in an accident in Baltimore:
- Past medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Costs of home modifications
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Lost business opportunities
- The cost of repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed property
- The costs associated with the loss of use of your damaged property
The second form of damages that you can suffer in an accident is your non-economic damages. These include all of the losses you have suffered that are not easy to state in a dollar amount and include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of life's enjoyments
Despite being far more straightforward than their counterpart, the economic damages that you can suffer in a crash are not always simple. Seeing how quickly they can become complicated can help you understand the process of filing a personal injury claim in Baltimore.
The most obvious form that your economic damages can take is in the medical expenses that you have spent in order to recover from the accident and the injuries that the accident caused. Because the amount of your medical expenses are reflected in the medical bills that you have received and are in the process of paying, your medical expenses fall within the category of economic damages.
Just because you have medical bills to show how much you spent on healthcare in the aftermath of an accident, though, does not mean that is the end of the story. Many personal injury defense lawyers and insurance companies will scrutinize every dollar you spent on healthcare costs and argue that the care you received was either overpriced – with the insinuation that they should not have to pay for more than they say the healthcare was really worth – or that it was not medically necessary.
For example, if you were hurt in a bicycle accident and broke your wrist when you were thrown to the ground from the force of the collision, the doctors and surgeons that you see might agree that you need a complicated surgery that involves several screws. Once the surgery is completed, the hospital charges its normal fee for the particular procedure you went through.
In cases like these, insurance companies and defense lawyers often claim that the hospital's fee was too high – often by comparing it to the price charged by other hospitals that seem similar but really have important differences than the one that performed your surgery. They will also frequently argue that the complex surgery that you had, and that your doctors and surgeons agreed was necessary, was actually far beyond the medical care that you really needed to recover.
Arguments like these are often raised against a personal injury claim for every medical expense included in the lawsuit, particularly when the expense is an estimated one for future medical care. Without a physical medical bill to base the healthcare costs on, insurance companies and defense lawyers can make a wide range of arguments that aim to reduce what they will pay in compensation.
Costs of Home Modifications
An often overlooked aspect of your economic damages is the cost of any modifications to your home that were necessary after an accident in Baltimore. While not always relevant to a personal injury claim – many of the injuries sustained in accidents are not so severe that home modifications need to be made – the costs of adding features to your residence to make it possible to live there while you recover are often quite substantial. Because they are completely foreseeable after an accident and would not have been necessary but for the negligence of the person who caused the accident, you deserve compensation for what you paid.
Some of the most common home modifications include:
- Wheelchair ramps
- Widened doorways
- Bathroom support bars
Just like with your medical expenses, though, insurance companies and personal injury defense lawyers often claim that what you paid for these home modifications are above the market rate and that you did not really need them. Proving otherwise frequently takes the skill and experience of a personal injury attorney.
Accident victims who earn an income are usually kept out of work for at least a short period of time while they recover from their injuries. If their income came in the form of a salary or hourly wage, then it is fairly easy to determine how much money they did not make because of missed work from the accident.
Importantly, the lost wages that you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit are not limited to what you have already lost because of your injury. You can also recover wages that you would have gotten at your job in the future but will be unable to earn because of your injuries.
Still, though, recovering compensation for your lost wages often requires overcoming claims that you spent too long in the recovery process, that you missed more time at work than was reasonably necessary, and that you will be able to return to work earlier than others are anticipating.
Lost Business Opportunities
For victims who earn a living in a less traditional fashion, proving that you lost income because of an accident that was caused by someone else is even trickier. Because this lost income can be put in a dollar amount, though, it still falls within your economic damages in a personal injury suit.
For business owners, freelancers, or professionals who earn a significant portion of their money on a commission basis, much of the income that you lost will come in the form of lost business opportunities. Proving these losses is more difficult than pointing to your hourly wage and the number of working hours you missed while you were in recovery, though. It often takes evidence of past income to prove what you could have expected in business opportunities, coupled with testimony from current clients regarding their business needs while you were out of action, plus evidence that shows the state of your line of work and whether you could have expected business to grow or shrink while you were hurt. Much of this information requires expert testimony.
Needless to say, defense attorneys challenge many of these allegations of lost business opportunities by claiming you would not have benefitted from them or that your competitors would have secured them, even if you were not hurt.
Diminished Earning Capacity
The effects of especially devastating accidents – and the severe injuries that they often cause – can last for decades. In most of these cases, your professional livelihood is forever changed by the accident that you did not cause.
Because you were not at fault for your new inability to earn the income you used to earn, Maryland's personal injury law allows you to recover compensation for your diminished earning capacity. Importantly, your reduced earning capacity is slightly different than the wages that you would have lost in the future, because reduced earning capacity does not necessarily reflect income that you were going to bring in. Rather, reduced earning capacity aims to rectify a change in the income you could have brought in.
For many people, this nuance is relatively insignificant. However, for others it is everything. Students and homemakers who made nothing or minimum wage but were about to enter the workforce or return to it after years away will likely have little to no lost future wages. However, their ability to earn was likely to be substantial. Without it, their lives will be forever changed because of an accident they did not cause.
Of course, defense lawyers find much to work within a claim for reduced earning capacity. Even with the help of expert testimony from economists and business professionals to show how much income you likely could have received, defendants still put forward many counterarguments and try sowing seeds of doubt on your claims.
Property Damage and the Loss of Use of Your Belongings
Many incidents cause personal injuries as well as damage to your property. If the accident left you with property damage, you can recover both the costs of repairing or replacing what you have lost, as well as compensation to cover for your inability to use your property while it was out of commission.
The typical context for a property damage claim in a personal injury lawsuit is a car accident. In these cases, your vehicle is often left damaged or totaled, leaving you to fix or outright replace your car. While you do this, though, you are left without a car you can rely on and have to take other measures to get the transportation you need. This often costs money that you would not have had to spend were it not for the original accident that put your vehicle out of commission.
Because these damages were the result of an incident that you did not cause, they are recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit. Because they are easily distillable into a dollar amount based on your repair bills and other expenses, the costs of repairing or replacing your property and covering for its absence are economic damages.
Again, defense attorneys are likely to scrutinize every aspect of your expenses associated with repairing or replacing your property and covering for its loss. If the property was destroyed in the incident, they will argue that its fair market value is less than what you are claiming it to be and that you should only be compensated up what you could have sold it for at the time of the accident. If it was merely damaged, the favorite counterargument is that the costs of repair are too high because steps were taken to fix damages not associated with the accident or to make your property worth more than it was worth at the time of the incident.
Baltimore's Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
Your economic damages are still the more straightforward and easily determinable form of loss in a personal injury lawsuit: Non-economic damages are notoriously difficult to estimate because they aim to compensate accident victims for emotional harm like pain and suffering. However, just because economic damages can be stated in a dollar amount that is not the result of mere guesswork does not mean that there is nothing that can be said in defense of your claims for compensation.
This is why having a skilled personal injury lawyer on your side throughout the process makes such a huge difference. The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian in Baltimore know how to count up your economic damages, know the common arguments against those tallies, and know the types of evidence it takes to overcome those defenses. Contact them online for the help you need.