When an accident happens, the people who did not cause it often get hurt simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The personal injury law in Philadelphia recognizes that between a negligent party and an innocent one, the innocent one deserves to be compensated for their losses sustained in the incident.
These losses come in two forms – economic damages and non-economic damages. While economic damages are those that are relatively easy to put into a dollar amount and are often reflected on bills that you have had to pay to recover from the accident, that does not mean they are always straightforward or easy to predict.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian in Philadelphia can help you understand the economic damages that you have sustained from a crash and, often more important, the damages that you are likely to sustain as you proceed on the road to recovery.
Two Forms of Legal Damages: Economic and Non-Economic
The losses sustained in an accident – regardless of what kind of accident it was – are called legal damages by the personal injury law in Philadelphia. These damages reflect the huge number of ways that you could have been hurt by the incident – whether physically, financially, mentally, or emotionally – and how much you should be paid in financial compensation to make you whole, once again.
Your legal damages fall into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are the losses you have sustained that can be distilled into a dollar amount relatively easily, often because your loss is already reflected on a bill or payment. Some of the economic damages that you can sustain in a personal injury incident in Philadelphia include the following.
- Medical expenses, both past and future
- Property damage
- Home modifications
- Lost wages while you recovered
- Reduced ability to earn an income in the future, due to a disability caused by the accident
- Business opportunities that were missed
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, reflect the ways that you have suffered in an accident that are not easy to state in a dollar amount. These are often related to the mental or emotional trauma that you have been put through, because of someone else's negligence. Examples of non-economic damages that are recoverable in Philadelphia include the following.
- Compensation for the physical pain of your injuries
- Reimbursement for the suffering the accident has caused, including your loss of life's enjoyments
- The loss of consortium or company that your family has had to deal with
- Emotional distress
While economic damages are much easier to state in terms of financial compensation (how many dollars does it take to compensate the feeling of pain that comes from a broken bone?), that does not mean that it is easy to recover your economic damages or even total them accurately. Understanding how your economic damages can work, though, can help you make an informed decision as to whether to pursue your rights to compensation in court.
Your Medical Expenses
Out of all of the ways that you suffer from an accident that was caused by someone else, the most prevalent are your medical expenses. In fact, because they are so evident – and because they come so soon after the incident – insurance companies often make initial settlement offers that are designed to cover some of your medical expenses. These initial settlements always fall far short, however, of the full recovery that you deserve. In fact, they are designed to appear to be exactly what you need, while actually covering only a small fraction of your medical expenses.
The cost of your medical expenses is a fairly straightforward form of economic loss because they are already stated in a dollar amount – it is right on the medical bill. However, just because the hospital charged you one amount does not mean that the insurance company or personal injury defense lawyer will admit that they have to pay it. The negligent party often claims that the medical expenses you received and paid for were either not medically necessary for your recovery or were way too expensive.
For example, defense attorneys frequently compare your medical expenses with what you could have spent for similar medical care in a locale that is similar to Philadelphia. However, they often try using inferior treatments or different medical procedures as a comparison and gloss over the fact that healthcare costs are different in other parts of the country. They also scrutinize the health care that you received and often claim that it correct medical conditions that you had before the accident, or that went above and beyond what a full recovery required.
The level of scrutiny only gets more intense when your claim for compensation also includes reimbursement for the medical expenses you are likely to spend in the future. These costs are estimates of the costs of the care that you will need based on how disabling your injuries are likely to be. Defense lawyers often claim that your injuries are unlikely to be as bad as doctors say they will be and try arguing that you deserve less in compensation.
Costs of Repairing or Replacing Property Damage
Another economic damage that you are likely to face after someone else's negligence impacts your life – especially if the incident was a car accident – is property damage. Because your belongings would not have sustained the damage that they did were it not for the negligence or the other party, you deserve to be compensated for what you have lost or what you have paid to repair your things.
The most common incident involving property damage is a car crash. Nearly every car accident includes at least some property damage. If your car was only damaged and it would cost less to fix than it would to replace, then you deserve compensation for the costs of the repair. If your vehicle was totaled, though, then you are entitled to recover the fair market value of the car. This does not mean that you should receive a new vehicle, though: instead, it means that you deserve to be compensated as if you sold your car in a typical sale. Additionally, you deserve to be compensated for your inconvenience and the costs that you incur because you do not have access to your vehicle while it is being repaired or replaced.
While all of these expenses are reflected on mechanic's bills and other receipts, that does not mean that the personal injury defense lawyer or the insurance company will accept them as true. Instead, just like with your medical expenses, they will likely scrutinize them for signs that you are overestimating your destroyed car's worth, or that you spent money fixing preexisting conditions that were not the result of the crash or spent more money on the repairs than was reasonably necessary. Finally, they often claim that you did not adequately mitigate your damages by keeping the costs of repair under control.
Modifications to Your Home are Also Recoverable
Some of the most severe injuries that you can sustain at the hands of someone else's negligence can be debilitating or disabling over a long period of time. These injuries can prevent you from doing some of the most basic tasks around the house without more access in your house or even a complete home renovation. Some of the most common home modifications necessary after an accident include
- Wheelchair ramps
- Stair lifts
- Wheelchair accessible doorways
- Support bars in the bathroom
- Renovated shower stalls
Because these costs are the direct result of the injuries you sustained because someone else made a mistake, there is no reason why you should be the one to foot the bill. Nevertheless, defense attorneys are likely to challenge the necessity and the cost of whatever modification you make to your home, in an attempt to shield their client from another expense.
Professional Repercussions of an Accident
If you are involved in an accident and suffer a physical injury or even just property damage, these losses can, in turn, lead to professional repercussions: without a car to get to work, you can miss a few days of wages, as can the time that it takes to recover. Additionally, the injuries you sustain can keep you from earning an income in your chosen profession or can reduce your ability to remain as productive as you were before the incident.
Likely the most common professional repercussions of an accident are lost wages. Many accident victims have traditionally structured jobs that earn them a regular income on an hourly wage or a yearly salary. When an accident happens to these people, the incident can keep them out of work for several days. The rest of the road to recovery can last far longer and, depending on the nature of their job, keep them off the clock for the whole time period. Even after returning to work, your injuries can keep you in a less demanding role that pays less, as well. When the injury was exceptionally debilitating, the wages that you stand to lose can extend past the statute of limitations and force you to estimate how much you are likely to lose in the future, as well.
Unfortunately, while the amount of your lost wages is recoverable in a successful personal injury lawsuit, the insurance company or defense lawyer will often claim that you missed more time at work than was reasonably necessary, or that the professional repercussions you are facing are not as severe as you claim them to be. Overcoming these defenses can take a skilled personal injury lawyer to ensure you recover the compensation you need and deserve.
Diminished Earning Capacity
Philadelphia's personal injury law recognizes that it would be unfair to require accident victims to have a wage-earning job in order to be compensated for their professional losses. Therefore, even accident victims who were not working but who had the ability to work and whose ability to earn an income is negatively affected by the accident can recover compensation for their losses.
This is particularly important for accident victims who were about to enter the workforce, or who had not been working for long enough to make anywhere close to their potential income. For victims like children, homemakers, or college students who stand to recover very little in lost wages for missed work at their minimum wage job, compensation for their reduced earning capacity can be the lion's share of the legal damages they are entitled to receive.
Missed Business Opportunities
Finally, there are accident victims who earn a living but who are not paid on a salary or regular hourly basis. Freelancers, contractors, or business owners rely on the profits of their work, even though they are not paid a wage from their employer. Instead, they are their own employer.
When these people are involved in an accident and get hurt, they still deserve to be compensated for the foreseeable repercussions that the accident will have on their professional lives. Philadelphia's personal injury law recognizes this and allows them to recover compensation for the business opportunities that they missed while they recovered from the incident. Proving these legal damages, though, can be tricky and defense lawyers frequently challenge the evidence that you present to prove your claim.
Philadelphia's Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
The personal injury lawyers at the Philadelphia law office of Gilman & Bedigian strive to legally represent accident victims in the city, both in the courtroom and outside of it. With our help, you can rest assured that compensation for all of your economic damages is being pursued, no matter how large, small, or difficult it can be to prove your claim. Our attorneys have represented accident victims in the area for years, and have grown accustomed to the arguments that insurance companies and other lawyers use to try to minimize the amount of compensation that you recover in a personal injury suit. With our help, you can make the full recovery that you need and deserve. Contact us online to get started on your case.