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After an injury or accident, you may not immediately be thinking about how much your injury is going to cost you. You should be focused on recovery. Unfortunately, many personal injury cases will force you to deal with the financial consequences of an injury before you have the chance to fully recover. You may have to think about lost time from work, expensive medical bills, and how your injuries will affect you in the future. Talk to an attorney about your case and they will help you understand what types of damages may be available in your case so that you will receive the compensation you need.
In a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury case or a wrongful death action, one party is seeking financial damages from another. In most cases, the injured party is looking to be compensated for their loss or injury by the individuals or companies that were responsible for the damage. These compensatory damages are intended to put you back into the position you would have been before the injury. Compensatory damages are generally divided into economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are generally the types of damage that you can quantify with a number or dollar amount. For personal injury cases, this usually includes the costs of medical care and treatment, and lost income from not being able to work. It may also include past and future medical treatment and past and future income loss. If there is something you are no longer able to do because of the injury, your economic damages may include the replacement cost of having to pay someone else to do the work for you. If your property was damaged, economic damages include the cost of repair or replacement of the damaged property.
Some of the most significant expenses after an accident or injury include medical expenses. This can include everything from emergency medical treatment, surgery, physical therapy, specialty consultations, medications, medical devices, hospital stays, medical equipment, and outpatient care. When an injury is temporary, the medical costs may be limited by all the treatment required to put the injured person back to normal. However, a chronic or permanent injury may require ongoing treatment, and the damages will have to include future medical costs and treatment.
In calculating the amount of medical damages, the doctor and hospital bills provide a basis for how much the medical care costs. This generally includes any medical treatment that was reasonably necessary to treat the injury attributed to the accident. Some injuries can impact the regular things many people take for granted, such as preparing food, getting dressed, bathing, and walking. If an injury requires help with daily functions, those costs may be included in your damages.
An ambulatory injury may require the use of a wheelchair or walker, which may require modification to the injured individual’s home. Some injuries require a nurse or assistant to make regular visits to a person’s home to administer medication, clean or change wounds, help with therapy, and ensure that the individual is being properly taken care of.
Future costs often require a more complex calculation. When seeking damages for future medical bills, your attorney may contact an expert to calculate the approximate cost of continuing medical treatment. This may be an economic expert or a medical expert who will use their experience and training to estimate the reasonable cost of future medical expenses for the injured party.
After a temporary or minor injury, an individual may only be out of work a couple of days. However, being out of work for more than a couple of days can have a serious financial impact on many families. Especially where money is tight, or only one family member is employed, being out of work can have a devastating impact on the family’s financial security. How an injured person will account for lost wages is one of the primary concerns for people injured in an accident.
Lost wages can be included in seeking damages in a personal injury case. If the individual was only out of work temporarily, the amount of lost wages is generally calculated as the money they would have gained if they were working. This may include wages and benefits from the time they were unable to work as well as the time they had to take off to receive medical treatment or go to doctor’s appointments. Lost wages damages may also include back interest.
Loss of Earning Capacity
If the injured person is permanently injured, or no longer able to do the work they did prior, economic damages may include their future loss of earning potential. This amount can vary greatly based on the type of job the individual has, their work experience, education, and age. For example, a low-wage worker who has earned roughly the same amount of money for decades may have a simple calculation to measure the loss of their future earning capacity. However, these calculations can become incredibly complex.
As another example, if a young woman about to graduate from business school was permanently injured, she may have lost a lifetime of opportunity to earn a good living. They may have been going to school full-time, and not had much of an employment history to use as a basis for future earnings. Instead, earning capacity may depend on a number of unknown factors, and industry averages, including the job market, job field, region, average salary, future prospects of the industry, average age when such a worker retires, and post-retirement prospects.
To calculate a money value for loss of future earning capacity, your attorney may retain an expert economist or vocational expert to estimate a range of future earning capacity. The expert will use their experience, training, and education to come up with a range of numbers that reasonably represent the individual’s future earning capacity.
If physical property was damaged as a result of an accident, the cost of repairing or replacing the property may be included in seeking economic damages. Property damage is usually measured as the cost of repairing the property or replacing the property, depending on the damage and the property involved.
For many personal injury cases, property damage involves an automobile. Your vehicle may have been dented in an accident, requiring thousands in repair costs, or your vehicle may have been totaled, requiring a total replacement of your vehicle. In a personal injury lawsuit, your damages could include vehicle replacement costs.
If your vehicle is being repaired and you require a rental car, the cost of the rental car can also be included as an economic cost you incurred as a result of the accident. But for the accident, you would not have had to rent a car to go to work, do your shopping, or go to medical appointments. If you have had to pay for anything else as the result of an accident or injury, talk to your attorney to see if it can be included as a measure of your economic damages.
Non-economic damages can be much more difficult to estimate because they are based on injuries that are not tied to a specific dollar amount. These are real damages that an injured person or their family suffers that may be difficult to quantify. Some non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of support.
Pain and Suffering
In personal injury cases, the plaintiff can seek damages for the pain and suffering they have endured as part of their injuries. Pain and suffering generally involves the physical, emotional and mental distress that comes with a traumatic experience or injury. For some injuries, the pain may be intense, but only last a short time, until the pain is treated by doctors and the individual recovers in a short amount of time.
Alternatively, in the worst cases, pain and suffering can go on indefinitely. A serious injury can result in lifelong consequences, including debilitating pain or discomfort that has to be treated for the rest of the injured person’s life. This is unfortunately all too common with personal injury accidents, including car accidents. Injuries to the head or spine can be very difficult to diagnose and the pain can be difficult to treat.
Brain injuries and damage to the central nervous system can manifest in all kinds of ways. Even if the doctor cannot see physical signs of injury, the individual can suffer stiffness, lack of mobility, numbness or tingling in the extremities, headaches, vision problems, vertigo, spasms, and other injuries that can be difficult to treat. This kind of long, enduring pain and suffering is much more severe than an injury that heals quickly and never resurfaces again.
Other serious injuries can cause pain and suffering to the victim even after the physical pain has left. Injuries that leave large scars, severed limbs, burn scars, or disfigurement can cause the injured individual to continue suffering long after their wounds have healed. Pain and suffering injuries do not just include the immediate physical pain that accompanies an injury, but it can include lifelong emotional and physical suffering.
Punitive damages may be available in some personal injury or wrongful death claims; however, they are not available in most cases. In order to win an award for punitive damages, the party at fault for causing the injury generally has to act with intent to injure someone. This includes actual malice, motivated by a wrongful or evil motive to injure or kill another. This can be a high standard to meet in most personal injury cases that only involve negligence.
Statutory Cap on Damages
Maryland places a statutory cap on the amount of non-economic damages available in a personal injury or wrongful death claim. The amount of the cap changes each October 1st, increasing by $15,000 each year. For causes of action that arise on or after October 1, 2015, the non-economic damages are capped at $815,000. For causes of action that arise on or after October 1, 2016, the non-economic damages are capped at $830,000. For causes of action that arise on or after October 1, 2017, the non-economic damages are capped at $845,000. Non-economic damages in wrongful death actions are also capped.
Most personal injury claims are eventually settled before a jury determines how much to award to the injured party. A settlement is a way for the parties to agree on the terms and conditions of the case without having to go through a full trial. A settlement can be a win-win for all parties involved, especially if they want to avoid lengthy and costly litigation, and avoid the unpredictable outcome that a jury may decide. However, it is ultimately up to you whether or not to accept a settlement offer.
By accepting the settlement offer, you will generally agree not to go through with the lawsuit, and not to seek the damages which may be available. The settlement may provide a lump sum amount of money to settle your case, or it could involve a structured settlement, providing payment over time. Before you accept a settlement offer, make sure you understand the terms of the settlement and what you are giving up in exchange.
Your attorney will be able to advise you on what a settlement might look like in your case and will negotiate to get you the best settlement offer for your situation. If you do not have an attorney, you should seriously consider talking to an attorney before you accept a settlement. An experienced personal injury attorney will help you make sure your interests are protected and you get the compensation you deserve.
Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys
Whether you suffered a minor injury, permanent injury, or a loved one died after an accident, you may be entitled to damages for your injury, pain, and suffering. Contact an attorney with experience in handling personal injury cases to make sure you receive the full compensation to which you are entitled. If you were injured in an accident, contact the law firm of Gilman & Bedigian. Our experienced attorneys have years of experience handling motor vehicle and personal injury cases throughout Maryland. Do not hesitate to contact our offices today for a free consultation.