Personal Injury Damages Explained
In any personal injury claim or lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant engaged in conduct or took actions (or failed to take actions) that caused injuries and other damages to the plaintiff. The defendant’s conduct is usually characterized in the litigation as negligent, careless, reckless or illegal.
The goal of the lawsuit is to obtain compensation for the plaintiff — a monetary award or settlement — so that she is “made whole” for those damages. The damages claimed in a lawsuit can be economic (for example, plaintiff was forced to incur medical expenses) and non-economic (plaintiff experienced pain and suffering).
The idea is that the damages should restore the plaintiff to her condition before the injuries took place — or at least appropriately compensate the plaintiff for the permanent changes to her life.
The exact mix of damages claimed in any lawsuit depends on the circumstances of the case, the types of injuries sustained and the relevant state law.
To ensure that you receive the most up-to-date information that is specific to your situation, we encourage you to contact a Phoenix personal injury lawyer at Hirsch & Lyon today. The following are the most common types of damages claimed in a personal injury case:
This form of damages compensates the plaintiff for the out-of-pocket doctor bills and other medical expenses (testing, treatment, therapy, hospital stays) that she has already incurred and those expenses the plaintiff will need to pay in the future because of the injuries.
If the plaintiff has been permanently impaired or disabled, the damages for future medical expenses can be significant.
Like medical expenses, damages for lost income are claimed for both past periods and the future. The plaintiff needs to be compensated for wages or income lost because she missed workdays due to the injuries and the medical treatments for those injuries. (If the plaintiff was required to use paid vacation or sick days because of the injuries, she deserves compensation for those too.)
If the plaintiff continues to be impaired or disabled because of the injuries, she is also entitled to damages for lost future earnings (the income she would have earned if the injuries hadn’t happened).
For example, if the plaintiff is completely unable to return to work or if her injuries forced her to take a lower salary job (or a less rigorous job or a part-time job) the plaintiff can seek compensation for the total lost income projected over her future working years.
Pain and Suffering/Emotional Distress
Damages for pain and suffering and those for emotional distress are examples of the non-economic damages typically demanded in a personal injury case. They are an effort to use money to compensate the plaintiff for non-monetary damages.
Pain and suffering damages are usually calculated in verdicts and settlements as some multiple of the economic damages. For example, if the damages for lost income and medical expenses total $200,000, the damages for pain and suffering might be pegged at 3 times the economic damages ($600,000).
Damages for emotional distress (sometimes called “mental anguish”) tend to be more variable in personal injury lawsuits and, unlike pain and suffering, are not assumed to exist in every injury case. To receive damages for emotional distress a plaintiff usually needs to present evidence of a psychiatric diagnosis like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Damages for wrongful death are awarded to the family members of the injured victim if they file a claim following the victim’s death. In Arizona, wrongful death claims can be brought by the victim’s surviving spouse, children or parents, or by an executor or personal representative on behalf of the victim’s estate.
Wrongful death damages fall into 2 categories. The first compensates the victim’s estate for the damages the victim herself suffered, including:
- Funeral/burial expenses;
- Medical expenses;
- Lost future income;
- Repair/replacement costs for property damaged in the incident causing her death; and
- Pain and suffering endured before death.
The second category compensates family members for the damages they suffer from the victim’s untimely death, including:
- Lost value of household services the victim performed;
- Loss of care, companionship, and guidance; and
- Pain and suffering.
Loss of companionship/consortium
Loss of consortium damages compensate family members for the harm done to their day-to-day relationship with the victim because of the injuries sustained by the victim. Typically, a loss of consortium claim cannot be brought as an independent claim or lawsuit – a non-injured spouse, for example, joins the lawsuit brought by the injured spouse to seek such damages.
In some states, loss of consortium is specifically limited to damages claimed by a husband or wife for losing the ability to have an intimate physical relationship with the injured spouse. In Arizona, however, loss of consortium damages have been interpreted more broadly to include damages suffered by parents and children when the other is injured in an accident.
No limit on personal injury damages in Arizona
Although certain states have laws that place limits or caps on the damages a plaintiff can receive in a personal injury lawsuit, Article 2, Section 31 of the Arizona Constitution provides that no such law is permitted in Arizona.
If you or a family member has been injured in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, a Phoenix personal injury lawyer at Hirsch & Lyon can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call any of our offices to schedule a free consultation.