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How Are Damages Assessed in a Personal Injury Case?

Being involved in a personal injury case can be time-consuming, stressful, and overwhelming. But, you’re not alone. Kelly & West’s personal injury attorneys are here to help you through your case and provide above and beyond legal support. 

The goal of pursuing a personal injury case is to receive compensation for your injury, which we call damages. You’re probably wondering how exactly these damages are assessed, especially those that are less concrete, like pain and suffering. In this post, we are going to break down how damages are assessed in a personal injury case to give you a better idea of where the compensation you might receive in your case comes from. 

What are Damages? 

As we mentioned earlier, damages are the legal term for compensation in a personal injury case. To put it more simply, the damages you win are the amount of money you’ll receive once the case is settled in court.

But calculating damages is often far from simple. In any given case they can cover a myriad of costs beyond injury/ medical bills. Here are some of the most common damages we see covered in a personal injury case: 

  • Medical bills 
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Emotional distress 
  • Tavel and out-of-pocket expenses 
  • Loss of work/ income 

Travel expenses, medical bills, and loss of income are fairly easy to calculate and generally there isn’t much back-and-forth about these items. However, calculating damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress is much more challenging. Insurance companies employ various strategies for calculating damages and juries are often divided on the issue of how much to award for pain and suffering, especially in non-catastrophic cases. 

The 3 Types of Damages

You should also be aware that there are three distinct types of damages in a personal injury case. They each serve a different purpose and the examples of damages we mentioned earlier each fit under one of the three categories. 

Compensatory Damages 

By definition, compensatory damages are the compensation or money you’ll personally receive for involvement in an injury or accident that was caused by the negligence of another person. Even though the injury may have happened by accident, the negligent person still has to pay. In order to prove that the defendant (the person that is responsible) is responsible for paying these damages, your attorney will need to prove that your duty of care was breached, and that breach caused injury or illness to you. And, as a result of the injury or illness, you now have economic (out-of-pocket) and/or non-economic (pain and suffering, etc.) losses.  

Nominal Damages 

Nominal damages are frequently received in situations where the plaintiff has proven to have suffered harm due to another person. However, the harm is minimal and you won’t receive more than a few dollars. What’s the point? The courts will now have a record that misconduct did occur, even if it didn’t result in a serious injury, illness, or economic loss. 

Punitive Damages 

The final type of damages is punitive damages. It is typically used in cases where the defendant was intentionally malicious or negligent and that behavior resulted in a serious injury or illness. The amount that punitive damages end up being is different in every case and is at the discretion of the court. Punitive damages are often used to deter the defendant from repeating the harmful behavior.

If you’ve been in an accident, seek professional legal help to ensure you recover all of the damages you are owed. Have questions about a potential personal injury case? The Kelly & West team is always here to talk.

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