There are two types of damages in any personal injury case: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages, sometimes called “actual” damages, are intended to return the accident victim to the status he or she had before the accident.
Obviously, the victim of a serious accident cannot always regain everything he or she had before the accident, especially in the case of traumatic injuries like loss of limb, traumatic brain injury, severe burns or spinal cord injury. However, compensatory damages are still intended to put a dollar value on the losses suffered by the accident victim. In a personal injury lawsuit, compensatory damages are divided into economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are losses that have an actual monetary value attached to them, such as medical bills, lost wages from time off work, and repairs to or replacement or property. Non-economic damages are where the math gets tricky. The purpose of noneconomic damages is to place a dollar value on things that do not have a dollar value – such as loss of future earnings due to a debilitating injury, permanent scarring, pain and suffering, and loss of family, social or educational experiences.
It is a hard fact for many injury victims to accept, but a personal injury lawsuit will place a hard dollar value on these kinds of “priceless” losses. Usually, the math problem goes something like this:
- medical expenses x (some number usually between 1.5 and 10) + future lost earnings = total compensation
Your personal injury attorney and the insurance company will negotiate over the number between 1.5 and 10. This is the number that indicates the seriousness of the losses. When injuries are relatively minor, the insurance company may offer a multiplier of 1.5 or 2. You and your attorney may or may not think this amounts to fair compensation. In more serious injury cases, the multiplier may be closer to 5 or – in extremely traumatic accident cases – as high as 10.
Keep in mind, the accident victim may also be entitled to punitive damages if the person who caused the accident acted willfully or with malice.
Contact Shaffer & Gaier After a Serious Accident
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious, life-changing accident, you deserve representation by knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys. To set up a free initial consultation, contact our office online, call our Philadelphia office location at 215-751-0100, or call our New Jersey office at 856-429-0970.