Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case

December 2, 2020
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If you were hurt by someone else’s careless, reckless, or otherwise negligent actions in Florida, you have the right to seek fair compensation. This can be achieved by filing a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. In personal injury cases, the forms of compensation or reimbursement you are eligible to seek are called “damages.”

If you have been injured, it’s a good idea to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can help you present your case in a convincing and legally viable manner, maximizing the compensation you need to recover. 

At Rue & Ziffra, our firm has proudly represented thousands of individuals in personal injury and accident cases for more than 40 years. Our skilled team has the background and legal knowledge necessary to help you seek the full compensation you need to pay your bills, make up your lost wages, recoup money for other unexpected losses, and move on with your life.

Call us now to speak with our attentive staff and schedule your free initial consultation.

What are Personal Injury Damages?

Generally speaking, only injuries resulting from accidents caused by the neglect, unintentional recklessness, or willful wrongdoing of other parties are considered to have reasonable grounds for a personal injury suit.

According to the legal definition, a personal injury occurs when someone is physically, mentally, or emotionally harmed because of someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or wrongful actions. Personal injury law covers a wide variety of circumstances, such as automobile accidents, dangerous premises liability, dog bites, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, product liability, and cases of wrongful death.

When injured parties are awarded monetary reimbursement for their suffering, the resulting compensation is called damages. In a personal injury case, an injured party, or plaintiff, makes a claim against another at-fault party, or defendant. If the plaintiff is successful, the defendant or their insurance provider must pay damages in order to return the injured party as best as possible to the position they would have been in if their injuries had never occurred.

In some cases, injuries may be so severe that it’s impossible for plaintiffs to fully recover or return to the lives they previously enjoyed. When this happens, injured parties may be eligible for certain non-economic damages to make up for the immaterial costs of suffering and diminishment in quality of life. 

What are the Three Types of Damages?

When determining the value of your personal injury case, there are three main types of damages you and your lawyer will need to consider. In some cases, only one of these categories may apply, while other cases can involve all three of the following types of damages:

  • Economic damages refer to the types of compensation that are familiar to most people. These damages repay plaintiffs for measurable costs associated with the injuries they suffered and any resulting losses or expenses. The amounts paid for special damages can vary widely from one plaintiff to the next based on the severity and long-term effects of their injuries. Examples of special damages include medical bills, lost income, and out-of-pocket expenses related to treatment or recovery.
  • Non-economic damages are designed to compensate injured parties for losses that can’t be measured using neat and tidy dollar amounts, but are just as real as those that can. Receipts and invoices are not required to calculate compensation amounts. General damages compensate injury victims for things like pain and suffering, emotional or mental distress, loss of quality or enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium with the victim’s spouse.
  • Punitive damages are less common than general or special damages because they are awarded only to plaintiffs who were injured because of the extreme carelessness or willfully malicious behavior of a defendant. These extra damages are designed to make legal examples of wrongdoers and may be awarded in serious injury cases like those involving assault, egregious negligence, or deliberate fraud.

How are Personal Injury Damages Calculated?

Calculations for personal injury damages are based directly on the real and immaterial losses suffered by injured people. Of the three main types of personal injury damages, economic damages are usually the easiest to calculate, since they are based on dollar amounts that come from bills and lost wages.

When your lawyer helps you calculate the value of your claim, one of the first things they will do is ask for your relevant medical bills, previous pay stubs, and other expense receipts. Adding the total amount of your out-of-pocket expenses to the amount of any lost wages or income opportunities will yield the total of your special damages.

Calculating non-economic damages can be challenging. In some cases, the “multiplier method” is used to determine non-economic damages, which multiplies the special damages by a number between 1 and 5, depending on the severity of the injuries. For example, if you suffered a permanent disability because of serious injuries and were awarded $10,000 in special damages, your attorney may multiply that amount by 5 and request $50,000 in general damages. In other cases, general damages may be awarded on a “per diem” basis, which assigns a specific dollar amount to each day you have been forced to suffer from your injuries since the accident.

The calculation of punitive damages is often the most subjective of the three. These damages are awarded in rare circumstances and are designed to punish the defendant and send a message to others that the behavior in question is unacceptable. The goal of punitive damages is to hopefully deter such behavior in the future.

Learn about Injury Damages

If you’ve been injured in Florida and believe you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, there are some additional factors you should keep in mind. They include:

Statute of limitations in Florida –Most states have a statute of limitations that imposes a time limit on plaintiffs who wish to file personal injury lawsuits in court. In Florida, this time limit is generally four years from the date of your accident. If you decide to file a lawsuit after this legal deadline, it’s likely that Florida’s civil courts will refuse to hear your case at all. It’s important to the ultimate success of your claim that you be aware of the time limits that apply to your situation.

Florida damages caps –A damages cap refers to the maximum legal amount of compensation available to plaintiffs in personal injury cases. In Florida, there is currently no legal limit on the amount of general or special damages you can receive for your injuries. Before July 1, 2015, there was a $1 million cap on non-economic damages arising from wrongful deaths caused by medical malpractice, but the 4th District Court of Appeals found that medical malpractice damage caps were unconstitutional. However, Florida does place specific limitations on punitive damages, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. For example, there is no limit on the number of punitive damages that can be awarded if the defendant intended to harm you. If the person did not intend to cause you harm but still knew that harm was highly likely and they still acted in a careless or reckless manner in their own financial interest, punitive damages will be capped at four times the value of the compensatory damages (both economic and non-economic) or $2 million.

In most other instances, the state will place a cap on punitive damages equal to either three times your compensatory damages total or $500,000.

Independent medical examinations –If your lawsuit involves especially severe injuries or lacks appropriate medical documentation, you may be asked to submit to an independent medical examination (IME). Florida law allows insurance providers and defendants in personal injury cases to request IMEs so that an objective medical record of your injuries is available for evaluation in court. One important factor to keep in mind is that you have the right to request that a witness be present for any IMEs you are asked to complete, so you are not forced to rely on your word alone if any disputes arise.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?

No matter how minor or serious your injuries are, you shouldn’t be forced to pay for your own losses if your accident was caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness. We recommend that you retain the services of a dedicated Florida personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your accident so that you can rest assured every possible avenue is explored to win you maximum compensation.

Contact the relentless legal team at Rue & Ziffra today to learn more about your legal options and how we can help. Our firm has won hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for injured people, and we never ask clients to pay legal fees unless and until we win.

Call us or fill out our online contact form to get started with your free case evaluation now.

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