What Damages Are Available in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Another motorist runs a red light or a stop sign, makes an illegal turn into your path or hits you from behind. You have a right to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover for all your losses. What compensation can you expect to recover in motor vehicle accident injury claim?
The Different Types of Compensatory Damages
In personal injury lawsuits, there are two general types of damages available—compensatory and punitive damages. Punitive damages, though, are only awarded in extremely limited circumstances. As a practical matter, almost all damages granted in personal injury litigation are compensatory.
Compensatory damages are further categorized as either “economic” or “non-economic” damages:
- Economic damages are those that are tangible and easy to calculate. They include lost wages and income, unreimbursed medical expenses and property loss or damage. To calculate these types of damage, you can typically look at tangible documents, such as pay stubs, receipts for medical care or for repair/replacement of property
- Non-economic damages are those that tend to be more speculative and therefore, harder to determine with any degree of certainty. Common losses for which you may be entitled to non-economic damages include:
- Physical or mental pain and suffering or anguish
- Loss of companionship or consortium—the inability to enjoy close relationships with family members
- Loss of enjoyment of life—The inability to complete the basic functions of daily life or to engage in activities that brought you joy, fulfillment or satisfaction before your accident
- Because of the difficulty involved in determining non-economic damages, courts take a variety of approaches:
- Some judges instruct juries to award a “reasonable” amount, based on the circumstances
- Some courts use a “multiplier” approach, taking the amount of economic damages and multiplying it by some factor, typically between one and ten