The area of law referred to as personal injury relates to claims for compensation for an injured victim. Personal injury claims can arise in different ways, including auto accidents, defective products, dog bite attacks, and accidents on business property. When the injuries are someone else’s fault, the victim may be able to recover financial compensation or damages. Our personal injury clients at The Jeff Brooke Team often ask a very basic question: How is personal injury compensation calculated?
Regardless of how the injuries in a case occurred, the components of any personal injury claim are similar. Victims often don’t realize just how many elements there are in valuing a claim. While consulting an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to determine potential total compensation in your specific case, understanding all the different considerations that go into calculating damages provides a good basis for discussing your case with your attorney.
Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case
There are three basic types of damages that may be included in calculating personal injury compensation:
- Special damages, which are also called economic damages;
- General damages, which are also called non-economic damages;
- Punitive damages, which are also called exemplary damages.
Together, special and general damages — the first two categories — comprise compensatory damages, which are damages that compensate or reimburse the victim for the injuries and losses suffered.Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages, because they don’t relate to the victim’s injuries but rather to the conduct of the person who caused the injuries.
Special or economic damages reimburse the victim for monetary losses resulting from accident injuries. This part of compensation can be itemized and quantified. Depending on the circumstances, there are several kinds of financial losses that can be caused by an injury and are part of the special damages, including:
- Medical and treatment expenses, both incurred immediately after the accident and expected in the future;
- Lost wages or income from missed work;
- Anticipated future lost income or earning capacity, from the inability to work at all or at the same level as before the injuries.
In a specific case, the individual items that make up special damages are demonstrated by documentary evidence of cost or value by items such as medical bills, employment records, and other documents.
In contrast to economic damages, general or non-economic damages are more difficult to value or quantify. These damages can include compensation for non-financial losses, including:
- Pain and suffering, both past and future;
- Emotional and psychological trauma;
- Past and future inconvenience;
- Permanent disfigurement or disability, including the associated embarrassment or humiliation.
The components of general damages are harder to evaluate and demonstrate than the elements of special damages. The circumstances relating to each component will be different in every case. Experienced personal injury attorneys are well-versed in knowing how to value general damages. In some cases, experts will be consulted to demonstrate specific parts of a general damage claim. Having a knowledgeable attorney to advise you is especially critical when it comes to evaluating this part of a personal injury damages claim.
Punitive damages are only available in limited and specific circumstances in Virginia. A state statute provides for punitive damages in drunken driving cases that meet certain requirements. Punitive damages may also be available under common law legal rules in situations where the person who caused the injuries acted intentionally or in a seriously reckless or malicious manner. The type of conduct that justifies punitive damages far exceeds the kind of conduct that constitutes ordinary negligence. Virginia has a limit of $350,000 on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a lawsuit.
Calculating the Compensation in Your Personal Injury Case
If someone else’s negligence caused your injuries, that person may be legally responsible for compensating you for your injuries. Sometimes, it is important to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer to fully assess the circumstances. Other times, it may not be necessary.
In situations where your injuries are minor, your expenses are all paid by insurance, and you have no long-term losses or injury, you may not need to talk with an attorney. There may be no other damages that can be claimed or proven.
However, if your injuries are serious and you need long-term treatment or have significant permanent impairment from your injuries, consulting with a personal injury attorney is essential. That is the only way to have your claim evaluated impartially and fairly. Even with all the above information about the considerations that enter into calculating personal injury compensation, it will be very difficult for you to figure out your own potential compensation.
While there are internet articles that purport to explain how to calculate and settle your own claim with an insurance company, following that course is very risky — you could easily end up with much less compensation than you and your family deserve. An insurance company will not be looking out for your interests. The adjuster’s only goal is to settle your claim for the lowest possible amount. Especially if your injuries are significant, you should not even talk with an insurance adjuster or make any verbal or signed statements to anyone before you talk with an attorney. If you do so, you could hurt your chances of getting a full and fair settlement.
Get Help From an Experienced Virginia Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been seriously injured in any kind of accident that was another person’s fault, Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeffrey Brooke is here to help. At The Jeff Brooke Team, we will always have your and your family’s best interests at heart and aggressively pursue your case to get the full compensation you deserve.
We know how to talk to insurance companies and adjusters. We understand how they negotiate personal injury lawsuits and claims and how they try to settle for the least cost to the company. Just as importantly, if negotiations with the insurance company don’t get the full amount you deserve, we have the litigation experience to go to trial if it becomes necessary.
While you can read and study about how personal injury compensation is calculated, the only way to get an accurate and fair assessment of your case and potential compensation is to discuss your case with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. At The Jeff Brooke Team, our personal injury practice is dedicated to helping injured victims and their families. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.