Injuries & Damages in a Personal Injury Case—How Badly Was the Victim Hurt and How Much is My Case Worth?
Next, let’s examine injuries and damages. The amount of damages (money) a victim is entitled to depends upon many factors, including what caused the injuries including the severity of the forces of impact, severity of the actual injuries (both physical and emotional injuries) caused by the incident, hospital and medical care and the charges incurred, type and length of treatment including physical therapy, reasonable and necessary future care and treatment, loss of enjoyment of life activities, other economic losses such as time missed from work, profits lost by a business owner and similar damages, and, of course, the amount or degree of pain, suffering and inconvenience suffered due to the incident.
Very simply, a person who suffers a broken leg or torn ACL with other associated injuries and is hospitalized for a week with required surgery and follow-up therapy and other care for six (6) months will usually be deemed to have suffered a more serious injury than someone who is rear ended, suffers what is often called “whiplash” injury and is fully recovered in two to four months. In other words, how bad the injury is, the type and amount of care required and how it affects the victim’s life will help determine the amount of damages (i.e., money) that are appropriate to fairly compensate the victim for his or her losses.
Specifically, there are several types or categories of monetary damages that a victim of a tort who suffers personal injury may claim, including the following:
- Hospital, medical and dental expenses, both past and future
- Loss of earnings and income (often referred to as LOE for “loss of earnings”), both past and future
- Pain, suffering, emotional distress and inconvenience, again past and future
- Loss of enjoyment of life activities, past and future
- Punitive or exemplary damages when the tort is intentional or committed with a conscious disregard of the rights of the victim
Victims of a tort who also sustain property damage, may also claim damages for physical property damage (usually for repairs and sometimes for total loss) and reimbursement for rental charges and/or the value of loss of use when replacement property is not rented but still lost for a period of time and, also, when appropriate, “diminution in value” when property that suffers major damage is repaired but is then clearly worth less post repairs than it was pre-collision.
Diminution in value is perhaps best understood when looking at the value of two similar cars, one that was never damaged and one that had $15,000.00 damage from a prior collision but was repaired. If you had a choice to buy both vehicles, knowing their histories, which one would you rather buy? Obviously, you would prefer the one that never had any accident and major property damage since once a vehicle suffers major property damage, even with the best of repairs, it just may never be the same or drive the same. Hence, the damaged vehicle is worth less, and this diminished value is called or referred to as ‘diminution in value.”
By assigning a fair amount to cover each element of injury or damage listed above and then adding them all up, the victim’s total monetary damages may be calculated and fairly determined.