If you have been injured in an accident or as the result of another’s reckless or negligent actions, you have likely been approached by an insurance company offering to pay your claim and settle your case. Insurance companies frequently undervalue personal injury claims, and use the lure of a quick settlement offer to encourage injured people to settle for far less than what their claim is worth. Personal injury accidents often cause lingering, long term damages, which may not be immediately apparent to the person who has been hurt. In addition to the costs already incurred, your injury may become a chronic condition, requiring ongoing treatments and having a permanent impact on your ability to work or participate in hobbies or interests you once enjoyed. How much is your personal injury claim worth? While that depends on your individual circumstances, here are some of the things to consider before settling your claim, as well as the types of compensation that you may be entitled if you take your case to court.
Damages Available In A Personal Injury Lawsuit
Under Section 3333 of the California Civil Code, people who have been injured in accidents caused by the careless or negligent acts of others are entitled to be compensated for any damages they have suffered. The types of damages you may be entitled to in a personal injury lawsuit include the following:
If you have been injured, you likely have hospital and doctor bills, as well as expenses related to anesthesia, surgeries, and diagnostic testing that was used to identify your injuries. Medical expenses also include prescription and over the counter medications, as well as medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, crutches, or home health products. If you required nursing care in your home or in a facility, or any kind of rehabilitative care, this is covered as well. All of these expenses may have been incurred by you in the immediate aftermath of your accidents and the weeks after.
What about long term medical care? Conditions such as head or brain injuries, back and spinal cord injuries, fractures, muscle or tendon strains and sprains, and burns all generally require ongoing care months after the actual injury occurred. Some injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, require continuing care for months and even years after the injury has occurred. Muscle strains and sprains can easily become chronic conditions which may flare up on occasion for the rest of your life. To get an idea of what your injury claim is actually worth, be sure and factor in any future medical costs you may incur as the result of your injury.
In the aftermath of an accident, you may have lost days, weeks, and even months of work, depending on the severity of your injury. You deserve to be compensated for this time, as well as for any future losses in income that may be associated with your injury. For example, if you suffered a back or spinal cord injury, even if the injury is not completely devastating in terms of paralysis, you could still face lifting restrictions and find it difficult to perform tasks, such as standing on your feet for lengthy periods of time, or sitting hunched over a computer doing data processing. Your inability to perform these tasks is likely to restrict your job opportunities in the future, and may even require you to go into a whole different line of work. You are entitled to any losses in income you may suffer because of your restrictions, as well as compensation for vocational training to help you move into a more suitable position. In the event your injuries are severe, your inability to work in the future and the income you will have lost as a result of not working is something you deserve to be compensated for. In calculating this amount, you would need to also calculate raises, bonuses, or promotions you may have received over the course of your employment.
Scarring and Disfigurement
Certain types of accidents, such as dog bites, fires, and car accidents, can result in permanent scarring and disfigurement. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are psychological as well as medical ramifications of being scarred or disfigured, such as dealing with people staring, asking questions about your injury, or avoiding you altogether. These experiences can lead to feelings of social isolation, both from family and loved ones as well as society as a whole. You may require therapy and group counseling to cope with the feelings you have about your injury and to learn how to effectively deal with other people’s reactions to it. Scarring and disfigurement affects every area of your life, and while it is hard to put a price on your own well-being, you deserve to be compensated for these types of injuries.
Pain and Suffering
Personal injuries cause heartache for both the injured parties as well as their families. You may have had to undergo painful testing, surgical procedures, or rehabilitation. You may now be dealing with lingering pain from your injuries, and while pain medication is always available, doctors often prefer that patients employ coping mechanisms such as meditation and deep breathing to deal with chronic pain. Pain and suffering is something insurance companies do not factor into their settlement offers, but it is something you can be compensated for in a personal injury lawsuit.
Punitive Damages In Personal Injury Cases
In addition to the damages listed above, you may be entitled to punitive damages in your case. Under Section 3294 of the California Civil Code, punitive damages are meant to punish an at-fault party for actions or conduct that was flagrantly reckless or grossly negligent. Punitive damages are often awarded in transportation accidents, premises liability, and product liability cases. The amount you receive as punitive damages is in addition to any other types of compensation you are entitled to, and is often two or three times the amount of your total personal injury claim.
Simple calculations of all the damages listed above will likely come up with an amount that is over and above that offered by an insurance company. While these are only some of the types of damages injured parties may claim in a personal injury lawsuit, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the details regarding your own particular case.