When someone sustains significant injuries as a result of an accident, they typically will file a personal injury claim in order to recover any financial losses that have occurred as a result of the accident. These losses can include costly medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, and are often referred to as ‘damages.’ If a claim is not settled and proceeds to trial, the exact value of these damages is eventually determined by a jury and can greatly vary depending on the facts of each individual case.
The monetary value of damages in a personal injury case is dependent upon the types of losses that an injury victim may have incurred as a result of an accident. Essentially, the personal injury claims process is designed to fulfill a victim’s losses and make them ‘whole’ again as if the injury had never happened in the first place. And because each case is different, the factors that determine the monetary value are wide-ranging.
Monetary Losses in Personal Injury Claims
On the injury side, the damages involved in a personal injury case may include two specific types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Washington State is one of the four minority states in the country to have outlawed punitive damages for personal injury claims, and punitive damages are only allowed to be assessed in certain cases under statute.
As a result, the primary source of recovery for personal injury victims is through compensatory damages. According to Justia.com, compensatory damages refer to the monetary value – in the form of an actual dollar amount – that is placed on a victim’s injuries. Compensatory damages may be broken up into two categories: monetary losses and non-monetary losses.
Monetary losses, also known as special damages, refer to the losses that a victim has incurred that can be affixed to an actual dollar amount. These damages can include medical bills, future cost of living, lost wages, property damage, and potential funeral expenses. For example, an injured victim who has accumulated $25,000 in medical bills, lost $10,000 in wages and totaled a $10,000 vehicle would be seeking approximately $45,000 in monetary losses.
Types of Non-Monetary Losses
In addition to monetary losses, victims may potentially seek to recover non-monetary losses through a personal injury claim. The key difference between these and monetary losses is that non-monetary losses are less easily defined, as there is rarely a price tag associated with the damages that are being sought.
The two types of non-monetary losses are pain and suffering and loss of consortium. Pain and suffering refers to all potential compensation for the physical pain that a victim has endured as a result of the accident. Emotional distress – the frustration, fear, anger and loss of enjoyment of life associated with suffering from an injury – is also considered when determining pain and suffering, and is usually a factor in more serious types of injury cases.
Loss of consortium is a general reference to any marital problems that arise between an injury victim and his or her spouse as a result of the accident. Specifically, this includes problems such as loss of affection, solace, comfort, companionship, and even sexual relations. It is not uncommon for married couples to experience unique hardships after an injury, and loss of consortium damages are a means for repairing those hardships.
Ultimately, there are a number of factors that come into play when exploring the various types of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury claim. The state that the accident occurred in obviously plays a key role, as some states – like Washington – have restrictions on allowing punitive damages. And because each personal injury case is different, some cases may warrant recovery of certain damages while others may not. The best way to determine which damages are recoverable after an accident is to consult with a qualified personal injury lawyer.