How much is a personal injury case worth? How are the amounts determined? What are the limits?
If you’re considering filing a personal injury lawsuit over a car accident, slip and fall, or any other kind of injury, you may be wondering “What is my case really worth?” The answer comes down to “damages” — figuring out what your injuries have cost you monetarily, physically, and mentally (and, in some cases, whether the defendant’s conduct should be punished – known as “punitive damages”).
In a personal injury case, money damages are paid to an injured person (the plaintiff) by the person or company who is found to be legally responsible for the accident (the defendant or their insurer). A damage award can be agreed upon after a negotiated settlement — among the parties, their insurance companies, and their attorneys, for example — or may be ordered by a judge or jury following a court trial.
Most personal injury damages are classified as “compensatory,” meaning that they are intended to compensate the injured plaintiff for what was lost due to the accident or injury.
Here are some factors that are taken into consideration when injury lawsuit amounts are determined;
Medical treatment: cost of and extent of treatment for the present and the future
Income: loss of earning capacity
Property loss: If any vehicles, clothing, electronic or other personal items were damaged as a result of the accident
Pain and suffering: You may be entitled to get compensation for pain and serious discomfort you suffered during the accident and in its immediate aftermath — also for any ongoing pain that can be attributed to the accident
Emotional distress: Some states consider emotional distress as part of any “pain and suffering” damage that is awarded to a personal injury plaintiff
Loss of enjoyment: When injuries caused by an accident keep you from enjoying day-to-day pursuits like hobbies, exercise, and other recreational activities, you may be entitled to receive “loss of enjoyment” damages
Loss of consortium: In personal injury cases, “loss of consortium” damages typically relate to the impact the injuries have on the plaintiff’s relationship with their spouse
The loss of companionship or the inability to maintain a sexual relationship, for example. Some states also consider the separate impact on the relationship between a parent and their child when one is injured. In some cases, loss of consortium damages are actually awarded directly to the affected family member rather than to the injured plaintiff.
So as you can see, some cases are worth a few thousand dollars while others are worth a million or even several million. Obviously, severe (lifelong) injuries and wrongful death cases are going to obtain the highest amount of damages/recovery. Each case should be evaluated by a skilled personal injury lawyer who can estimate the value of the case.
Regarding the cap on damages – see this excerpt from alllaw.com:
Damage caps in injury cases serve to limit the amount of compensation that an injured person can receive. A few states use damage caps to limit non-economic damages, which includes compensation for “pain and suffering” and other difficult-to-quantify negative effects of an injury. By law, Colorado caps non-economic damages in injury cases at $250,000, or $500,000 if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that justifies an increase. This law was passed in 1986, and it allows adjustments for inflation. So, taking inflation into account, as of 2014, the base non-economic damages cap was close to $540,000, and the “clear and convincing evidence” level was around $1,080,000. You’ll find this law at Colorado Statutes section 13-21-102.5.
If you have a question about the value of your injury case, call the Bendinelli Law Firm in Denver Colorado, handling all types of personal injury cases for decades, and here to answer your questions.