If you were injured in an accident then you are entitled to compensation, or damages, from the at-fault party(s). “Damages” is monetary compensation you may recover through someone else’s negligence or unlawful act or omission. Knowledgeable Tacoma personal injury attorneys detail several types of damages. Know your rights and understand what compensation you can expect for your personal injury case.
Economic damages, also called compensatory or special damages, attempt to compensate the injured accident victim for your monetary losses. This type of damages is easily or readily calculable and objectively verifiable by looking at your bills or speaking to your treating physicians. It encompasses both past and future expenses.
Past expenses are the expenses associated with your injuries and losses you incurred since the date of the accident up to and until trial or case resolution.
- Medical care and treatment – you can be compensated for treatment for your injuries, including ambulance, emergency hospital care, hospital in-patient or out-patient care, doctor visits, x-rays, CT and/or MRI scans, other radiological testing, blood work, EKG, psychological or psychiatric treatment, chiropractor, physical therapy, surgeries, and pain management. Cost of treatment for your injuries is evidence by your medical bills.
- Out-of-pocket expenses – you can be compensated for any medications needed to treat your injuries. Retain receipts for your prescription and non-prescription drugs along with any payments for medical equipment.
- Lost income – If your injuries prevents you from working or limits your ability to work, you can be reimbursed for any lost income associated with your injuries. This includes any paid sick or vacation time used for doctor appointments or if you were simply unable to work. Your employment records, doctor notes, tax returns, pay stubs, and applications for short-term disability will evidence any lost income.
- Property damages – This include any property that is destroyed or could be repaired. For property that has been destroyed and devalues with age, the fair market value will be used to assess the value of the property. The cost of repair is based upon receipts or estimates of repair.
- Childcare or home maintenance – if your injury prevents you from caring for your child or maintaining your home, then you may need to hire a nanny, lawn services, cleaning service, or even send your children to child care. You may be compensated for these expenses if you did not incur these expenses prior to the accident. Additionally, you must show that you provided these services prior to the accident. Thus, if you never mowed the lawn or took care of your yard, then most likely you will not be compensated for any services associated with your lawn or yard.
Future expenses are expenses associated with your injuries and losses you expect or anticipate incurring post-trial or case resolution.
- Medical care and treatment – Future medical expenses include continued treatment with your current medical providers, recommended surgery and rehabilitation, and recommended therapy (chiropractor or physical therapy, etc.). For future surgery, your surgeon can provide an estimate of the cost for the surgery.
- Medications – Your treating physicians can provide estimates of how long you will be on your current medications and costs associated with them.
- Long-term care – if your injury is so severe that you are disabled, you may require an at-home nurse or special equipment.
- Additional childcare or home maintenance
- Loss of future earning capacity – if you are permanently or temporarily disabled, then you will have a limited capability to earn income, affecting your ability to work and earn raises or promotions. Thus, you can be compensated for your loss of future earning capacity. Generally, an economic expert is needed to provide reasonable estimates of your future earning capacity based upon your education, skill and experience.
Non-economic damages are non-pecuniary or intangible harms that cannot be readily calculable. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering – refers to your physical pain and discomforts, along with your emotional stress from your injury. This includes your aches, potential shortening of life, fears, and depression associated with the accident and injury.
- Mental anguish – refers to fears, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, grief, and trauma associated with the accident, your injury and treatment.
- Disability or disfigurement – you may also be compensated for your limitations on your daily activity, focusing on what you were able to do with ease prior to the accident and what you can no longer do or find it difficult to do. You may also be compensated for any scarring, lost limbs, or other disfigurement.
- Emotional distress – you may be compensated for the psychological impact your injury has on your daily life. This may include loss of sleep, anxiety, fear, and in some cases, depression, crying fits, humiliation and fright.
- Loss of society and companionship – your parents, spouse and children may make a claim for the loss of your companionship, advice, or support.
- Loss of consortium – Your spouse may make a claim for the loss or decrease of intimacy in your relationship, especially on a physical or sexual nature.
Since non-economic damages are subjective in nature, circumstantial evidence is needed to prove the extent of your intangible harms. This includes consistent statements you made to your treating physician regarding your pain level and other symptoms. Your employment records may also provide insight on your mental state, especially if you complain about pain and there is a significant drop in the quality of your work post-accident. Witness statements regarding your limitations and losses are also persuasive.
Uncommonly, courts may permit claims for punitive damages. Punitive damages, sometimes called exemplary damages, are not monetary compensation for your injuries or harm done to you; rather, it is a pecuniary penalty meant to punish the wrongdoer. The purpose is to deter others from engaging in the same wrongful conduct. Punitive damages may be awarded in special cases when the defendant commits an act that is particularly wanton, egregious, malicious, violent, fraudulent, or evil.
Federal courts and different states may limit or cap the award for punitive damages. The cap could be based upon the wrongdoer’s income or a multiple of your actual (economic and non-economic) damages. These limits exist because although punitive damages are a form of punishment, it must be used fairly. In Washington, punitive damages are generally not allowed; however, there are statutory exceptions permitting punitive damages.
Tacoma Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
If you were injured in an accident, consult our seasoned Tacoma personal injury attorneys with Greene & Lloyd, PLLC to evaluate your claim and discuss your potential damages. Call 253-770-0808 today.