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Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases

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Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases



Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury CasesMost personal injury cases involve claims of negligence by one party. That party’s negligence caused another person to sustain injuries and damages. Under New York’s personal injury laws, the victim can seek compensation for damages caused by an accident or injury.

Cases involving personal injury can arise from a variety of situations. Traffic accidents are a common reason to file a personal injury claim. Construction accidents, premises liability issues, wrongful death, and birth injuries are other examples of cases that can give rise to a personal injury case.

What Damages Can I Recover for a Personal Injury?

The types of damages available in a personal injury case depend on the facts of the case. In many cases, the victim sustains physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial losses.

The damages caused by an accident or injury are generally divided into three categories:

  • Economic damages
  • Non-economic damages
  • Punitive damages

Within each category, you may have one or more damages that can be included in your injury claim.

What Are Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Your expenses and financial losses related to the accident, injuries, and recovery are included in economic damages.

Examples of economic damages include:

Cost of Medical Care and Treatment

Medical care and treatment can be expensive. Doctors’ bills, surgical costs, ambulance services, hospitalizations, and diagnostic tests can total thousands of dollars. Medical bills for catastrophic injuries could total hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Cost of Personal Care

Some victims require personal care and/or in-home health care, especially if they sustain permanent impairments or disabilities. The cost of home health care and assistance with daily activities, such as bathing, feeding, and dress, may be included in a personal injury claim. 

Loss of Income

When a person misses time from work because of an accident or injury, the loss of income is included in the personal injury claim. Loss of income may include self-employment income, benefits, commissions, and bonuses, as well as wages and salaries. 

Therapies and Medical Equipment

Many accident victims require physical therapy, vocational therapy, occupational therapy, or other types of therapy. They may also require special medical equipment, such as braces, wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. All of these costs are included in the claim.

Other Expenses and Costs

There could be other expenses that might be included in a personal injury claim. The expense of traveling to and from medical appointments is a common additional expense. Modifications to the home for a permanent disability is another expense that might be included in a claim. 

What Are Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Non-economic damages are much more difficult to define. These damages represent the suffering and pain an accident victim experiences. They are often called “pain and suffering” damages.

Examples of non-economic damages include:

  • Mental trauma and anguish
  • Emotional distress and anxiety caused by the accident and your injuries
  • Physical pain and suffering caused by your injuries
  • Conditions such as depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other disorders related to the accident or your injuries
  • Scarring and disfigurement 
  • Disabilities and permanent impairments
  • Inconvenience, loss of quality of life, and loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium (marital relations)

Every person suffers differently. The level of suffering is often based on the severity and type of injuries. However, a person who sustained minor injuries in an accident could suffer significant physical, emotional, and mental distress and anguish. 

What Are Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Punitive damages are rarely awarded for injury claims. These special damages are not intended to compensate the accident victim for damages. Punitive damages “punish” a person for a willful, wanton disregard for another person’s safety or gross negligence in causing an accident or injury. 

An example of a case that might result in punitive damages is a DUI accident that results in death or catastrophic injuries. Another example might be a property owner who intentionally and knowingly fails to remedy an extremely hazardous condition that the owner knows will injure people the owner invites onto the property. 

How Do You Value Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Calculating the value of a personal injury claim can be complicated. There could be numerous factors that impact the value of your claim, in addition to the specific damages you sustained because of the accident. 

Factors that could impact how much your injury claims is worth include:

Severity and Type of Injuries

The severity and type of your injuries can impact the value. Injuries that result in disabilities and impairments tend to increase the value of a claim. A case involving traumatic brain injuries, amputations, or spinal cord injuries may be worth more than a case involving a strain or minor fracture. 

Comparative Fault 

Your liability for the cause of the accident can also impact the value of your claim. Under New York’s comparative fault laws, your compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault you have for causing the accident.

Availability of Insurance Coverage

If the at-fault party does not have sufficient insurance coverage to pay your injury claim, you may not receive the full value of your injury claim. You could sue the person and obtain a personal judgment, but if the person does not have the assets to pay the claim, the judgment could be worthless.

Strength of the Evidence

You must prove that the other party was responsible for causing your injury before recovering compensation for damages. Evidence is required to prove each of the elements of a negligence claim. If the evidence is weak, the settlement offer from the other party may be lower.

Calculating the Value of Your Damages

Economic damages equal the actual amount of the expenses and financial losses sustained because of the accident and injuries. Documentation is required to include expenses or financial loss in the total for economic damages. Keeping detailed records and copies of all receipts, bills, and invoices helps increase the chance you receive full reimbursement for economic damages.

If you sustained a permanent impairment or disability, you could be entitled to future damages. Estimating ongoing medical care, personal care, and loss of income may require hiring experts to calculate the estimated losses correctly.

Valuing pain and suffering damages can be challenging. It is difficult to place a dollar figure on someone’s suffering. Insurance companies and attorneys often use the multiplier method to calculate non-economic damages.

A number between 1.5 and five is assigned to the claim. The total of the financial losses is multiplied by that number to calculate pain and suffering damages. Severe injuries and permanent impairments increase the multiplier.

A per diem might also be used to value pain and suffering damages. A daily amount is assigned to the claim based on the facts of the case. That figure is multiplied by the number of days between the date of the accident and the date the doctor releases the person from care.

Keeping a journal detailing your recovery can help support the maximum value for pain and suffering damages. Make notes about your pain levels each day and how the injuries impact your daily life. You can also include details about your emotional and mental state and how the injuries impact your relationships with family and friends.

Call Our New York Personal Injury Attorney for a Free Consultation

Documenting and calculating the value of damages can be confusing and frustrating. Insurance companies undervalue damages to avoid paying more money for injury claims. Before accepting a settlement offer for a personal injury claim, contact our office for a free case review with a New York personal injury lawyer.