The law uses the word damages to represent the losses an injured person has suffered and the amount of monetary compensation the at-fault party must pay. Damages fall into two major categories: economic and noneconomic.
Economic losses negatively affect the victim’s personal wealth. In an auto accident, the immediate losses include the damage done to the victim’s car, clothing and possessions. However, the victim soon incurs additional economic losses:
- Medical bills — All medical costs associated with injuries from the accident are considered economic losses for the victim, even if the victim is insured.
- Lost earnings — The victim can claim any loss in wages or salary due to an inability to work following the accident. If the victim suffers a permanently disabling injury, or an injury that limits the victim’s future earning potential, the victim can claim lost future income as part of the economic losses.
- Lost benefits — If the victim uses paid time off to cope with the injuries, those days count as economic losses, even though the victim was paid.
- Costs of rehabilitation — Physical and occupational therapy costs, as well as the cost of any equipment, are economic losses.
- Home-care expenses — If the victim requires at-home assistance to deal with a disabling condition, those costs can be calculated as economic losses, even if the victim’s family provides the services.
- Costs of modifying a home to accommodate a disability — A victim with disabling injuries can claim the cost of remodeling a home as an economic loss if the remodel is done to accommodate the disability. Wheelchair ramps, lowered kitchen counters, and bathroom modifications are allowable damages.
Noneconomic damages are intangible losses that are real but not easily assessed in terms of dollars and cents. These include:
- Pain and suffering — This phrase refers to physical pain and mental suffering, and entails the victim’s experience from the point of the accident to the time of complete recovery. If the victim never recovers completely, the loss must be assessed over the estimated span of the victim’s life.
- Loss of consortium — These damages are available to a victim who is no longer able to have normal marital relations (i.e., sexual intercourse) with a spouse.
- Loss of enjoyment of life — These damages are assessed for victims who had a well-documented interest in some aspect of life that they can no longer participate in due to the accident. A piano player who loses several fingers or a dancer who loses a foot in an accident can make this claim.
- Loss of quality of life— This is a more extreme situation than loss of enjoyment, in that the victim cannot simply cultivate other interests to fill the void. These damages are for victims whose injuries prevent them from participating in a broad spectrum of life activities. Although any victim with a permanently disabling condition can make a claim for loss of quality of life, the claim is greatest for severely injured victims, such as those with traumatic brain injury, paraplegia or quadriplegia.
Calculating damages in a personal injury case is an art and a science. It takes experience practicing personal injury law to know how much a particular injury to a particular victim may be worth. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, call the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation. We have offices conveniently located in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County, Bakersfield, Fresno, Phoenix, or Tucson.