Compensatory damages are meant to offset an injury sustained by an individual. Actual damages, dollar-for-dollar reimbursement of an individual for out-of-pocket expenses, may include medical expenses, property damage, and loss of income. Additionally, general damages may be awarded for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and lost opportunity for the future enjoyment of life.
An injured person’s medical expenses often constitute a significant portion of the damages to which he or she is entitled, as serious injury incurs high cost. It follows then that the greater the amount of money owed for medical services, the greater the damages to be sought. Future medical costs must also be considered in the case of long-term injury requiring significant rehabilitation or on-going treatment. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney is able to demonstrate the need for future medical treatment as well as clearly determine the value of the plaintiff’s claim.
Personal injury law covers personal injury as well as personal property damage. The plaintiff may be awarded damages for the replacement or repair of any property harmed in an accident. For example, an automobile accident is a common incident leading to a personal injury case, and damage to the automobile(s) involved would be considered. In addition to the costs of repair and loss of value of the car, a plaintiff may receive compensation for damage to property contained within the car and reimbursement for substitute transportation during the repair period.
The valuation of property damage is a complicated process, often requiring the opinion of an expert appraiser. It is in the hands of this professional to determine whether or not the property has been totally ruined or retains any salvage value. In the case that the property is useless, damages can be requested in the amount of its fair market value prior to the accident. If repair is an option, however, compensation can be requested for both the cost of repair and the loss of use by the owner. There are occasions when the cost to repair the property exceeds its replacement value and the damages are still limited to the fair market value of the property before loss. Other factors include interest and loss of profit. This is particularly true in those instances in which the property is utilized in one’s employment.
Loss of Income
If the plaintiff is prevented from working for a time by his or her injury, the money normally earned during this period, “lost wages,” may be sought as compensatory damages. Lost wages can also be claimed for any absences due to medical treatment of the injury. Severe injury which leaves the plaintiff unable to work indefinitely or for the remainder of his or her life may allow for compensatory damages to cover the loss of one’s future earnings. Finally, in the case of death, family members can sue for the lost income that would have been earned by the victim, based on his or her age and current salary.
Pain and Suffering
The physical pain and suffering which an injured person must endure is the most personal element of the injury experience; it can also be the most problematic to quantify. Differences in disposition and pain tolerance, for example, can make the quantification of suffering problematic. However, certain factors which can be measured accurately are used to document one’s discomfort level. For example, an experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney will collect information from the plaintiff’s medical practitioners regarding the amount of medication the injured person required, the types and length of treatments necessary, and the duration of the recovery period. Additionally, those close to the injured person can be interviewed to assess the extent of change in the victim’s quality of life by comparing his or her condition and normal activities prior to and after the accident. In any personal injury case, it is very important that any enjoyment of life that has been reduced due to an injury be brought forward and properly supported with testimony and evidence.
Typically, a more severe and painful injury causing long-term or permanent impairment will have a more valuable claim in a personal injury case than an individual whose injuries are not as extensive, painful, debilitating, or disruptive. If the injury results in permanent disability, experienced counsel will seek out expert testimony to support the victim’s claim and help determine the most suitable value of damages to be sought.
Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress
Mental anguish and emotional distress often exist concurrently with pain and suffering. There is an important distinction however: the former refer to mental/emotional responses to the trauma of a physical event while the latter refer to the actual discomfort and pain caused by the physical injuries. Common symptoms of mental anguish include terror, shock, apprehension, confusion, humiliation, and sorrow. In an attempt to stem the tide of personal injury lawsuits based solely upon mental anguish and emotional distress, some states have enacted strict guidelines such as the “zone of danger” test, designed to figure in how physically close the plaintiff was to the accident. The “physical manifestation rule” is another way that limitations have been placed on these cases. The “physical manifestation rule” requires that the emotional distress experienced by the plaintiff show up as physical, observable symptoms such as depression, anxiety intense enough to cause ulcers, or loss of appetite and weight.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium refers to the inability to engage in companionship activities at the level previously enjoyed. This is another potential effect of accident and injury, particularly those tragic injuries which result in permanent disability such as paraplegia. Damages awarded for loss of consortium are generally less than other types of compensatory damages, but they account for another aspect of the loss of qualify of life experienced by injured individuals.
Lost opportunity damages are sometimes awarded in addition to the damages sought for lost wages and loss of future earnings. This is a fairly specific type of damage, referring to a pre-existing business opportunity that has been missed due to an accident. Such a claim must be supported clearly with evidence. Attempts to present a lost opportunity otherwise, as conjecture only, can damage the credibility of the case as a whole, potentially causing a jury to reject the more substantial damages sought by the plaintiff.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Sheridan & Rund at 310-640-1200, toll free at 888-640-6789, or contact us online. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.