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Calculating Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Calculating Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

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Calculating Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you have been injured as a result of another party’s negligence, you may be thinking about pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. You could receive compensation to cover aspects of your life that have been affected, including damages for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. However, you may be wondering how to calculate damages in personal injury cases and exactly what your settlement could look like. Calculating these damages can be more complicated than you might think. If you need help with a personal injury lawsuit, Morgan & Morgan is always available. As the largest personal injury firm in America, we have lawyers throughout the country who can help you no matter where you’re located. Contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free consultation.

Calculating Economic Damages

Economic damages are objectively verifiable monetary losses. This can include medical expenses, future estimated medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and property damage. While this type of damage may seem easier to calculate, you will need to gather all relevant documentation to get a true picture of the compensation you should seek.

For instance, if you wish to sue for medical expenses, you must retrieve all of your relevant medical bills. This may not be as simple as retrieving the medical bills from the doctor you’ve seen consistently throughout your treatment. If your medical situation required testing and you received two bills, one from the facility for the use of an MRI machine and a bill from the doctor who interpreted the results, you will need to combine both totals. Additionally, if you require any physical therapy or nursing care, you will need to find these totals as well.

Lost wages and property damage are likely easier to calculate. For lost wages, simply calculate the sum of your lost earnings, including any paid time off benefits you needed to use for your recovery. If you were in an accident where you would need to calculate property damage, such as a car accident, you can retrieve estimates from an automotive repair shop. 

Loss of earning capacity may prove difficult to calculate. You can provide an estimate for how long you will not be able to work, based on your medical prognosis.

Future medical expenses can be based on an estimate of your current medical treatment. It will be beneficial to consult with any practitioners involved in your health care regarding the future of your medical treatment for this calculation. Once you have collected all estimates, add them together for your economic damages.

Calculating Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages, also known as subjective damages, are intangible losses. Typically, this can include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and mental anguish. Since non-economic damages are more difficult to determine, it will definitely be beneficial to work with a lawyer who is experienced in this type of calculation. If you would like to try yourself, though, there are a few different methods for calculation.

The first method, which many insurance adjusters use, is to use a multiplier. Typically, you would use a number between 1.5 and 5, with 1.5 being on the lower end of pain and suffering while 5 is on the higher end. You will multiply the sum of your economic damages by the multiplier number you’ve chosen.

The difficult part of this method is deciding on an appropriate multiplier. If it is too high, you will likely face trouble justifying the high amount of compensation you have asked for. Ensure you are considering factors such as the severity and/or permanence of your injuries, your prospects for a complete recovery, the impact of your injuries on your daily life, and whether the negligent party was clearly and solely at fault for the accident that caused your injuries. It would help to provide documentation to support the multiplier you wish to use, such as your medical documentation and evidence of the other party’s negligence. You will have to prove the other party’s negligence during your case anyway. Knowing how to calculate damages in personal injury cases can be complicated but can be very beneficial. 
Though less often used, you could also calculate pain and suffering using the per diem (or daily rate) method. Instead of using a multiplier, you would assign a daily rate in dollars and multiply it by the days that you are experiencing pain. The difficult part of this method is figuring out an appropriate daily rate. Those who use this method often assign their actual daily earnings as the per diem rate. The justification for this is that dealing with the pain from the injuries could be comparable to the effort of going to work daily. This method is not always appropriate for individuals who experience permanent or long-term injuries, but if you would like to use this method anyway, you could consult with a lawyer on ways to circumvent this problem.

If you are unsure of which method is most appropriate for your case, you could always start by using both methods, then comparing the numbers. They will likely be similar in their final amount, and you can average out the number to know how much to ask for in compensation. Since calculating non-economic damages can easily become complicated, however, it is recommended you consult with a lawyer who can assist you.

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FAQ

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  • What About Punitive Damages?

    Punitive damages are often awarded in particularly egregious cases of negligence, often if the at-fault party has engaged in malicious or willful misconduct. These damages are awarded to the injured party as punishment to the at-fault party. 

    Not every state allows punitive damages, so make sure you check to see if you can receive this type of compensation in your state. Be aware that some states do allow punitive damages for certain types of lawsuits, such as injuries as a result of medical malpractice, but not for other types of injuries. 

    You cannot directly ask for punitive damages; the court must award them. If you feel that you should receive punitive damages for your case, consult with a lawyer on the appropriate steps to take.

  • Does the State I Live in Matter for My Final Settlement Amount?

    It’s important to bear in mind that the state you reside in makes a difference on your final settlement amount due to the laws surrounding negligence.

    In states with pure comparative negligence laws, such as Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington, your final settlement amount is reduced by your percentage of fault. Let’s say you were 20% at fault for your accident, and your settlement amount is $20,000. That means that you will receive $16,000 in damages.

    In states with modified comparative negligence, such as Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Caroline, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, your final settlement amount is also reduced by your percentage of fault. However, if your percentage of fault is greater than 50%, you will not receive any damages.

    In states with contributory negligence laws, such as Alabama, Washington D.C., Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, you cannot receive any damages if you are as little as 1% at fault for your accident. 

  • What Other Factors Could Affect My Settlement?

    Almost all personal injury cases are settled before they get to trial, so it’s important to know what will affect the settlement that the defendant is offering you. Besides state law regarding negligence, a variety of other factors may affect your final settlement amount.

    One such factor could be disproportionate medical bills. If an insurance company sees that your medical bills are inflated, such as extensive treatments and tests that they deem unnecessary, they may not provide compensation for the full amount of expenses.

    Additionally, the venue (also known as location) may affect your final settlement amount. Often, adjusters want to settle out of court if they believe a jury will favor you as an injury victim. They may pay more money to settle out of court.

    Finally, your own policy limits could affect your settlement amount. If your policy limits are significantly lower than the amount of compensation you require, you will have to file a personal injury lawsuit to receive the damages you are seeking.

  • What About the Adjuster’s Calculation?

    It is important to understand that in accidents such as car accidents, you may have to go through your insurance first before filing a personal injury lawsuit. You should also realize that the insurance adjuster will try to provide you with the lowest amount of compensation possible. It is not advisable to simply accept their calculation. If you do not want to calculate your damages yourself or you would simply prefer professional help, you can always reach out to an experienced lawyer who can calculate the damages on your behalf.

    When it comes to calculating non-economic damages, insurance adjusters are more likely to accept your calculation if you provide documentation of your pain and suffering from a medical professional. As you are going about your treatment, ensure you are collecting documentation that proves you have experienced pain and suffering. This will help you secure the maximum amount of compensation possible.

  • Should I Hire a Lawyer?

    Though you can calculate damages yourself and negotiate with an insurance adjuster, working with a lawyer will ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation you need. It can be easy to make a mistake when calculating, plus you will be required to demonstrate a significant amount of documentation. A lawyer can gather and organize this documentation on your behalf and calculate the appropriate amount of damages to request.

    Additionally, insurance companies often will try to pay you the minimum amount of compensation possible. They will have a team looking through your claim in order to find discrepancies. If you hire a skilled attorney, they can negotiate on your behalf so you are not offered a poor settlement. If you have decided to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced personal injury attorney today in order to receive the justice and compensation you deserve.

  • Morgan & Morgan Can Help

    If you were injured in an accident, you might be wondering how to calculate damages in personal injury cases and how much compensation you might be entitled to. This is where a dedicated and competent attorney comes in. If you need help with a civil claim, Morgan & Morgan can help. We have recovered more than ten billion dollars for our clients, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that you get the compensation you’re entitled to. Contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free consultation. 

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