Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases
Most people file personal injury cases to recover compensation for damages caused by another party. For example, you might file a car accident claim because another driver caused your injuries because he was speeding, intoxicated, or driving while distracted.
On the other hand, you could file a personal injury case because of a dog bite injury your child sustained. You might file a personal injury lawsuit because you sustained injuries because of medical malpractice.
Hundreds of situations could lead to a personal injury claim. However, the purpose of all personal injury claims is to hold the party responsible for causing injury and harm financially liable for damages. With that in mind, let’s discuss the damages that are available in personal injury cases in Texas.
The first set of damages that are available in a personal injury case are economic damages. These expenses relate to the costs, expenses, and financial losses sustained by the accident victim. Examples of economic damages include:
The cost of your medical care and treatment after an injury is included in damages. These are the most common type of damage in a personal injury case.
Examples of medical expenses include, but are not limited to:
- Ambulance costs and emergency room fees
- Hospitalizations and surgeries
- Physicians’ bills and medical provider bills
- Diagnostics tests, including lab tests, x-rays, CT Scans, and MRIs
- Physical, occupational, vocational, and other therapy
- Medications and medical supplies
- Medical equipment
Almost any reasonable and necessary cost of medical care can be included in a personal injury case.
Victims should always seek immediate medical care after an injury and keep detailed records of all medical costs and expenses.
Loss of Income
If you cannot work because of your injuries, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss of income. Loss of income can include:
- Decreases in earning potential
Loss of opportunities and other forms of compensation might also be included as loss of income damages. As with medical expenses, carefully documenting your losses increases the chance of receiving full compensation for these economic damages.
Other Out-Of-Pocket Expenses
Medical bills and lost income are two of the most common types of economic losses in a personal injury case. However, each case is unique.
Depending on the circumstances, other economic losses might be included in a claim for damages including:
- Travel expenses to and from medical visits
- In-home health care or personal care
- Long-term medical or personal care
- Modifications to a home or vehicle because of a disability or impairment
- Help with household chores
Keep all bills, invoices, receipts, and proof of payment for economic losses. Your lawyer can determine which of these losses can be included in a settlement demand.
“Pain and suffering” damages or non-economic damages are also available in a personal injury case. You are entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the accident and your injuries.
The party who caused your injury can be financially liable for your:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Disabilities and permanent impairment
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Psychological injuries, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression
- Loss of enjoyment of life or quality of life
The calculation of the value of pain and suffering damages is challenging. There is not a standard formula to determine how much a person’s suffering and pain are worth.
However, some factors impact the value of pain and suffering damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
For example, a person who sustains a catastrophic injury resulting in permanent impairments, such as amputations, paralysis, and brain damage, is generally believed to suffer more than some with a broken bone that healed in a few months.
However, a person who sustains multiple broken bones or complex fractures that require surgery might not suffer as much as a person with a broken finger. It all depends on the facts of the case.
You can help your personal injury lawyer maximize pain and suffering damages by keeping a journal throughout your case. Write down your daily pain levels and how your injury impacted your daily life. Make notes about your mental state and whether you suffered from flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, or depression.
Punitive damages are a third category of damages that might be available in some personal injury cases. An award of punitive damages is rare in injury cases.
This type of damage is intended to “punish” a party for gross negligence, egregious intentional acts, and acts that demonstrate a willful, wanton disregard for human safety. A horrific DUI accident could potentially rise to the level of punitive damages.
Does Texas Place Caps on Compensation in Personal Injury Cases?
A cap is the maximum amount that can be awarded to a victim in a personal injury case.
In general, there are no caps on economic damages and non-economic damages in most personal injury cases. However, there are some exceptions.
There are caps on compensation in cases involving the government and in medical malpractice cases. Punitive damages are also capped in personal injury claims.
In cases involving comparative fault allegations, there might not be a cap on the amount of damages a jury might award, but there could be a cap on the amount of damages a victim might receive. Under Texas comparative fault laws, you can recover money for a personal injury claim even if you are partially to blame for causing the accident.
However, you cannot be 51 percent or more at fault for the cause of your injury.
If your percentage of fault for the accident is below 51 percent, the amount of your compensation is reduced by your percentage of fault.
For example, if your damages total $200,000 and your percentage of fault is 30 percent, the most you could receive for your personal injury claim is $140,000 ($200,000 x 70 percent).
Filing Damage Claims for Personal Injury Cases
In most personal injury cases, you have two years from the accident date to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you do not settle your claim or file a personal injury lawsuit within that time, you cannot legally force the other party to pay your damages claim.
Most personal injury cases begin by filing an insurance claim with the other party’s insurance provider. Never assume that your claim is “easy,” or you will receive fair compensation without a lawyer. The insurance company wants to pay the least amount of money possible to end your claim.
Before talking to an insurance adjuster, accepting a settlement, or providing any statements or information, it can be better to speak with a personal injury attorney. An attorney evaluates your case and provides an honest opinion regarding your options for recovering compensation for damages.
Get the facts from a legal advocate for victims before you decide how to proceed with the case.