Being in the business of personal injury law, the attorneys at our firm are asked one question over and over: What is my personal injury worth? There’s no simple answer because every situation is different. You can’t say every broken leg is worth the same amount or every injury from a car crash is always worth more than every dog bite.
It’s also difficult to answer because this is really the wrong question. Personal injury damage amounts aren’t determined by what an injury is “worth.” Instead, they’re calculated by taking many different factors into account to determine the reasonable value to compensate for the effects of an injury.
Different Types of Damages
Compensation in personal injury cases falls into two broad categories: compensatory (also called financial or economic) damages and non-economic damages.
Financial damages are usually easier to calculate and reach an agreement on. These include things that can have a dollar amount put on them—the price of a car wrecked in a crash, the cost of medical treatments, or the wages and salary lost while a victim recovers from an injury.
There can still be disagreements over the appropriate value of financial damages. Should a car’s value be set as the purchase price or the value at the time of the crash? What rehab and physical therapy services will be needed, and for how long? What is the replacement cost of long-term or lifetime earnings if a victim can’t return to work for an extended period or ever?
The point of economic damages is to restore the injured party to the state he or she would have been in if his or her injury had not happened. A second type of damages, non-economic damages, is meant to compensate an injured person for pain and suffering and other intangible factors that can’t be directly measured.
Non-economic damages can be awarded for entirely invisible and unmeasurable items, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish, as well as for obvious items that are difficult to measure, such as a disfigurement or loss of services or companionship.
There are some restrictions on non-economic damages. For example, they aren’t awarded in workers compensation cases and there are caps in medical malpractice cases.
Louisiana: A Comparative Fault State
Louisiana law uses what’s known as comparative fault in injury and death suits. Plainly described, comparative fault means that a victim can be found partly responsible for his or her injuries.
As part of the resolution of a case, a damage amount is set, but that amount can be reduced if a victim is found to be even partially at fault.
For example, let’s say a driver runs a red light and hits another car, injuring the second driver and causing $100,000 in property damage and medical expenses. If the second driver is found to have been speeding, and his injuries are determined by the court to have been 20 percent caused by the speed, then the actual damage amount owed by the first driver will be reduced by 20 percent to $80,000.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
In any personal injury case, it’s important to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side. Not only will your lawyer know his or her way around the law and see to all the details of filings, deadlines, subpoenas, affidavits, and other procedural issues, but he or she will help you develop your claim so all of the damages you’re entitled to are taken into account.
Some financial damages are frequently overlooked: the cost of a rental car, for instance, or travel expenses for specialist medical treatment, or the costs—temporary or ongoing—of a future caregiver to help an injured victim.
Identifying all the non-economic damages and placing a value on them can be even more challenging. How much, for example, is the pain a victim suffers in an accident worth? What is the value placed on the loss of happiness in a marriage when one spouse suffers a crippling injury? What amount can a child be paid for the loss of a parent?
Spencer Calahan Injury Lawyers is an experienced personal injury law firm that understands all of these issues. We’ve helped hundreds of clients reach favorable settlements. Call us today at 225-387-2323 or fill out the form below to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.