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Key Terms in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

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Posted on January 31, 2014

Most personal injury lawsuits are filed in order to compensate the victim for the loss he/she sustains due to another’s negligence or fault. Wrongful death lawsuits are designed to compensate surviving family members for the loss of a loved one. Both types of lawsuits are designed to hold negligent and at-fault parties financially responsible for the harm caused to others.

There are several common terms are associated with the types of damages an injury victim or surviving family member might be awarded. These factors are also taken into consideration by a personal injury attorney in estimating the value of a client’s claim and come into play when the attorney negotiates with an insurance company or with the defendant’s lawyer. They typically include:

  • Compensatory Damages: These are the total payments designed to specifically compensate an injured party for the direct costs associated with his/her injury. It is the dollar value which will make whole or replace the loss caused by the injury.
  • Medical Expenses: In personal injury cases, damage awards typically include full reimbursement for emergency surgeries and medical treatment already received.
  • Future Medical Treatment: This includes the costs of any future expenses such as follow up surgeries, adaptive medical devices, prescriptions, therapies, and long-term rehabilitation.
  • Lost Wages: The injury victim is often entitled to payment for the accident’s impact on his/her ability to earn a living. This includes income lost due to missed time at work because of the injury. It may also include any loss of benefits, merit increases, tenure, and vacation time lost as a result of time spent recovering from the injury.
  • Mental Anguish: This factor is usually linked to more serious accidents and severe injury. Emotional distress damages are meant to compensate an injured party for the psychological impact of an injury including fear, anxiety, and sleep loss. Mental anguish is also called emotional distress in some cases.
  • Loss of Companionship: If a spouse is lost in a wrongful death case, the surviving spouse may be awarded compensation for the lost partnership as well as the loss of their ability to contribute to the household and help to raise the children.
  • Diminished Quality of Life: Serious or permanent injuries caused by an accident often prevent the injured person from enjoying day-to-day pursuits like hobbies, exercise, and other recreational activities. He/she may be entitled to receive “loss of enjoyment” damages.
  • Loss of Future Earnings: Refers directly to the loss of monetary income (lost wages) the person would have earned for the remainder of his/her working career had it not been for the injury. Loss of future earnings is a common factor in most wrongful death settlements and awards.
  • Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are designed to punish and deter a responsible party for blatant negligence or ignoring the known dangers that caused the accident. If unsafe conditions existed for some time before the accident and the at-fault party ignored multiple opportunities to correct the problem or worked to cover it up, punitive damages may be awarded.

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