All personal injury lawsuits are focused on the payment of damages for the financial imposition caused by the specific injuries. Those damages are categorized in the legal system and apply to certain life issues as a basis for claimant demands. The three general categories of damages are economic, non-economic, and punitive. However, there are also classifications within those categories of how the damages apply to the claim and what elements of the claim are grounds for financial recovery requests.
The first element of any personal injury claim is the economic damages. Also termed as compensatory “special” damages in some courts, they are requests for financial recovery regarding certain expenses that can be declared in specific numbers. These damages include recovered compensation for:
- Injury treatment and surgery bills
- Rehabilitation therapy bills
- Lost wages when the injured plaintiff cannot work due to the injury
- Incurred expenses for meeting required medical appointments
These damages are vital to a claim because they establish a numerical value that can later be used to determine further general damages. This potential depends on whether the courts use the multiplier calculation method or the per diem calculation method in determining financial recovery for ongoing life problems. Most settlements will also include demand from the respondent insurance company for full release from further financial responsibility for costs incurred due to the claimed injuries.
Non-economic damages are the general damages that are almost always included in a lawsuit that will refer to ongoing life problems due to the claimed injuries. These are crucial for most injured claimants, and they can include recovery for items that are not designated in exact numbers. They are also known in some courts as general damage allowances for pain and suffering. These elements of a claim can include such issues as immobility for those who suffer long-term irreparable damages to their legs and back, including those who are left paralyzed or partially paralyzed to any degree. Issues that also can be included as non-economic elements are financial recovery for mental anguish from having to deal with being injured for the remainder of their life.
These damages are usually calculated using either the multiplier method or the per diem method. The multiplier method involves using the total special economic damages as a base number to be multiplied by an agreed-upon factor that typically ranges upward from 1 to 5 depending on the seriousness and long-term impact of the claimed injuries. The per diem method applies by using a daily amount and multiplying it by an agreed-upon number of days. The only limitation on this final non-economic damage amount applies to personal injury cases for medical malpractice which sets the limit at $500,000.
Punitive damages are different from standard economic and non-economic damages in a typical personal injury claim. They are not always available in a personal injury case. Additionally, they cannot be claimed in a standard injury claim with an insurance company or negligent respondent party. Punitive damages can only be awarded by a sympathetic jury following a trial in which a personal injury attorney proves “gross” negligence in any particular injury case. An example of when punitive damages could apply would be a claim stemming from a truck accident that involved an intoxicated truck driver or a standard accident with a drunk driver who registers in the aggravated DUI category regarding BAC levels of the driver.
The fact that someone was seriously injured due to an accident is not sufficient for punitive damages to be available. Some accidents are exactly that. They are an accident that occurred due to general negligence and not intentional acts by the primarily responsible party. Additionally, they are usually only applicable when one party is assigned total fault for an accident such as an intentional act that results in a car accident or personal harm such as a homicide. There are no caps on punitive damages either, so this amount depends generally on the level of disregard shown by the respondent party.
Understanding Different Damages is Important
It is important for all injured plaintiffs in North Carolina to understand how these damages apply to their injury case. A settlement in any claim stops the potential for legal action, so the potential damage awards from a trial can be used as leverage when a personal injury attorney is negotiating a deal to end the claim. This also makes it vital to meet all medical appointments and follow all directions from doctors in rehabilitating an injury even when there are permanent ongoing implications. Always select a personal injury attorney who has a strong track record of results for their clients for obtaining maximum damages in their injury cases.