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Unveiling Compensation

Unveiling CompensationDamages Available In Personal Injury Cases

There are generally two types of damages awarded in a personal injury case – compensatory damages and punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for doing something to harm someone intentionally or while knowing that their actions are very likely to injure someone. Because of this, these damages are almost never available in a car accident case. One exception would be DUI cases. In them, the defendant needs to be punished for driving under the influence. Our firm has also successfully won motions to have punitive damages allowed in cases where people were texting while driving. We might have been one of the first firms to ever do this.

Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for the loss they have suffered and are not meant to punish a defendant for wrongful conduct. They are meant to hold the defendant in a law suit personally responsible for the losses they cause. Compensatory damages are divided into two categories: economic and non-economic. Non-economic compensatory damages are intended to compensate for pain and suffering, emotional stress, inconvenience, and mental anguish. To put it a little more simply, it covers damages other than out-of-pocket losses. Economic compensatory damages include things like past and future wage loss, medical treatment, and household services. In other words, compensatory damages are account for the damage or loss caused to the plaintiff both economically and emotionally.

There is a common perception surrounding personal injury plaintiffs and their attorneys. Many believe they seek to recover much more than is necessary. This is largely a myth. The damages sought in a personal injury case are intended to restore individuals to their pre-injury state, aiming to mitigate the losses incurred due to their injuries. Stated another way, personal injury cases are intended to make the injured party whole. Obviously, the case can’t take away or undo an injury; it seeks to compensate them for the tangible losses they have suffered.

In reality, the vast majority of personal injury cases do not result in individuals receiving more than they are entitled to. Insurance companies often propagate claims of excessive compensation that portray plaintiffs and their attorneys as greedy. This is part of their strategy to get off the hook and pay out as little as possible. In truth, the primary goal of personal injury litigation is to make the injured person whole again. Since the law currently only requires drivers to obtain $15,000.00 per person in liability insurance, many persons injured in auto accidents receive substantially less compensation than they have lost. Even with the minimum liability limits being increased to $30,000 per person, most car insurance policies are too small to compensate people fairly for their injuries. (This is why it is important to protect yourself and buy as much under-insured motorists’ coverage as you can reasonably afford.)

Calculating Medical Damages

When calculating medical damages in personal injury cases, there are two primary approaches that are typically followed, depending on the severity of the injury. In our practice, we have handled both types of cases.

In less severe cases, a doctor, often an expert in the field, collaborates with treating physicians to project future medical treatments. These medical professionals, often operating their own practices, can assess the value of these services based on their expertise and experience.

For severe or catastrophic injuries that require extensive future medical care, a different approach is necessary. In such cases, a team comprising a doctor and a life care planner collaborate to develop a comprehensive plan for future medical treatment. The life care planner utilizes local medical rates to determine the cost of each treatment modality. From there, an economist aggregates these costs and applies a discount rate to convert the total to present cash value for future care.

Compensation Timeline

As with most things that get tied up in the legal system, receiving compensation typically takes longer than expected. A range of factors play into how complicated a settlement ends up being. A simple pre-lawsuit settlement with one injured person and one defendant will likely take a few months. On top of this, there’s usually a 30-day deadline after a signed settlement agreement to get the settlement check. Naturally, the check then needs to be cleared by the bank.

There may very well be a lien on the recovery in a case. For example, a health insurance company or a first party auto insurance company may seek reimbursement for expenses they have incurred by paying for treatment to an injured party. As a result, your attorney will need to negotiate the lien to resolve the amount in dispute before any funds can be disbursed. This ensures that all parties involved are appropriately compensated and any outstanding obligations are settled.

Sometimes settlements become very complicated. If you’re dealing with a multimillion-dollar settlement, most people decide to put their money in what’s called a structured settlement. This is a type of annuity that pays out over time. If a structure settlement is used in a case, a lot of details need to be addressed to secure the structured settlement.

In some cases, multiple defendants are found to be at fault. If so, all of them would need to agree on an amount that each of them will pay. This tends to add some time to the compensation clock. If a defendant you’ve sued is particularly picky about what they are willing to contribute and the language of the settlement documents, this adds even more time to the clock. This comes up a lot in product liability cases with car manufacturers or in trip and fall cases involving grocery stores.

As we’ve said earlier, every case is different. Yet, regardless of their differences, each requires patience for the process. If you are in dire need of the money you’re seeking, as a last resort you can make use of some cash advance services after you sign a settlement agreement. These usually come with a tremendously high-interest rate, so if you can wait or find another source of money, it’s likely best to avoid the high interest rates of professional lending service, or else your settlement may be entirely eaten up by the high-interest rates.

For more information on Damages Awarded In A Personal Injury Case, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 966-4471 today.

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