Understanding How Personal Injury Damages Are Calculated

Understanding How Personal Injury Damages Are Calculated
Calendar icon April 30, 2024

When you’re the victim of an accident that leads to personal injury, understanding how damages are calculated can seem like an impossible task amidst the stress and confusion of the aftermath. Many people find themselves asking a multitude of questions: What am I entitled to? How will my medical bills be paid? What about the time I’ve had to take off work? All of these concerns are valid and addressing them is important for ensuring you get the compensation you deserve. 

Compensation for personal injury isn’t a random number plucked out of the air. Instead, it’s determined by carefully considering a variety of factors, including the severity of your injuries, the impact on your quality of life, and the economic losses you’ve endured. Generally, personal injury damages are divided into two main categories: compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages aim to restore the injured party to the financial position they were in before the accident. These damages are further divided into two subcategories: economic and non-economic.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are calculable costs directly related to the injury. These can include:  

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Any out-of-pocket expenses that have arisen as a result of the injury. 

To accurately calculate these damages, an array of documentation is necessary. Medical bills, pay stubs, tax returns, and receipts are essential for quantifying these losses. Additionally, expert testimony may be required to project future medical costs and earnings losses.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate for intangible losses that don’t have a definitive monetary value but still significantly impact the victim’s life. This can include: 

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of consortium. 

Unlike economic damages, there’s no universal formula for calculating these. Instead, jury awards for non-economic damages are based on the severity of the injury, its long-term effects, and the subjective impact on the individual’s life.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are a different type of compensation altogether. Rather than being designed to make the victim whole, they are intended to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar conduct in the future. These are awarded only in cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly shocking or reckless. Punitive damages are not tied to the injury’s financial impact and are relatively rare in personal injury cases.

Factors That Affect How Damages Are Compensated

There are several factors that can significantly influence how damages in a personal injury case are calculated:

  • The degree of fault: New York follows a comparative negligence rule, which means that if you’re found partially responsible for the accident, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage you’re found to be at fault.
  • The credibility of the evidence: The stronger and more credible  your documentation and testimony are, the better your chances of receiving a fair damages award. It’s important to take pictures and video at the accident scene, get a police report, and follow up with medical visits, as these are all pieces of evidence that can strengthen your claims.
  • The policy limits: Insurance policy limits also play a role, as they cap the maximum amount that can be paid out. This is why SUM coverage is important. If the other party’s insurance coverage is exceeded, you may need to turn to your own insurance to cover the remainder of your damages.
  • The life expectancy of the claimant: Particularly in cases involving permanent injuries, life expectancy can impact future damage calculations.
  • Statutory caps: Some states impose limits on certain types of damages, particularly non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

Calculating Personal Injury Damages: An Example

Imagine you’ve suffered a back injury in a car accident caused by another driver. Here’s how damages might be calculated:

  • Medical expenses (ambulance, surgery, hospital stay, medication): $50,000
  • Rehabilitation costs (specialist visits, medical equipment): $15,000
  • Lost wages (six months of recovery time at $4,000 per month): $24,000
  • Pain and suffering: Given the potential chronic nature of back injuries, let’s assume a jury awards $100,000
  • Punitive damages: These are not applicable unless the other driver’s conduct was egregious.

In this scenario, the compensatory damages would total $189,000, comprised of $89,000 economic and $100,000 non-economic damages. Keep in mind, your own no-fault insurance would cover up to $50,000 of the expenses directly related to your medical bills and lost wages. 

Why Legal Representation Matters

The calculation of personal injury damages can be complex, especially in cases where multiple parties may be liable. Navigating these claims without the assistance of seasoned legal representation can be intimidating. Each case’s unique facts make partnering with an experienced personal injury attorney essential for maximizing the compensation you can recover.

Your personal injury lawyer will have an in-depth understanding of these nuances, including how to:

  • Gather comprehensive evidence to substantiate all aspects of the claim
  • Engage medical and economic experts to compute long-term costs and losses
  • Argue effectively for a fair assessment of pain and suffering
  • Negotiate with insurance companies who aim to minimize payouts
  • Prepare for trial, if necessary, to ensure just compensation

Furthermore, because most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, they only get paid if you win your case, aligning their interests with your own.

Contact Cellino Law

Calculating the full extent of your losses and seeking fair compensation after a personal injury can be an overwhelming challenge, particularly when you should be focusing on your recovery. Allow the knowledgeable and compassionate team at Cellino Law to help take the weight off your shoulders. Our team of legal professionals have decades of experience working with injury victims to secure the damages our clients are rightfully owed. 

If you have suffered a personal injury and need expert help in calculating your damages, representation in negotiations, or advocacy in court, we are here for you. Contact us for a free consultation at 888-888-8888, and take the first step towards securing your future.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.



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