If you were injured by a negligent or reckless third party, you may be wondering how much in damages you are entitled to. To determine a rough estimate of how much your case is worth, you will need to factor in any physical and mental damages, as well as any action you’ve taken to appropriately recover. Keep reading to learn more about the types of damages you are entitled to, as well as any mitigating factors that might impact the full compensation you expect to receive.
Types of Damages
In personal injury claims, financial compensation for damages is generally decided in a negotiation settlement between the parties involved in the incident, their insurance companies, and their attorneys. The person who is found to be legally responsible for the accident pays the damages to the person who has been injured. The total compensation for damages is calculated based on three types of damages – compensatory damages, punitive damages, and mitigating situations.
Most personal injury cases are compensatory. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the injured plaintiff for what was lost due to the accident. A compensatory damages award attempts to put a dollar amount to all the consequences of the accident in question, as it seeks to make up for any injuries and losses the plaintiff has suffered. Some compensatory damages are easy to quantify, such as reimbursement for property damage and medical bills, though others can be tougher, such as emotional distress.
Some examples of compensatory damages you might expect in a personal injury claim are as follows:
- Medical bills – the cost of medical care associated with the accident, such as reimbursement for treatment and the estimated cost of medical care you'll need in the future due to the accident.
- Lost wages – impact on your salary and wages that you've both already lost and would have been able to make in the future were it not for the accident ("loss of earning capacity").
- Property loss – any vehicles, clothing, or other items damaged as a result of the accident that may be entitled to reimbursement for repairs or compensation for the fair market value.
- Pain and suffering – pain and serious discomfort suffered during the accident and any ongoing pain due to the accident.
- Emotional distress – psychological impact of an injury such as fear, anxiety, and sleep loss that might be quantified by therapy or counseling fees.
- Loss of enjoyment – day-to-day pursuits like hobbies, exercise, and other recreational activities.
- Loss of consortium – the impact the injuries have on the plaintiff's relationship with their spouse, such as the loss of companionship or inability to maintain a sexual relationship. In some cases, these damages are awarded directly to the affected family member rather than to the injured plaintiff.
Punitive damages are awarded to the injured plaintiff, but while compensatory damages are meant to alleviate the plaintiff for injuries suffered, punitive damages are more directed at penalizing the defendant for egregiously careless or negligent behavior.
Most states set a cap for punitive damages. Tennessee sets the following limits for punitive damages:
- $750,000 in non-economic damages for most injuries
- $1,000,000 non-economic damages cap for catastrophic loss or injury
- Non-economic damages prohibited for most property damage claims
Mitigation of Damages
After adding up the value of compensatory and punitive damages, the last step is to account for any deductions in the total compensation you might incur. For instance, in some cases, an injured person's role in causing an accident can diminish the amount of damages available in their case.
Note that Tennessee employs the strictest form of comparative fault, which establishes that if the injured person is even partially at fault for the accident, it might impact how much you can receive in damages. Tennessee’s “49% comparative fault” rule allows only parties who are 49% or less at fault for their own injuries to recover damages.
Additionally, another factor that could impact how much you would otherwise receive in damages is your failure to mitigate damages after an accident. For example, most states expect personal injury plaintiffs to take reasonable steps to minimize or "mitigate" the harm caused by the accident. If the court discovers that an injured plaintiff failed to seek necessary medical treatment after an accident or intentionally worsened their injuries, their damages award might be significantly reduced.
To calculate an estimation of damages you might receive for your personal injury case, take into account the compensatory damages you intend to negotiate for. The most common types of compensatory damages one might consider are medical bills and lost wages. Next, you should factor in any punitive damages that might come into play, depending on the severity of your accident. Lastly, subtract any value of damages according to Tennessee’s “49% comparative fault” rule and failure to mitigate your recovery. It will be in your best interest to enlist an experienced attorney throughout this process, as they can better assess your situation. The lawyers at Eldridge & Blakney can help you figure out how much your personal injury case is worth, and how to argue for your case in the negotiation room and beyond into court.
Contact Eldridge & Blakney today to schedule your initial consultation.