When you are injured, it is usually expected that you will either receive a settlement from the at fault party, the insurance company of the person or entity who is at fault or that you will win a civil lawsuit for damages and injuries. However, most people only focus on getting compensated, but don’t truly know what they are being compensated for. Most settlements and claims include compensation for medical expenses, property damage and pain and suffering, but there are other things that you may receive compensation for after being injured.
It is important to remember that there is a specific period that you must file a personal injury claim against a defendant. Generally, the statute of limitations is three years for a personal injury claim and two years for a wrongful death claim.
Medical expenses are one of the common-sense aspects that comes along with a personal injury claim or case. If a plaintiff requires medical treatment, has hospital stays, physical therapy, etc., the defendant must pay for these incidental costs. The defendant must pay what the plaintiff had to pay out of pocket, such as co-pays and deductibles, and whatever amounts that the plaintiff’s insurance does not cover. Many times, future medical costs are taken into consideration and the plaintiff is compensated for those amounts as well.
Some injuries are so extreme that the injured is not able to work. There are also instances where you may be able to work, but not your usual duties, but your job may not have any other positions available to accommodate you while you are injured, thus you must stay out of work until your doctor clears you for regular duties. A personal injury claim can include all wages that could not be earned while you are recovering from your injury. Typically, you will be compensated for your average working hours.
Pain and suffering
Unlike the popular belief, pain and suffering goes beyond hurt feelings. Pain and suffering damages account for loss of sleep, anxiety, depression and other mental symptoms that a victim may experience. It is difficult to put a dollar amount on pain and suffering, but a judge or jury may consider several factors when determining an appropriate amount. These factors include: how the injury impacts current relationships, how the injured party’s regular daily routine will be affected and long term impacts from injuries.
Loss of consortium
When an accident has occurred, the victim is not the only person who is affected. Although the victim may have physical and emotional injuries, family members are also affected when another family member is seriously injured or killed. Typically, loss of consortium is sought by a surviving spouse after an injured spouse has been severely injured and is no longer able to provide the companionship, sexual relations or affection as they could do before they were injured. There is no specific formula that judges use to determine the value of loss of consortium. However, typically a judge and/or jury will evaluate the victim’s activities pre injuries, sexual activities and ability to perform household duties.
Punitive damages are damages that may be awarded in addition to actual damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter the defendants conduct and to punish the defendant. Not every personal injury case will be entitled to punitive damages. Under North Carolina General Statute (NCGS), § 1D-15, punitive damages may only be awarded if the plaintiff proves that the defendant is liable for compensatory damages and engaged in fraud; malice; and/or willful or wanton conduct which is related to the injury in which compensatory damages were awarded to the plaintiff. The plaintiff must prove the aforementioned elements by clear and convincing evidence. NCGS § 1D-15(b). There is a cap on the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded. Punitive damages may not exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $250,000. NCGS §1D-25(b). However, if a plaintiff is awarded compensatory damages for his injuries due to the defendant driving while impaired, the punitive damages cap will not apply.
Under NCGS § 1D-35(2), the trier of fact may consider evidence relating to the following when determining the amount of punitive damages to be awarded:
- The reprehensibility of the defendant's motives and conduct;
- The likelihood, at the relevant time, of serious harm;
- The degree of the defendant's awareness of the probable consequences of its conduct;
- The duration of the defendant's conduct;
- The actual damages suffered by the claimant;
- Any concealment by the defendant of the facts or consequences of its conduct;
- The existence and frequency of any similar past conduct by the defendant;
- Whether the defendant profited from the conduct;
- The defendant's ability to pay punitive damages, as evidenced by its revenues or net worth.
To Discuss your case please contact our office and speak with a lawyer directly. We discuss all the elements of your case including your damages claims. We can be reached at (704) 714-1450.