What Damages are Available in a Personal Injury Claim?
Clients often wonder if they are eligible for certain types of damages. There are many types of compensation recovered in other areas of the law, but there are three primary forms of damages that are compensable in personal injury cases.
Specific, or economic, losses are the easiest to calculate, and usually include:
- medical expenses
- lost income
- out-of-pocket expenses for property damage
- other expenses caused by the defendant’s negligence
The last item is pretty broad due to the multitude of potential losses that can be incurred. Most lawyers will ask their clients to identify their losses, but clients should be aware that, in order to recover all these damages, they have to provide specific evidence. That means accurate record-keeping, like canceled checks or bank statements. For lost income, the plaintiff has to provide documents proving previous wage-earning capacities, like pay stubs or income tax forms. Loss of future income is equally important. For those earning income from commission sales, it can be more difficult to prove.
General, or subjective, losses are not as clearly defined and are intended to compensate for everything else intangible that has been endured, such as:
- pain and suffering
- loss of enjoyment of your life
- mental anguish
- interference with family relations
Sadly, there’s no fool-proof method to calculate the plaintiff’s mental anguish and personal embarrassment. There’s no documentary evidence or specificity that can quantify these damages. In the end, general damages are used to help judge or jury determine what is fair and equitable under the circumstances of the specific case.
Punitive damages are intended to teach a lesson to the defendant. These damages are the least common and rarely awarded in personal injury accidents, but they are meant to more-so punish the defendant than to award the plaintiff. They can be imposed due to egregious or extremely reckless behavior on part of the defendant. The ultimate goal, of course, is to positively change the defendant’s course of actions and deter any future.
Punitive damages are awarded based on certain factors, including the degree of the misconduct shown by the defendant, the seriousness of the plaintiff's injuries, and based on the at-fault party's wealth an amount of punitive damages that would have an impact on the behavior of the defendant and deter future egregious behavior. As a general figure, the plaintiff might request between 1 to 5 percent of the defendant’s net income.
If it can be shown that the defendant repeatedly behaved in a potentially harmful way, the higher the percentage awarded. However, there are no set guarantees. In the infamous McDonald’s Hot Coffee case, the punitive damage award of nearly $6 million was significantly less. This was equivalent to McDonald’s profit on coffee after only a few hours. The jury thought that this slight percentage was enough to send a message.
Car Crashes in New Mexico
The leading causes of death for New Mexican citizens are car accidents. Each year, there are 6.1 million crashes reported across the United States. A qualified New Mexico personal injury lawyer can possibly help you recover lost compensation for your injuries.
The legal team at Will Ferguson & Associates is here to help you recover after an accident. We can fight for your legal right to compensation. Give us a call at (505) 243-5566 to see what we can do for you.
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