How Are Damages Calculated in Personal Injury Cases?

How Are Damages Calculated in Personal Injury Cases?

Steven Schwartzapfel -Founding Partner Aug 17, 2022

For more than 35 years, Steven Schwartzapfel, the founding member of Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C., has been one of New York’s most prominent personal injury attorneys. Steve represents clients in all types of personal injury cases. His experience, skill, and dedication have enabled Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. to recover hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

In the event of a successful lawsuit, you will receive compensatory and/or punitive damages for your injuries and related needs. Damages are the ultimate goal for most personal injury lawsuits: they help to compensate victims for medical bills, stabilize their finances while they recover, and provide an incentive for at-fault parties to be more careful in the future.

Still, how much can you expect in terms of damages? Also, just how are damages calculated in personal injury cases? We’ll provide you with the answers to these questions and more below.

If, however, you would prefer to speak with someone directly to learn more or to receive an estimate of damages for your case, please contact Schwartzapfel Lawyerstoday at 1-800-966-4999. It will be our honor and privilege to answer your questions and/or help with your case.

Compensatory Damages

Damages for personal injury cases are typically separated into two categories: compensatory and punitive.

Of the two, compensatory damages are more common. This is because they can be awarded when the at-fault party was negligent, if not malicious. The goal of compensatory damages is to compensate for what was lost due to the negligence or maliciousness of another. They are intended to make the recipient whole again after suffering injuries, whether damages are personal, property-based, or otherwise.

Suppose you are involved in an auto accident with a negligent driver. You are uninjured, but your car is totaled. Personal injury lawyers and other experts estimate that your car’s value at the time of the accident was $20,000. Should you receive full compensatory damages, they will be calculated to reimburse you for the value of your vehicle, or roughly $20,000.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the victim of an auto accident or other incident. Instead, they are awarded on top of standard compensatory damages and are intended to punish the at-fault party.

Punitive damages are rarer than compensatory damages because they are only awarded at the behest of the court when they find that the defendant’s behavior is especially malicious, harmful, or negligent.

In the majority of personal injury cases where you receive compensation from a negligent party or their insurance company, you will not receive punitive damages. Furthermore, it’s more difficult to prove maliciousness or egregiously negligent intent, so punitive damages are usually skipped in favor of a direct compensatory award.

For more on this and other topics, please visit Schwartzapfel Lawyersonline or speak with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers now by dialing 1-800-966-4999.

Factors That Affect Personal Injury Damages

Personal injury damages can be affected by a wide range of factors. A court or your lawyers may tally up the cost of these factors when determining a grand total for damages.

Medical Treatment Costs

Naturally, personal injury damages are usually calculated based on the total cost of medical treatments. Medical treatment costs are usually calculated based on both past and future medical expenses, such as previous surgeries, upcoming medication refills, physical therapy appointments, and more.

Property Loss

Property loss is also often included in personal injury damages. Note, however, that loss of property applies only when property is damaged or destroyed in the accident at hand.

Lost Income

Lost income is calculated by estimating how much money a plaintiff would have made, were they not involved in the accident or forced into a period of medical recovery. Lost income damages do not typically factor in overtime pay or other pay bump increases. Instead, they take the average wage the plaintiff made prior to the accident and predict how much they likely would have made on average to estimate damages.

Pain and Suffering

Some personal injury cases include calculations for pain and suffering. Pain-and-suffering estimates are made to compensate the victim for the discomfort or pain they may have experienced because of the injuries from the accident in question.

However, pain and suffering damages can vary heavily due to the subjective nature of the assessment. Insurance adjusters may use special formulas to estimate pain and suffering, or use charts with assigned formulas and values.

Emotional Distress

Emotional distress (ED) may further be calculated in personal injury damages. What constitutes ED is the anguish, fear, and other negative emotions a plaintiff may have experienced during and after an accident, or as a result of their injuries.

Loss of Enjoyment

Loss of enjoyment damages are added to a plaintiff’s damage total only when their injuries are sufficiently debilitating or disabling. These represent compensation for loss of enjoyment of life activities. For example, a plaintiff who loses the ability to walk but who previously loved bicycling may receive loss of enjoyment compensation as a result.

Loss of Ability

Similarly, loss of ability compensation is meant to compensate accident victims whose injuries lead them to lose one or more physical abilities, like the ability to walk, see, or dress oneself.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium represents the loss of the plaintiff’s ability to consort with their spouse or significant other. This can include either loss of companionship or loss of sexual abilities. In addition, some states count lost time between a parent and their child as loss of consortium and may compensate injured plaintiffs accordingly.

Plaintiff Action Factors

In addition to the above factors, a judge or jury may calculate damages for personal injury claims based on the actions of the plaintiff or the person who put the lawsuit forward in the first place. That’s because the actions of the plaintiff can impact the injuries they sustained in an auto accident or other incident. The most common plaintiff actions that can factor into personal injury damages include:

  • Comparative negligence. Following the pure comparative negligence rule, some courts may limit or reduce your compensatory damages if you are partially at fault for the accident or actions that caused your injuries. This is true in New York and many other states.
  • Contributory negligence. Some states follow contributory negligence concepts, which prevent a plaintiff from recovering any compensation if they are deemed partially at blame for the accident at hand.
  • Failure to mitigate damages after the accident. Most states expect plaintiffs for personal injury cases to take steps to minimize or mitigate the impact of the harm caused by an incident. If the plaintiff doesn’t do anything to minimize the damages, they could see their damages award significantly reduced as a result.

Your attorney can tell you whether your actions may impact your damages. Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-800-966-4999 to learn more about this or for a free case evaluation.

The Personal Injury Damages Formula

While lawyers and other legal officials will carefully look at the many factors included in a personal injury case, insurance companies have special formulas they use to estimate the damages owed to their clients or policyholders.

Every company has a different formula. Nevertheless, the damages formulas for insurance companies typically include the same major parts:

  • First, insurance adjusters add up total medical expenses for their policyholder’s injuries. These are usually called medical special damages, or specials.
  • Next, they calculate general damages, which include compensation for pain and suffering, permanent disability, and any potential emotional damages.

To combine these two factors into a solid number, insurance adjusters multiply the special damages by a certain factor depending on the severity of the policyholder’s injuries.

  • 1.5-3x if the injuries were minor
  • 3x-5x if the injuries were severe, especially painful, or long-lasting

In essence, an insurance adjuster calculates the money for medical bills and additional treatments, then adds a certain amount of money for pain and suffering and other general damages. Again, no one fully knows the formula any given insurance company uses. However, the formula is added to the costs and damages as calculated by lawyers.

To summarize, damages are calculated in personal injury cases by adding:

  • The total value of lost property
  • The cost of medical expenses and treatments related to the plaintiff’s injuries
  • Ancillary costs, like lost income
  • Punitive damages, if necessary
  • Any other important factors mentioned above

Adjusters will also compare that total to the damages calculated by the plaintiff’s insurance adjuster and increase the award, if needed.

For a detailed analysis of the damages you can expect in a particular case, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-800-966-4999. In one phone call, we can lay out your legal options and answer any questions you may have.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

As you now know, a number of factors go into total personal injury damages. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could see hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars in damages. Of course, you need knowledgeable lawyers on your side for you to receive maximum compensation for your injuries.

Schwartzapfel Lawyers is ready to help. As experienced New York personal injury attorneys, we’ve helped New Yorkers just like you recover damages to pay for their medical bills, lost income, and so much more. Check out our client testimonials page to see for yourself; then, contact us today at 1-800-966-4999 for a free case evaluation and consultation.

But you shouldn’t wait, as your window to recover damages may soon close forever. Instead, act now and allow Schwartzapfel Lawyers the honor and privilege of fighting – and winning – for you!

Sources:

Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You

Damages: How Much Is a Personal Injury Case Worth? | Nolo.com

Punitive damages | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute

How are Damages in a Personal Injury Case Calculated? | HG.org

Damages and Compensation Formula in an Injury Case | AllLaw

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