Most people are aware of their right to recover damages in the event of an accident. If another party is at fault for your injury, you are generally able to recover monetary compensation for the resulting costs of the accident, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The types of damages you may be awarded are grouped into three categories—economic, noneconomic, and punitive.
These are all calculated in their own ways and often require different forms of evidence, so it’s important to understand the differences between them.
Economic damages are probably the most straightforward type of compensation you can receive. After an accident, you will often have numerous expenses to cover, including the following:
- Repairs or replacement of damaged property
- Medical expenses, including emergency room bills, future doctor visits, rehabilitation, etc.
- Domestic services if they are required
- Lost employment, wages, and earning potential
These are typically objective, though they can still be somewhat complex to figure out. For instance, if you visited a specialist to recover from your injury, the need for that doctor’s visit may be called into question. In this case, expert testimony may be necessary in order to prove that the treatment received from that specialist was a necessary part of recovery.
Another example involves lost earning capacity. The exact amount you deserve would be based on what you were earning before the accident and whether you’d be able to continue in that line of work after recovery. If not, then the costs of training for another occupation, the differences in wages, and other relevant factors would have to be considered. This can become fairly subjective, and expert testimony is often needed in these cases.
Noneconomic damages are more subjective than economic damages because they deal with factors that are harder to measure. These include:
- Pain and suffering, including impairment, disfigurement, aggravation of preexisting conditions, etc.
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
These types of damages are often calculated using a multiplier method in which the amount of economic damages owed is multiplied by a certain number. That number is based on the severity of the accident, so the more severe your injuries and their impact on your lifestyle, the higher the multiplier.
The final, and perhaps most subjective, form of personal injury award is punitive damages. Punitive damages are different from the previous two in that they are not intended to compensate any loss on your part. Instead, they are used to punish the defendant and deter future negligent or wanton behavior. As such, they can vary tremendously and are typically only applied in situations where the defendant was particularly reckless or malicious in their actions.
Under Illinois law, punitive damages must be kept in proportion to the severity of the incident. This is typically gauged by the amount of compensatory damages the plaintiff receives. They are also under certain legal restrictions. For instance, they may not be recovered in medical malpractice cases or for wrongful death.
When determining what you can receive for your injury, the experience of a personal injury attorney is key. Hart David Carson LLP can provide you with the legal assistance you need.