What to Seek in a Personal Injury Settlement

Following serious injuries due to another party’s negligence, a personal injury claim can help you recover some of the financial damages you faced due to your accident. However, many people do not know what they should seek when pursuing a personal injury settlement. Should you seek only restitution for your medical bills? How does pain and suffering factor in?

Working closely with an experienced Florida personal injury attorney can help give you a better idea of the compensation you should expect in a Florida personal injury settlement. As you calculate your personal injury settlement, however, consider these elements that could factor into it.

Man learns about what to seek in his personal injury settlement

Economic Damages

Economic damages include financial losses associated with your injuries. Also referred to as “special damages,” these include direct financial losses that you can calculate, if not exactly, then reasonably.

1) Your Medical Expenses

Medical expenses can mount quickly after a serious accident, whether you suffered injuries in an auto accident or a slip and fall. Your medical bills begin with the cost of ambulance transport away from the scene of the accident: in Florida, a critical care ambulance could cost more than $1000 per individual transported. Then, you will face the cost of emergency treatment. You may also need:

Hospitalization

Many victims of serious accidents must spend a long time in a hospital during their recovery. Depending on your injuries and their severity, this could include a stay in a specialty unit, such as a burn unit for burn victims, or a stay in ICU for victims with severe injuries. You may also need to move to a long-term care facility for some assistance during your recovery.

Treatment

Many victims must go through substantial treatment to aid in recovery from their injuries. Treatment could include surgeries, multiple follow-up visits with your doctor or doctors, and ongoing tests to track the course of your recovery and determine what further treatment you need or how you will continue to recover from your injuries.

Therapy

If you suffered serious injuries, it might take time and therapy to help you regain your independence or restore as much strength and mobility as possible. Amputees, victims of spinal cord injuries, or victims with traumatic brain injury may need to undergo substantial occupational therapy to learn how to cope with their new limitations. Victims with severe injuries may also need ongoing physical therapy. Psychological therapy can also offer valuable coping mechanisms for victims of severe accidents.

Durable Medical Equipment

Durable medical equipment can aid in recovery or independence for many victims. Spinal cord injury victims, for example, may need a wheelchair or crutches and braces to help them get around. Victims with severe injuries may need to use a hospital bed at home to return home as soon as possible.

2) Out-of-Pocket Expenses

What did you have to pay for out-of-pocket as a result of your accident and your injuries? For many victims, those out-of-pocket expenses mount quickly, especially if you suffer injuries severe enough to require you to make modifications to your home as a result of your accident. For example, you may need to install a wheelchair ramp, widen doorways in your home, or change your bathroom or kitchen to make it wheelchair accessible. Keep the receipts for all those modifications, since you can often include them as part of a personal injury claim.

You may also choose to include other out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel and lodging expenses if you needed to stay away from home during treatment. Consult an experienced attorney to learn more about what expenses you can include as part of your personal injury claim.

3) Lost Wages

Many severe injuries may cause their victims to miss work, often long-term. A victim with traumatic brain injury, for example, may struggle to concentrate well enough to focus on normal work tasks, or may not have the ability to control his emotions well enough to work in a customer service position. Some injuries also cause such severe damage that the victim cannot function or complete normal work tasks while recovering.

In some cases, as you recover, you may return to work in some capacity. Some employers, for example, will make the modifications needed for an accident victim to return to work as soon as possible after the accident, allowing the victim to work from home or to work part-time or on a limited basis while recovering. Others, on the other hand, will or cannot.

Keep track of the wages you lose as a result of your injuries. If you end up back at work part-time, an attorney can help you calculate the difference in your wages and include it as part of a personal injury claim. Compensation for those lost wages can make it easier to pay your bills and take care of your financial obligations in the aftermath of your accident.

4) Property Damage

In addition to physical injuries, you may also have suffered severe damage to your property. In an auto accident, for example, the vehicle involved in the accident often suffers significant damage. A product liability accident could cause damage to your home as well as to your body. Calculate any property damage you suffered as a result of the accident and how it impacted you financially.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages, also referred to as general damages, can prove more difficult to calculate than economic damages. Working with an attorney can help you better calculate those damages and how they apply to your claim. Non-economic damages do not have a specific dollar amount, but rather get assigned a value based on other elements of your claim, often the amount of your medical bills. These include:

1) Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering often represents the largest portion of a personal injury settlement. Based on the compensation you need for medical bills associated with the accident, compensation for pain and suffering provides vitally-needed compensation that can help you rebuild your life or handle your financial obligations after a serious injury.

Talk to an attorney to learn more about how pain and suffering gets included in your claim and how it will get calculated. Generally, victims receive between 1.5 times and 4 times their medical expenses in compensation for pain and suffering. How much you get may depend on how much the accident has impacted other areas of your life. An attorney can help you evaluate how both the physical pain and emotional anguish associated with your accident have impacted you.

For example, a victim with a traumatic brain injury might lose close, important relationships due to personality changes related to the accident. Many victims feel socially isolated in the aftermath of a serious accident, since they may miss out on important connections to friends and family during their recovery. Other victims struggle with the loss of activities and hobbies they once enjoyed before the accident.

2) Loss of Consortium

In some cases, an accident can cause your spouse to suffer just as much loss as you do. While loss of consortium usually applies to the loss of the sexual relationship between spouses, sometimes caused by severe injuries like spinal cord injuries, it can also refer to the loss of companionship that comes from a serious injury. The spouse of the injured party could find herself relegated to caregiver, missing that vital relationship and connection even though the spouse still lives.

Punitive Damages

In addition to the other damages recovered in personal injury claims, some victims also have the right to claim punitive damages — damages assigned as a punishment to the party that caused your accident. In a drunk driving accident, for example, the drunk driver does not just commit negligence. He also commits a criminal act in choosing to drink and drive. In some cases, you can pursue punitive damages from the liable party in addition to damages associated with the specific losses you face. Punitive damages usually rely on a criminal action of some kind and may be assigned directly by the court, with less room for negotiation than other types of damages. These damages also depend on the severity of the liable party’s actions, rather than on the extent of your injuries.

Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

If you suffered serious injuries in an accident or want to know more about your rights, a personal injury attorney can help you better understand what you can ask for in a personal injury settlement and what factors contribute to your right to compensation. Florida, for example, is a pure comparative negligence state — the damage you can recover is typically reduced by the percentage fault you bear for the accident, if any. Florida law may also determine how long you have to file a claim against the party that caused your accident — under Florida law, you have until four years after the accident to file for compensation in civil court. An experienced attorney, however, can help you work within the limits of the law to extend the time you have to collect compensation.

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