Most personal injury claimants seek two different types of damages — economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are tangible, easy-to-count damages such as medical bills. Calculating the amount of economic damages that you deserve, however, could be more complicated than it might seem. This is especially true if you have suffered long-term or permanent injuries.
Types of Economic Damages
The three main types of economic damages are medical expenses, lost earnings, and out-of-pocket expenses. Below is a brief description of these forms of economic damages.
Medical expenses include (but are not necessarily limited to) the following types of expenses:
- Ambulance fees;
- Surgery expenses;
- Hospital bills;
- Doctor’s appointments;
- X-rays and lab testing;
- Therapy and rehabilitation;
- Medical equipment;
- Psychological counseling (if your malady was caused by your physical injury);
- Modifications to your home to support a physical disability (wheelchair ramps, for example); and
- Any other reasonable and necessary medical expenses.
The insurance company is likely to question at least some of your medical expenses by claiming that they are unreasonable, unnecessary, or ineffective. This is particularly likely to happen if you select an unconventional medical treatment such as homeopathy. It can happen, however, even with conventional medical treatments.
Future Medical Expenses
In most cases, you shouldn’t press your claim until your doctor certifies that you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), the point where further improvement of your condition is unlikely. The reason is that until you reach MMI, you can’t be sure how large your total medical expenses will become.
If your accident left you suffering a long-term disability, however, you might be facing the prospect of medical expenses that continue for the rest of your life. In this case, you cannot afford to wait indefinitely to determine the amount of medical expenses to demand.
You need to estimate your total future medical expenses and claim them early in settlement negotiations. Accurately calculating your future medical expenses is incredibly important, and you may need the help of an expert witness to determine their value.
Did you miss a month of work due to your injuries? If so, you deserve reimbursement for what you lost. It does not matter if you suffered no income Interruption because you used sick leave or vacation time. Loss of sick leave and loss of vacation time are both considered components of lost earnings.
Future Lost Earnings
The amount of future lost earnings can be difficult to calculate for some of the same reasons that the amount of future medical expenses can be difficult to calculate. If you suffer a long-term or lifetime debilitating condition that prevents you from returning to your former job, you’re probably going to lose a lot of money. The challenge is determining exactly how much money you are likely to lose in the future, so that you know how much to claim now.
Just as with medical expenses, you’re likely to need an expert witness to make this determination for you. The younger you are and the more money you were making before your accident, the greater the amount of future lost earnings you’re likely to receive.
Out-of-pocket expenses include any other expenses you incur that arise out of your accident. You may have to put your children in child care for a while, for example. You may need to hire a housekeeper. Even parking fees at the doctor’s office are eligible for reimbursement.
A Word of Warning: Insurance Companies are Profit-Seeking Businesses, Not “Good Neighbors”
Most personal injury victims receive compensation from an insurance company. Except in unusual cases (workers’ compensation, for example), insurance companies are businesses that exist for one purpose and one purpose only––to maximize their profits. They make money by accepting monthly premiums, and they lose money by paying the claims of personal injury victims.
Potential Limitation on Your Recovery: Comparative Fault
If the court decides that the accident was partly your fault, Missouri’s comparative negligence law kicks in. The court will assign a percentage of fault to each party, and that percentage will determine precisely how much compensation you lose.
If you were 15% at fault for the accident, for example, you will lose 15% of your damages, including both economic and non-economic damages. You will also have to pay 15% of the other party’s damages if any. A skilled St. Louis personal injury lawyer can influence the judge’s determination of your percentage of fault.
Contrast: Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages include intangible damages that are typically difficult to count. They include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of consortium (loss of intimacy, companionship, and sexual relations between spouses);
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Bodily disfigurement; and
- Punitive damages.
“Pain and suffering” is the largest single component of damages in a large percentage of personal injury claims.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer If Your Claim Is Large
A personal injury lawyer can not only increase your odds of receiving compensation, but they can also increase the amount of compensation you actually receive, even after subtracting legal fees.
Even if your claim appears to amount to only a few hundred dollars, contact a personal injury lawyer for a free initial consultation at (314) 444 4444, just to make sure that you have not underestimated the value of your claim.