Personal injury compensation claims are more common than anyone might like or expect, with the most common being auto accidents, but including medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, slip and fall and others.
Such claims abound. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 31 million Americans receive medical treatment as a result of general injuries, of which around 2 million require hospital treatment.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing that around 5.5 million auto accidents happen each year in the United States, resulting in 3 million injuries and 40,000 fatalities.
One of the first questions you may have after an accident is who will pay for your injuries and expenses. But what sort of personal injury compensation can you receive, and what are the barriers to obtaining such compensation?
LawFuel asked an experienced personal injury law firm, Goldstein Law in New Jersey, who are personal injury lawyers East Orange NJ and who handle a wide range of personal injury claims, but the whole question of personal injury compensation, which raises a raft of questions for plaintiffs as to just what is able to be claimed.
Types of Damages
Under New Jersey law, you can recover your financial losses related to your accident and resulting personal injuries. The two most common compensatory damages that you can receive are economic and non-economic damages. After liability has been established, the insurance company representing the liable party is responsible for paying these damages.
Economic damages help you recover your financial losses after suffering a personal injury. Economic losses include all of your medical expenses, such as:
- Ambulance costs
- Diagnostic testing like X-rays
- Prescription medications
- Assistive or medical devices like a wheelchair
- Follow-up visits with a doctor or specialist
- Physical therapy, chiropractic care, or other rehabilitative care
Additionally, economic damages include the money you would have earned had you not been injured in the accident and missed work. If you cannot work, you can be compensated for the lost wages, and future lost earning potential.
You can recover miscellaneous financial losses from your accident. You can claim the costs to repair or replace your vehicle and the value of domestic services you need (i.e., cleaning services, someone to pick up your child from school). You can also recover expenses from paying for vocational rehabilitation; if your injuries prevent you from returning to your former job, you are now training for a new career.
Being injured in an accident causes physical suffering and emotional distress. Some of the greatest losses in an accident are the ones that cannot be quantified easily but are severe, and you deserve compensation for the mental distress that you are suffering from.
Non-economic damages cover a significant number of issues that can arise from any accident, including loss of enjoyment of life, anxiety, reputational damage and the sort of things that most of take for granted but for the injured party create what some jurisdictions will call “pain and suffering”, or simply pain that we do not suffer without the pre-existing injury-related condition.
It can be difficult to assess non-economic loss and different jurisdictions and juries will take various matters into account to arrive at a figure they believe is fair compensation. It is a subjective calculation that means the laws in different states, particularly with tort reform issues, will differ.
You can file a personal injury claim to compensate you for your pain and suffering and other non-monetary, subjective losses such as loss of consortium, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life.
The Multiplier Method
The total amount of your economic damages is not necessarily the amount you will get in your settlement. The ‘multiplier method’ or ‘multiplier effect‘ which is the proportional amount of increase or decrease in final income that results from either an increase or decrease in capital or spending.
In compensation terms, it is something that is involved to calculate the settlement amount, a multiplier is usually used against the total amount of economic damages that you have accrued. The multiplier correlates with the severity of your accident and the permanence of your injuries. Multipliers range between 1.5 and five.
The Drunk Driver Example
An example may help illustrate how these damages are calculated. A woman is struck by a drunk driver on the passenger side of her vehicle, thrusting her car into a tree. She suffered significant injuries, including skull fractures, and developed neurological issues due to her traumatic brain injuries. She is the mother of two children and cannot care for them the way she used to, which causes severe emotional pain for her and her family.
She worked as a designer but missed several weeks of work. Upon returning months later, she discovered that staring at a computer creating designs for her clients triggered migraines, which she never had before the accident. The headaches meant she had to limit how many clients she worked with and how many hours a day she could stare at a screen. Her economic damages totaled $60,000, including follow-up visits to a neurologist to treat her migraines.
The accident has had more than an economic impact on her. She struggles to keep working in a field that she enjoys and be involved in her children’s lives. As her advocate, her attorney will fight for her to get justice since nothing can bring back the life she used to have. Her multiplier could be as high as 3 or 4 because of the accident’s impact on her. Therefore, her settlement could be between $180,000 ($60,000 multiplied by three) or $240,000 ($60,000 multiplied by four).
This may seem like a hypothetical example, but personal injury attorneys talk to people every day whose careers and lives have been changed irrevocably, and they deserve full compensation for what they have endured.
The insurance companies select teams of intrepid attorneys to protect their interests and their bottom line by lowballing accident victims. A personal injury attorney who cares and compassionately empathizes with their clients can fight aggressively against the insurance companies.
Source: Goldstein Law, New Jersey, US.