What Types of Economic Damages Can I Recover?
In a personal injury case, there are certain types of damages that you may be entitled to recover. Before any discussion of damages, there needs to be an agreement or determination of liability or responsibility. In addition, as a practical matter, the defendant needs to be collectable meaning they have insurance or assets.
If the defendant is liable and has insurance, the forms of damages that you might be entitled to are broken down into two types: economic and non-economic.Economic Damages in Personal Injury Cases
In personal injury cases, economic damages are sometimes referred to as “hard” damages. These are damages that a juror can visualize, measure and determine objectively. The clearest example is a medical bill. It is for a sum certain and describes the medical treatment provided. Other descriptions of economic damages include:
- Medical Bills: These medical bills must be reasonable, related and necessary. Predictably, there has been a lot of litigation over these terms.
- Reasonable: The amount of the medical bill should be in an amount that is reasonable when compared to other similar charges in the community.
- Related: The medical bill must be for medical treatment or services that is related to the accident in question. For example: you are in a car accident and hurt your neck and back. You cannot claim a medical bill for a bunion removal on your foot that had nothing to do with the car accident. That podiatrist bill was not related to the car crash and therefore not recoverable.
- Necessary: Any medical bills that you claim must be for treatment that was necessary. As an example: in your car accident where you hurt your neck and back you are prescribed physical therapy. Generally, this is reasonable. But after your course of treatment and after the doctor declares that you have reached maximum medical improvement additional physical therapy is not necessary. There is a medically reasonable limit to what is necessary when it comes to medical treatment following an accident.
- Future Medical Expenses: The courts have established a fairly strict standard for future damages. First, future damages such as medical expenses cannot be speculative. The personal injury physician who testifies on your behalf will need to testify under oath that your future medical expenses will be necessary within a reasonable degree of medical probability. Furthermore, your doctor will need to specify the type of treatment you will need in the future and provide an estimated cost. This is required so that the jury can make a reasonable determination based on the evidence and not speculation. Future medical damages are recoverable, but your personal injury lawyer should know what is necessary and how to present this evidence.
- Lost Wages: This is straight forward. You had an accident and did not go to work because of your injuries. Perhaps you used sick time or personal time. You are entitled to recover for your lost wages so long as you do not make a double recovery which is not allowed. Lost wages can be proved with pay stubs and/or employer testimony. In some cases, insurance defense lawyers will challenge the amount of time you were out of work. In the best-case scenario, your doctor will back you up on the time you lost from work. Often insurance company attorneys will make the argument that you took time off work because you were lazy or trying to build up your claim. This will usually fit into an overall defense strategy to attempt to convince the jury that you are overreaching in your quest for compensation. This is where you will need to rely on your personal injury trial lawyer to make sure that your evidence is presented clearly and effectively.
- Future Loss of Earning Capacity: Again, future damages must be based on the evidence and may not be speculative in nature. In the experience of our Miami car accident lawyers and personal injury attorneys, this is the most challenging category of damages to present to a jury. The best way is to show the jury what you made before with tax returns and payroll evidence; medical testimony that you are either limited or prevented from doing the work you used to do; testimony and evidence of what you can earn in the future after your accident; and expert testimony as to your future vocational and employment options. Your personal injury attorney needs to closely examine and analyze the potential evidence and help you decide whether it is in your best interests to pursue this item of damage. What you want to avoid is being in trial making a claim for future damages only to have the judge rule that your evidence is insufficient and striking that claim through a Motion for Directed Verdict on future damages before the jury deliberates.
If you were injured in any type of accident and have questions about the damages you may be entitled to collect, call us for your free consultation at (305) 285-1115. It won’t cost you anything and if we represent you we don’t get paid until you win. It is that simple. We offer complete personal injury representation throughout Florida including West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.