The amount of damages that you can recover in a personal injury claim will depend upon the type of claim that you are filing, the amount of harm that you have suffered, and whether you are found partially negligent for the damages that you have incurred. Understanding how all of these factors can play a role in your total damages amount is very important; an attorney can help.
Damages Differ By Claim Type
The types of damages that you are able to recover will differ dramatically based on the type of personal injury claim you file. For example, consider a product liability case where a dangerous pharmaceutical is the cause of a victim’s heart attack. In this case type, the victim may be able to recover compensation for medical expenses, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and any other financial losses, such as lost wages, related to the injury.
However, if the victim were to die based on the defective pharmaceutical, then those who are responsible for bringing forth a suit are the deceased’s surviving family member. As such, the defective family member can not only recover the compensation above, but may also recover compensation for his or her pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of guidance, etc.
Yet another claim type where damages is an intentional tort. In intentional torts where an injury is sustained by the victim, then the victim can recover the same compensation types as a standard personal injury claim. However, in some cases, such as a trespass to chattel case, no injury may be sustained. When this is the case, the plaintiff may recover compensation for the loss of value of the property, as well as emotional anguish. In some cases, punitive damages may also be recoverable.
Punitive damages are those damages that must be paid by the defendant, per the court’s order, to the victim, in order to punish the defendant for his or her egregious conduct. While some states limit the amount of punitive damages that a plaintiff may recover–or prohibit punitive damages entirely–jury instructions provided by the Arizona Bar Association instead read that it is up to the jury’s discretion.
The Amount of Harm that You Have Suffered
Of course, one of the other factors that will affect your damages in a personal injury claim in the amount of harm that you have suffered. In a perfect case where the other party is found completely at fault, you will be able to recover the total value of your injuries. In regards to economic damages, this means recovery of all monies spent or to be spent.
How future economic damages are calculated is, of course, much harder to determine than is the amount of money that has already been losed. Future damages are often based on a specific formula. For example, future lost wages may be calculated by taking your average weekly wage before the injury and multiplying it by the number of weeks that you were estimated to continue working in the future had injury not occurred.
You may also be entitled to compensation for the total value of noneconomic losses that you have suffered. There are two ways to calculate damages for pain and suffering (or other noneconomic losses) in a personal injury suit: the multiplier method and the per diem method.
In the first method, a number is chosen (often the value of your medical expenses, past and future) and it is multiplied by a multiplier. The multiplier number can range, but is usually between 1.5 and 5; a higher number is assigned for more significant injury types. For example, if you incurred $300,000 in medical expenses, and your claim is multiplied by a multiplier of 3, then you will be entitled to $900,000 in pain and suffering damages. Knowing what your multiplier will be is very hard to determine without speaking with an attorney; even then, nothing is a guarantee.
The second method is the per diem method. Using the per diem method, you will use a daily rate and multiply it by the number of days that you suffered pain, or which you are expected to suffering pain. The daily rate is usually based on your daily income. For example, if you work 250 days per year, and your salary is $60,000, then your daily rate is roughly $240. If you suffer from pain and suffering for 52 weeks, or 365 days, then your per diem total is $87,600.
Your Own Negligence
As covered above, your own negligence can result in a reduction in your compensation amount. This law is known as comparative negligence, and follows that a defendant is only liable for a plaintiff’s injuries up to the percentage of fault that has been allocated towards the defendant. For example, consider the $87,600 worth of pain and suffering damages noted above. If the defendant is found to be 90 percent at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries, but not 100 percent, then the plaintiff may only recover $78,840 worth of compensation for pain and suffering, or 90 percent of $87,600.
The three factors above–the type of your personal injury claim, the extent of your injuries, and whether or not you are found to be partially at fault for your damages–are all very important when determining compensation in a personal injury claim.
As a note, there is a state prohibition on damage caps on Arizona. This means that the amount of money that you are potentially able to recover in a personal injury claim is, technically, limitless.