The goal of a personal injury case in Dallas is to make an injured victim whole again by providing financial compensation for his or her losses. These losses, as well as the compensation available, are called damages in legalese. One of the most common questions asked by plaintiffs during injury lawsuits is, “How much is my case worth?” The answer to this question lies in large part in how damages are calculated.
What Damages Are Available?
First, a victim will need to make a list of all the losses he or she suffered because of an accident. This list will go on the victim’s demand letter, which will get sent to the insurance company of the at-fault party in pursuit of compensation. Compensation is available for many different damages during a personal injury claim in Texas.
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Disability costs
- Lost capacity to earn
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Punitive damages
- Wrongful death damages
A victim can seek compensation for both past and future losses. If a victim has a permanent disability from an accident, for example, he or she can seek compensation for a lifetime of medical expenses, surgeries and treatments. In general, the more severe the accident and injury, the more the victim will be awarded in damages.
Economic damages in personal injury law are tangible or special losses that are specific to the victim. These can include health care costs, property repairs and lost wages. The calculation method for economic damages relies on hard numbers. An insurance company or courtroom will add up the actual amount of the economic losses suffered by the victim using evidence such as hospital bills, repair estimates and pay stubs.
Next, the courts will project future economic damages based on the victim’s existing expenses and his or her medical improvement timeline. This calculation may require a doctor to testify as to how long the victim will foreseeably have his or her injuries, as well as the future medical treatments that will be necessary. With existing bills and medical expert testimony, the courts can calculate an amount in economic damages that is appropriate for the victim’s past and future losses.
Noneconomic damages refer to intangible or general losses that any injured victim would be likely to suffer. These include emotional distress, physical pain, discomfort, mental anguish and anxiety. Calculating noneconomic damages is not as exact a science as economic damages, as it involves a human factor – the jury’s discretion. It is up to a jury how much to award a victim in pain and suffering. Although calculation methods are available, it is a jury’s decision whether or not to use them.
- Multiplier Method. The Multiplier Method takes a victim’s total amount awarded in economic damages and multiplies it by a number that matches the severity of the victim’s injuries. A victim with a permanent injury, for example, may receive a multiplier of five, while a victim with a minor injury may receive a multiplier of one.
- Per Diem Method. The Per Diem Method is more common in cases where the victim has a prognosis for a full recovery at a determinable date. A jury will multiply a suitable amount in daily pain and suffering damages, often equivalent to the victim’s daily wage, by the number of days he or she will have the injury.
In the end, a jury can award as much or as little in noneconomic damages as it sees fit for the situation, up to a state’s damage cap (if applicable). Typically, juries grant larger awards to victims with severe or catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries and spine injuries. These victims will have greater physical pain, emotional suffering and other losses than victims with minor injuries.