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What type of compensation can I win for my personal injury case?

Assuming you can prove you have a valid personal injury case, you could be entitled to damages which can include wage replacement, paid medical expenses, and pain and suffering. To win a personal injury lawsuit, however, you will have to prove the defendant owed you a duty of care, they breached that duty, their breach caused your injuries, and you suffered injury or loss.

What are compensatory and punitive damages?

Compensatory damages are the most common damages awarded in a personal injury case. They are meant to restore the claimant to their prior position and can include lost wages, lost profits, payment for future and current hospital bills, property damage, mental anguish, loss of reputation, loss of consortium and pain and suffering.

Punitive damages may also be awarded but generally are not allowed unless the court determines the defendant's negligent actions were so heinous the defendant needs to be punished and the punishment needs to be so severe that it will deter all similar future actions. Punitive damages are usually capped by state or federal law. State imposed caps can be as low as $250,000 up to $10,000,000.

Fees may also be paid by the defendant if they lose the injury lawsuit. Common fees a judge may order the defendant to pay include legal costs, witness fees, and miscellaneous legal costs.

Non-Economic Damage Caps

In recent years states have implemented caps for non-economic damages, especially for medical malpractice cases. Non-economic damages can include loss or injury for items such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life or any loss which cannot be objectively calculated. The cap amounts in most states vary from $350,000 to $750,000, although some states make exceptions for cases involving death and serious injuries.

Can I be paid if I contributed to my own injuries?

Whether or not you can expect to win compensation for your injury lawsuit may depend on whether your actions contributed to the accident and subsequent injuries. States use several different methods to decide how to allocate damages: comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence.

States which have comparative negligence laws will decide the amount of compensation the plaintiff will receive based on their degree of fault in the injury case. For instance, in some states if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault for their injuries they are not allowed to receive compensation.

Other states have contributory negligence laws. In these states the plaintiff does not win compensation for their injuries if the court concludes their actions contributed in any way to their injuries. Only four (4) states and the District of Columbia recognize the Pure Contributory Negligence Rule including Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

Did you fail to mitigate damages?

In addition to determining fault, the courts may also decide to lower your award if they conclude you did not take the necessary actions to mitigate damages.

For instance, if you did not seek proper medical treatment following an accident and your condition worsened, costing you thousands of dollars in medical care, the court may reduce the compensation awarded to you arguing you did not take the proper action to mitigate damages.

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