Why Do I Need A Personal Injury Lawyer? Part 3: Damages & What Is Recoverable.

medical bills, personal injury, lawWhen someone is injured in a car accident, slip and fall, or other accident, and wants the person(s) who injured them to pay them money, the injured person must prove four (4) things:  duty, breach, causation, and damages.  However, to prove each element is not so intuitive.  In Part 1 of this blog series, I explained some of the nuances to proving duty and breach, and similarly in Part 2, I illustrated some of the difficulties in proving causation.  Luckily, proving damages is not as complicated as proving duty, breach, or causation; rather, the trick is to know what damages you are entitled to recover.

The most obvious damages an injured person is entitled to is medical expenses.  If someone else causes your injuries and causes you to incur hospital/doctor expenses, the other person should pay for your medical bills.  However, did you know that money spent on prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and other “first aid” materials is also recoverable from the person who caused your injuries?  Whether you are required to purchase crutches, Band-Aids, and/or prescription pain medication, all of this is potentially recoverable in your personal injury case; just be careful to keep copies of all of your medical bills and receipts.  In addition, you could also be reimbursed for your travels to or from your medical appointments, so keep track of your mileage, too, and any additional expenses you incur for these trips.

Another category of damages an injured person is entitled to recover is lost wages or loss of earnings.  This includes any and all money you are unable to earn from work as well as any vacation, sick time, or other paid-time-off you have to use as a result of your injuries; these losses start accumulating from the first day you are injured.  In addition, if you are married and your spouse has to miss time from work because of your injuries, he/she could also recover their lost wages (and paid-time-off used), too – it is all potentially recoverable!

When someone else causes you injury, you may also be entitled to recover for pain and suffering.  This cannot be valued/calculated like medical expenses and lost wages; your potential recovery will depend greatly on the specific circumstances surrounding your accident and how your injuries impact your life thereafter.  If you are married, your spouse may also be entitled to recover for loss of consortium; that is – loss of companionship.  It is very important for you and your spouse to keep a journal of how your lives have changed since you were injured, even if you anticipate making a full recovery.  Because pain and suffering and loss of consortium are based on subjective circumstances (your personal opinions) and not objectively measurable damages (calculated from bills, receipts, and pay stubs), you should take detailed notes of these changes as they occur to ensure you do not forget anything later on.  Also, take note of even the smallest changes; sometimes the little changes in your everyday life (ability to get dressed, clean house, etc.) end up affecting you more than an inability to participate in a hobby, sport, or family vacation.

Basically, any expense made or loss incurred because of your injuries are potentially recoverable through a personal injury case, and the better you are at record keeping now, the easier it will be for an attorney to accurately assess your case early on in the process.  Our office will give you a free consultation and will travel to meet with you if necessary.  We will promptly interview you to obtain all of the facts of your case, and will collect all accident reports, interview witnesses, accumulate medical records and bills, and establish lost wages and compile evidence of other damages to which you may be entitled to fully evaluate and, most importantly, obtain the maximum value for your injury case.  We do not get paid for our services unless/until you recovery money, so let us help you get everything you deserve.

For more information on these topics and more, including legal issues related to who to sue and when, please stay tuned for future postings in this series of blogs:  “Why Do I Need A Personal Injury Lawyer?”.

Author:  Michael J. Fontaine, Esq.