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How Do You Calculate Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A woman calculating the damages in a personal injury lawsuit

After you’ve suffered the trauma of personal injury in an accident, you may find yourself buried under an ever-mounting pile of unexpected bills. You want to pursue compensation for your injuries, but wonder how the courts will calculate the amount of damages in a personal injury lawsuit. 

In a personal injury lawsuit, one plaintiff may be awarded $25,000, while another may receive $2.5 million. What factors determine how much compensation you should seek? How does a judge or jury decide the amount you deserve? When you hire a personal injury lawyer, we can help you understand what to expect on the journey your lawsuit takes.

When to file a personal injury lawsuit

Should you sue the at-fault party immediately after your accident? The short answer is no. It’s vital to gather evidence as proof of your injuries and to understand the validity of your case before you commit to a personal injury lawsuit.

Steps to take before you file your lawsuit

In the immediate aftermath of your accident, it’s vital to gather documentation. Thus, if you were injured in a collision, make sure you’ve filed a police report. If you were hurt on the job, ensure you’ve filed the appropriate workman’s compensation forms. If you were injured at a privately-owned business or property, file an incident report.

Even if your injuries seem minor, immediately seek medical attention. A proper diagnosis and planned course of treatment, along with present and future medical bills you’re set to incur, will have bearing on the damages you’re awarded in a personal injury lawsuit.

Before you file with the courts, begin your claim with the at-fault party’s insurance carrier to continue your documentation. You’ll receive a claims adjuster and a number assigned to your case. If the insurance company lowballs their settlement offer or outright denies your claim, you’ll still need this paperwork before you file your lawsuit.

Consult a personal injury lawyer

Consult a phenomenal personal injury lawyer who fits your needs. Together, you can explore the merits of your case and determine whether or not it’s time to begin legal proceedings.

Indiana personal injury statute of limitations

Indiana state law IC § 34-11-2-4 mandates that your personal injury claim is filed within two years from the date of your accident. It’s important to know that once your lawsuit is settled, you can’t sue for the same accident again. 

Thus, you should take some time to understand the severity and permanence of your injuries and estimate the financial suffering you have endured and may experience in the future as a result of your accident.

A woman on a wheelchair during a personal injury lawsuit

What are personal injury claims and damages?

Personal injury claims provide the foundation for your lawsuit. By breaking down these claims in categories, the courts are better able to determine your settlement. There are specific claims you can make to give the courts a basis for the settlement you receive.

These claims can include (but are not limited to):

  • Disability or disfigurement: Your injuries may leave you temporarily or permanently disabled or disfigured. For example, if you lose the use of a limb, or have permanent scars that change your appearance, you might claim disability or disfigurement.
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): TBIs can include moderate (concussions, temporary loss of consciousness) or severe (cognitive impairment) brain injury. TBIs can cause a transformative, negative impact on your daily life. Car accidents account for an overwhelming number of TBIs. 
  • Wrongful death: If another’s negligence caused the death of your loved one, you may have a valid personal injury lawsuit claim. 

Personal injury damages refer to the types of compensation you may receive as a result of your lawsuit. Awarded damages fall under three categories: general, special, and punitive.

What are general damages?

General damages (or non-economic damages) point toward the losses you’ve suffered that don’t include tangible financial loss. For example, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and emotional distress all fall under general damages.  

What are special damages?

Special damages (or economic damages) include straightforward financial suffering your personal injury has caused. For example, lost wages, vehicle repair, and medical bills all fall under special damages.

What are punitive damages?

Punitive damages (or exemplary damages) are used as punishment against a defendant in a lawsuit. These damages go above the compensation awarded for verified general and special damages. 

Punitive damages send a message to the defendant and others that gross negligence will not go unpunished. For example, if you’re injured in an accident by a drunk driver who had no business getting behind the wheel, you may be entitled to punitive damages.  

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that punitive damages are rarely sought, and even more rarely awarded. However, if malevolent intent and gross negligence can be proven in your personal injury case, it may be worth it to seek punitive damages.

For example, when dealing with an Indianapolis wrongful death claim or a South Bend severe (cognitive impairment) brain injury, the calculation of damages (compensatory or punitive) becomes even more critical. The emotional and financial impact on the family can be profound in these cases. Working with a legal team that deeply understands the nuances of such cases is essential, ensuring that all aspects of your loss are thoroughly considered and appropriately valued in the lawsuit.

How personal injury claim damages are calculated

There’s no set formula to calculate damages. However, a general rule to discern the amount awarded is to combine your expenses and determine a value for your pain and suffering. 

A personal injury lawyer can help you determine the amount in both general and special damages that you deserve. Attorneys (and insurance companies) may also use a formula that multiplies your special damages by 1.5 to 5 times to determine the amount asked for or offered in a personal injury settlement. 

The factors that go into calculating damages can include:

  • Medical bills (past, present, and future) related to your injury
  • Vehicle repair costs
  • Emotional duress (if you’ve experienced psychological trauma as a result of your injuries)   
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future employment (including promotions or professions that you’ll miss out on due to your injuries)

Indiana caps on damages       

In Indiana, there’s a cap on how much you can receive in specific settlements. Indiana state law mandates that punitive damages are capped at whichever is greater: Three times the amount of compensatory damages (a combination of general and special damages) or $50,000. 

Indiana is also a comparative fault state. This means if you’re determined to hold fault under 50%, your awarded settlement could be reduced. If you are over 50% at fault — even if you’re not fully responsible for your injuries — you no longer have a valid personal injury claim.  

The Indiana Tort Claims Act limits the amount of any personal injury lawsuit you might file against the state or local government.

How Yosha Law can help

At Yosha Law, we understand how stressful it can be to face the aftermath of an accident on your own. We can help you navigate through the legal waters of your case, and help you calculate the damages you should seek in your personal injury lawsuit.

You shouldn’t have to battle the insurance company giants on your own. We welcome our clients as a part of our family, and we want to help you focus on your healing. Let us take care of your legal battles so that you can recover. You can reach us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to schedule your free consultation.

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