In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you might not be thinking about the cost of your healthcare, the time you’ll be missing from work, or the time and physical stamina that will be required for you to fully recover, but eventually, these things will be on the forefront of your mind. Personal injuries can be life-changing and expensive. But how much will your personal injury cost? The accident attorneys at Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. understand what you’re going through. We will offer you a free case evaluation where, among other things, we will explain to you the full cost of your accident. Then we will take the steps to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Call today to discuss your accident.
Types of Damages Awarded in Personal Injury Claims
In order to understand the valuation of a personal injury claim, it’s helpful to understand the types of damages allowed in a Florida civil case. There are three categories of damages. Economic damages and non-economic damages are considered to be compensatory because they are meant to reimburse the victim for the consequences of the accident. Punitive damages are non-compensatory.
You are entitled to compensation for any damages that you’ve incurred as a result of the accident. For example, all medical expenses are compensable economic damages, including hospital bills, doctor bills, home care, physical therapy, medical equipment, medication, and more. Additionally, economic damages include lost wages resulting from the accident. In the case of a wrongful death claim, funeral expenses and future lost income may also be included. There are no caps on economic damages in the state of Florida.
Non-economic damages compensate the victim for the intangible costs of an accident. Also referred to as “pain and suffering,” non-economic damages include compensation for physical pain, emotional suffering, loss of physical or mental capacity, etc. In a wrongful death action, non-economic damages can apply to the pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death as well as the loss of companionship that the survivors experience. As is the case with economic damages, there are no caps on non-economic damages in Florida.
The courts award punitive damages in personal injury cases where the defendant displayed egregious negligence or their wrongful actions were willful. For instance, a driver who has an extremely high BAC level and severely injures or kills another party may face punitive damages.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are subject to a cap in Florida. The most a plaintiff can receive for punitive damages is three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is higher.
The LJW Legal team will calculate all economic damages and non-economic damages and determine whether punitive damages are likely for your case. This will play a significant part in the valuation of your claim.
Factors that Contribute to the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
There are many factors that contribute to the value of your case. No two accidents are alike, so the values of claims can vary widely. Here are some of the most relevant factors in valuing your claim.
The Severity of the Injuries
Naturally, the more severe and debilitating your injuries are, the higher your damages will be. For instance, a severed limb is likely to warrant greater damages than a moderate case of whiplash.
Serious injuries tend to take longer to heal, cause greater amounts of physical pain, and may not allow the injured party to return to work for a longer period.
Whether the Injuries Resulted in Death
Wrongful death suits tend to have much higher valuations. In addition to the medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages of the deceased, the survivors may also suffer damages.
Consider a case where a spouse loses their loved one in a car accident. Not only will they lose the income that the deceased provided, but they will undoubtedly miss the companionship that the deceased provided. The compensation for wrongful death suits can be substantial.
The Amount of Damages
Even when two parties are involved in similar accidents with similar injuries, the damage amounts can be quite different. Older accident victims may require additional medical attention or assistance. The earnings of one party may be substantially more than the other, which means that the lost income calculation will be different.
The Degree of Liability
Under Florida’s comparative negligence law, a plaintiff can still pursue damages even if they’re partially at fault. That means that even if you’re partly responsible for your injuries, you can collect damages from other liable parties in proportion to their percentage of fault.
For example, a restaurant employee spills oil on the floor and fails to clean it up or warn diners about it. A patron running through the restaurant slips and falls. The court decided that the accident was caused by the spill, but the injuries were more severe because the diner was running. In this case, the court may determine that the diner is 20% responsible for their injuries. They are then entitled to collect 80% of their damages from the restaurant and its insurer.
Whether Punitive Damages Are Involved
As was previously mentioned, not all cases involve punitive damages. A plaintiff can recover punitive damages from the court if the case goes to trial or as part of a settlement if both parties agree to a punitive damage amount. In either case, the amount will not exceed $500,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages (whichever is greater).
It’s important to understand that personal injury lawyers can’t simply apply a damages template to their cases to calculate damage amounts. They must tailor it to the individual plaintiff and the circumstances of the case.
The Role of Medical Records, Bills, and Expert Opinions
In most personal injury cases, attorneys must rely on the opinions of expert witnesses and medical professionals.
In order to collect damages for their clients, personal injury attorneys must justify their damage claims. Some damages are pretty straightforward. If a medical procedure costs $6,000, there will be an itemized bill. Some items are not as easy, however. For example, the case may settle before the plaintiff is fully healed. There has to be a calculation for future expenses.
Additionally, personal injury lawyers must be able to prove that the defendant is liable. In some cases, the evidence may only tell part of the picture. Accident reconstruction experts and expert witnesses can help complete the case evidence.
One of the benefits of hiring a full-service firm like Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. is that we have access to the top expert witnesses and medical professionals in South Florida. This invaluable testimony can play a crucial role in achieving successful outcomes for our clients.
Settlement Negotiations With the Insurance Company
Once our legal team has reviewed the details of your case and compiled a comprehensive list of damages, we will present the insurance company or the defendant with a demand letter. This is our opening salvo in the negotiations. Most defendants would prefer to negotiate than to be the subject of litigation. As long as the negotiations are productive, our attorneys will try to settle out of court. However, if their counters are unreasonable or fall short of full remuneration, we are prepared to resolve the case in the civil courts.
Increasing the Value of Your Claim
Plaintiffs inevitably worry about the value of their claim. If you hire LJW early in the case, we can focus on getting you maximum financial recovery while you work on your physical recovery. However, here are some things you should consider while preparing for your claim.
- Retain medical records and bills – This information will be invaluable for your attorney when they are calculating damages.
- Avoid making statements – Admissions of partial fault can devalue your case. Wait to speak to an attorney first.
- Back up photos from the accident – If you had the presence of mind to take pictures or videos, back them up to two or more locations.
- Keep a diary of your recovery – Document your pain, physical difficulties, appointments, medication, etc.
- Keep your medical appointments – Don’t skip your doctor visits or rush back to work before you’re ready.
Personal Injury Claim FAQ
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about personal injury case evaluation. Call Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. for a free Q&A session about your case.
Can a Delay Filing Hurt My Claim?
For most cases, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the accident. However, a lengthy delay could hurt your claim. Evidence and witness testimony can lose value over time.
Do I Have to Go to Trial to Maximize My Claim?
Not necessarily. If the insurance company comes to a full and fair settlement, we will recommend accepting the payout and avoiding the additional costs of litigation, which can reduce your total payout.
Pompano Beach, FL Personal Injury Lawyers
At Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A., our attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means you will not have to pay out of pocket for our professional legal services. Call today to learn more about what to expect from a personal injury settlement.