If you are seriously injured in an auto accident and can prove that another person is responsible, you are entitled to compensation, known in legal terms as damages. There are two types of damages: specific (also called economic) and general (also called noneconomic). You can figure out most of your specific damages on your own. Tally up your medical bills, lost income and other expenses related to the accident, and that is the amount of purely economic compensation you are due. If you have a permanent injury that will need care in the future, or will continue to prevent you from earning a living, you can claim additional economic losses.
But your general damages, which are not based on tangible monetary losses, are more difficult to calculate. General damages are compensation for the negative impact the injury has had on your life and include:
- The toll from physical pain
- The burden of your mental suffering
- The loss in the general quality of your life
- The loss of specific enjoyment of life
- The loss of consortium (if you are unable to make love to a spouse)
These items, often mentioned collectively as “pain and suffering,” are very hard to place a price on. But factors that increase the amount of a potential award include:
- Credibility — Is the plaintiff’s claim believable and supported by credible evidence? Some injuries, such as a lost limb or paralysis, are readily apparent. Other injuries, such as back pain, mood swings or night terrors, cannot be proven diagnostically and often depend on the credible testimony of qualified experts.
- Severity — Simply put, the worse the injury, the higher the potential award. A severed hand is worthy of greater compensation than a broken hand.
- Disparity — The greater the difference between a victim’s life before the accident and life after, the higher the potential award. A ballet dancer who loses a foot has a greater claim than a sedentary individual with no active pursuits.
- Sympathy — There are certain human qualities that naturally elicit sympathy from a jury, which can lead to a more generous award. A young honor student whose life was full of hope, a devoted parent with small children, or a solid citizen who has risen from poverty are examples of sympathetic plaintiffs.
Without knowing the specifics of your case, it’s impossible to offer an estimate of pain and suffering damages. However, an experienced personal injury attorney can assess every aspect of your case and apply his or her knowledge about settlements in similar cases to suggest a range of possible results.
If you’re wondering what your personal injury case might be worth, speak with a car accident lawyer at Seigel Law. Call us at 201.444.4000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We assist injured clients in Bergen County and throughout New Jersey.