To establish a negligence cause of action, the plaintiff must prove the defendant had a duty to act like a reasonable and ordinary person, the defendant breached that duty by acting below a reasonable standard of care, the defendant was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
Damages are often the most important element of a negligence action because it is the compensation a plaintiff will receive to compensate him or her for her injuries. Some plaintiffs are able to seek treatment for their injuries and recover. Unfortunately, other plaintiffs are never the same after a personal injury incident and damages are the closest a plaintiff will get to becoming “whole” again.
Amount of Damages
The amount of damages awarded as a result of a personal injury lawsuit varies depending on the severity of the injuries sustained. These damages can include: (1) the reasonable amount of medical expenses acquired as a result of the personal injury accident; (2) past and future loss of wages incurred as a result of the personal injury accident; (3) the reasonable amount of household services that can no longer be performed by the injured plaintiff as a result of the personal injury accident; (4) and physical and mental pain and suffering, anguish, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of the personal injury accident. Future damages are determined by how long an injured person will probably live, also known as their life expectancy. A person’s life expectancy varies depending on age, gender, and race.
There are times when a plaintiff already has prior injuries that are exacerbated in a personal injury lawsuit. When this occurs, a plaintiff can recover damages for those prior injuries if the personal injury accident aggravates the plaintiff’s pre-existing injury and/or condition. The damages are limited to the aggravation of the additional injury sustained as a result of the personal injury accident. This also includes a plaintiff whose injury and/or condition is more susceptible to exacerbation when compared to an ordinary and healthy person.
Damages and the Collateral Source Rule
The collateral source rule prevents a defendant from introducing at trial certain sources that may have reduced a plaintiff’s damages. Examples are health insurance, liens, or sick pay from an employer. Defendants often attempt to introduce these collateral sources because health insurance will offset a plaintiff’s bills at times, or a lien provider may reduce the total amount a plaintiff owes. However, these sources are unreliable because a plaintiff can never predict if or how much his or her medical bill will be reduced, if at all.
How an Attorney Can Help
Damages can be difficult and complex to prove at trial. It is important that your damages are accurately worked up during the discovery phase of your case to ensure fair compensation at the end of your care. An experienced catastrophic injury lawyer, like from Eglet Adams, can make certain your damages are ready to prove at trial and you are made whole as a result of a defendant’s negligence.