A personal injury lawsuit is a civil action, meaning that the only thing a court can award you is monetary damages if you win your case. Unlike a criminal action where the government prosecutes the defendant and likely sends him or her to jail or prison if convicted, the only way a civil court can punish a defendant is by awarding you punitive damages on top of your economic and noneconomic damages.
Keep in mind, however, that you’re not automatically entitled to receive punitive damages. In fact, courts seldom award them in personal injury cases unless the defendant’s actions in causing the accident, and therefore the plaintiff’s injuries, were especially reprehensible.
On the other hand, you are entitled to recover your economic and noneconomic damages from the defendant, your personal injury attorney can explain the other names your state may assign to these two types of damages.
For the most part, your economic damages are those for which you have already likely begun accumulating bills, such as for the following:
• Ambulance or life flight expenses after your accident
• Hospital treatment expenses
• Prescription drug expenses
• Follow-up doctor visit expenses
• Physical or occupational therapy expenses
• Rehabilitative treatment expenses
• Required medical equipment expenses, like for crutches, a wheelchair, a walker, etc.
Your medical expenses also include a reasonable estimate of the future medical care and treatment you will require.
Your economic damages likewise include your lost wages or salary to date, plus a reasonable estimate of the amount you will lose in the future.
While the amount of your economic damages is fairly easy to calculate, such is not the case with regard to your noneconomic damages, as the lawyers at Cohen & Cohen can explain. Why? Because, as their name implies, these damages represent your very real losses for which you receive no actual bills. Consequently, you, your personal injury lawyer and ultimately the jury must determine their value based on the evidence pertaining to your accident and injuries.
Examples of your noneconomic damages include the following:
• The amount of physical pain and suffering your injuries cause you
• The amount of mental and emotional anguish they cause you
• Their lasting effects, such as disfiguring scarring or your need to use a wheelchair or wear a prosthesis for the rest of your life
• Your loss of self-esteem or self-worth due to them
• The loss of your ability to lead the full, active life you led prior to your accident
• The loss of your full enjoyment of your life
In all likelihood, your personal injury lawyer will engage the services of respected expert witnesses to provide testimony that explains the value of your noneconomic damages to the jury.