How Do I Value Damages in my New Hampshire Personal Injury Case?

In personal injury cases, the term ‘damages’ refers to the amount of money awarded to the injured party (or plaintiff) who suffered harm due to the negligent, reckless or intentional act of the defendant.  It is intended to make the plaintiff whole after the accident and put the plaintiff in the position that they would have been if they had not been injured.

Valuing your personal injury case is an essential part of your personal injury claim.  It is often hard to put a dollar figure on an injury if it involves, for example, pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.  Many litigants consult with their attorneys when they have been injured, but have no real idea of what their case is worth or how personal injury damages work.  Fortunately, personal injury damages can be categorized and simplified to give you a better understanding of the personal injury claims process and your real case value.  It is advisable to have the guidance of an experienced New Hampshire personal injury lawyer when valuing your case so that you can make informed decisions about any settlement offers or court proceedings.

General, Special, and Punitive Damages

The three main categories of losses in your personal injury case are general and special damages (often called non-economic and economic damages), and punitive damages.   Punitive damages are awarded in more extreme cases to punish or deter the defendant.

General damages are those damages which flow naturally from a claimant’s injury.  For example, if you were injured in a car accident, the defendant would be liable for all injuries you sustained as a result of that car accident.  In addition, if you had a pre-existing injury which was exacerbated by the car accident caused by the defendant, the defendant would be responsible for those damages too.

These are the types of general damages in a personal injury case.

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Physical disfigurement
  • Physical impairment
  • Mental anguish or emotional distress
  • Loss of companionship
  • Lowered quality of life

Computing general damages depends on the type of injury that you have sustained and the nature and extent of your injuries.   What a jury will award and what you could be awarded in a settlement varies depending upon the facts of each case.  An experienced attorney can guide you through the damages valuation process and give you a realistic idea of what your case is worth.

Special damages refer to your actual out of pocket damages, such as medical bills or time off work, because of your injuries.  These are more readily quantifiable. Each personal injury case is different as to what type of special damages a personal injury claimant can claim but these are the categories of special damages that you can expect in a personal injury case.

  • Repair and replacement of damaged property
  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Loss of irreplaceable items
  • Lost wages (past and future)
  • Any limitation on ability to work because of the accident or injury

It is important that you quantify these damages with specificity.  For example, if your car was totaled in an auto accident and you had to take time off work to recover from your injuries, it would be important to have a verifiable value for your vehicle, your medical bills, and evidence of lost wages, if you have them, as evidence in your case.  The use of experts or documentary evidence is helpful in presenting your special damages.  Your attorney can advise you as to what is the best evidence to prove your claims.

Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing and to ensure that the defendant does not repeat the wrongdoing.  Whether punitive damages are available in your case depends on the nature and severity of your injury, the acts which led up to the injury and the specific facts of your case.   Generally, gross negligence is required to assess punitive damages.  This adds an element of recklessness or disregard by the defendant for others to be assessed.

These are some examples of what could lead to punitive damages being assessed in a personal injury case.  The results depend on the facts and findings in each case and the laws in your state.

  • First example of gross negligence (office building). An office building was examined by a building inspector and it was found that the roof was unstable and unsafe.  The building inspector issues a mandate that no one be in that part of the building until the roof is fixed and up to code.  The businesses within that building ignore the building inspector’s mandate and conduct business as usual.  Part of the roof falls in and people are injured.   This could be a case of gross negligence and punitive damages could apply.
  • Second example of gross negligence (auto accident). Bob and Tom are driving in two lanes.  Bob intentionally sideswipes Tom and Tom is injured because of Bob’s acts.  Tom would have a strong claim for punitive damages because Tom’s injuries were caused by Bob’s intentional acts.

When reviewing your personal injury claims, it is helpful and advisable to have an experienced New Hampshire personal injury lawyer assess your case’s value.  It will help you make more informed, intelligent decisions about your case and how to proceed.

 

 

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