Suffering a serious personal injury can drastically affect a person’s quality of life; the mental and physical anguish can be, at times, almost unbearable. But the lasting effects of a personal injury may also go well beyond bodily harm — debt, time away from work or even job loss, and financial insecurity may also soon follow.
Such a state leaves many people searching for answers. Of course, many will consider remedying their situation through the legal system. But, there are a number of things that should be considered before filing a lawsuit, as the law requires certain things to be proven before relief is granted, and what may or may not be included in compensation is of particular concern..
For example, before filing suit, it’s important to consider what your case might be worth; in other words, what are your damages?
Before answering this question, a more basic question must first be answered: what are damages? In essence, damages are a monetary sum paid by the defendant to the plaintiff under order of the court. The court is recognizing that the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and the money is intended to compensate the plaintiff for said injuries. In the common parlance of the courts, damages are intended to make the plaintiff “whole”.
Courts here in Illinois consider a few different factors to determine the amount of damages necessary to make the plaintiff whole. They consider the physical pain experienced by the victim, economic factors such as medical debt, and personal hardship such as loss of consortium.
Proving an economic loss is usually straightforward and can be done using a formal record, like a billing statement or pay stub. Proving more abstract losses can be more challenging and may require testimony from an expert witness. For example, to prove mental anguish a psychiatrist may be called to testify.
In rare situations a court may go beyond what’s necessary to make the injured party whole by awarding what are known as “punitive damages.” Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and send a message to the entire community that the activity in question is unacceptable.
Punitive damages are only awarded if the defendant’s actions were particularly heinous. Typically, the conduct must be deserving of such castigating terms as “reckless” and “grossly negligent.” Because there is no precise calculation used, punitive damages can often be granted in a high sum, and for this reason, tend to be levied at entities with deep pockets.
Deciding to pursue legal action after a serious personal injury is a difficult choice. There are many factors to consider with numerous variables at play, and the help of an experienced personal injury attorney can aid those with questions.