Law FAQ: I was injured in an accident. What amount of damages can I expect to recover?
Based on some of the TV commercials and urban myths out there, people are led to believe that if they or a loved one has been injured in an accident that they can expect an easy road to a big, fat check. Don’t believe everything you hear, though, because that simply is not the case.
If you are injured as the result of the negligence of another person or company, you ARE indeed entitled to a fair recovery for your losses — both economic and non-economic losses. However, insurance companies and adjusters aren’t in the business of just giving away money willy-nilly. And neither are juries.
If you have a serious injury, there’s nothing that’s “easy” about the process at all.
Unless you want a quick-and-dirty, low-ball settlement you hear about on TV, then you should consult an experienced attorney who will evaluate the facts, determine the strength of your claim, and then actually do the hard work that it takes to secure a favorable and fair outcome, including negotiating with your health insurance carrier for the inevitable subrogation claim against your recovery.
As for the amount of damages that might be recovered, the components of an injury claim include such things as lost wages, lost future earning capacity, medical expenses (past and future), emotional distress, loss of services or companionship of a loved one, physical/mental impairment, and pain and suffering. The actual amount varies from case to case depending primarily on the nature and extent of the injuries and damages, as well as the skill and experience of the attorney who pursues the claim.
There is no exact formula to determine a precise figure, but factors that bear on an award of damages include such things as: the type of injury, the type of medical treatment, the length of medical treatment, the cost of medical treatment, the part(s) of the body injured, the permanency of the injury, your familial status, your age, your prior medical problems (if any), the egregiousness of the conduct of the offender, any past history of similar incidents, your willingness to take the case to trial, the availability insurance coverage, and the size of awards and settlements in similar cases.
Furthermore, the Tennessee legislature this past session passed caps on the amount of the “non-economic” damage component that can be recovered. Quality of life damages (i.e. pain and suffering, loss of companionship, etc.) are limited to $750,000, although the law creates exceptions in cases that involve intentional misconduct, destruction of records or activity under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The cap rises to $1 million for catastrophic losses defined as conditions involving paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation, especially severe burns, or the wrongful death of a parent leaving minor children. These caps would not apply, however, to economic damages such as lost wages and medical expenses, for example.
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