Recovering equitable damages following a personal injury can be a complicated process. The truth is that not all injury cases are equal in the value of recoverable damages available. Calculating damages due is generally mathematical, as there is a formula that most attorneys use to determine the amount of total compensatory damages. But, the actual recoverable value of a personal injury claim can be affected by specific material case factors, such as personal contribution to accident causation. Known as comparative negligence, this applies largely in auto accidents. It is a component of premises law injury claims as well, but the assessment rules are different. This is by no means a scientific process, and you will always need an experienced personal injury attorney representing your case thoroughly and aggressively.
Compensatory damages is the term for all monetary losses due to an accident injury plus the amount of non-economic pain-and-suffering damages. These damages include compensation for medical bills resulting from the accident, all lost wages, and necessary expenses associated with the treatment process such as travel. Non-economic pain-and-suffering damages are a bit different, as these damages are often estimated based on the seriousness of the injury and the long-term nature of disability. Of course, many accident injuries result in permanent disability. This determination will also enhance the value of medical bill recovery and future medical coverage, which is always a serious settlement concern for the insurance company, and the total amount of lost wages over a lifetime. As an example, a young individual who earns a high rate of pay and is permanently injured in an accident will have a much higher lost wages component of the settlement than an older person with a moderate pay rate. Each individual can rarely claim the same amount of lost wages. These damages are finally totaled to arrive at an equitable value of the claim.
Comparative Negligence is a primary issue when negotiating with the respondent insurance company. Florida is a “no fault” insurance state, which means that injured drivers will look first to their personal auto insurance policy for medical coverage. In addition, the at-fault driver can only be sued in certain situations when the medical bills exceed the amount of personal insurance coverage the injured party carries on themselves. The negligent driver can also be pursued for damages when the accident is intentional or results in the loss of a limb or facial disfigurement. The total amount of claimable damages are then discounted by the driver’s percentage of comparative fault for accident causation. Injured passengers are not assigned a comparative negligence rating unless material case facts show they were involved in causing the accident. Florida law allows that even an individual who is 99% at fault for an accident can still receive 1% in compensatory damages, as the state uses “pure” comparative negligence doctrine.
Punitive damages are possible in egregious accident cases, but can only be assigned by a jury when your personal injury attorney can demonstrate gross negligence or intentional conduct in the accident on the part of the defendant or bad faith negotiations by the respondent insurance company. The court cannot issue punitive damages from the bench, and in certain cases, punitive damage awards can be restricted by the state. This is why it is crucial to have solid legal counsel in a serious injury case.