What Are Damages In Personal Injury Law?

When speaking with a personal injury attorney, a good portion of what you'll talk about is a topic known as damages. It's important to discuss what a personal injury lawyer means when the subject of damages comes up.

Compensation to Make Things Right

In American law, it's understood that many injuries lead to problems that can never be put back the way things work. Someone who suffers a spinal cord injury after falling from a set of stairs due to a faulty handrail, for example, stands a serious chance of never leading their normal life again.

As much as possible, though, the law wants to see cases even out. This is accomplished by awarding compensation, almost always in the form of money, to the plaintiff to make up for what has happened. A personal injury attorney will oftentimes refer to this award of compensation as damages.

How Are Damages Paid?

There are three ways damages can be handled. Most commonly, a client's personal injury lawyer files a claim with the defendant's insurance company. The insurance company appoints a claims adjuster who verifies that the claim is legit. If the claim checks out, the adjuster will provide a settlement offer.

A second scenario involves suing the defendant. This may happen if a settlement can't be reached or the defendant simply refuses to consider a claim. Both parties go to court and present their explanation for what happened. If the plaintiff prevails, the court will order the defendant to pay. The judge may even place a lien on the defendant's assets or garnish their wages.

The least-common scenario is that a self-insured defendant settles the case out of their pocket. Normally, this is handled like an insurance, but without the involvement of a company.

What Can You Claim?

Physical damages are generally the easiest ones for clients to understand. You can seek compensation to cover medical bills, surgeries, prescription drug costs, and long-term care expenses. Likewise, you can also seek damages to make up for bodily injuries, such as the loss of a body part or a reduction in function. Pain and suffering from the injuries, such as agony from damaged nerves, are recoverable, too.

If a case goes to trial, you may be able to see punitive damages. These are awarded when a defendant does something so bad that society wants to deter future parties from doing similar things. If a building's superintendent neglected to repair hot water pipes and they burst, for example, punitive damages might be awarded.

For more information on what damages are, reach out to a local personal injury attorney.

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