What damages can I recover in a Utah Personal Injury case?
How much is my Utah personal injury case worth?
One thing that is important to consider in a personal injury case is how much a personal injury case is worth. This is a part of personal injury cases that many people may not understand or overlook. Perhaps you have a strong case factually where you can prove the other party was negligent or legally liable towards you for your injuries you incurred.
That is just one part of the legal equation when evaluating a personal injury case. The other part of the equation, is if you have been injured in a personal injury case in Utah, what could you recover, or what would your damages look like? You could prove the other side is liable, but your damages in the end, may only be negligible.
There are several areas of damages that one can recover for personal injury. Those can include, lost wages and benefits from a job or vocation, consequential damages, such as lost savings and out of pocket expenses, damages to personal property.
One can also recover for medical expenses incurred, past and future. This are typically known as economic damages in a personal injury case. The next area is typically known as general compensatory damages or also known as pain and suffering damages. These are damages that help compensate individuals in a personal injury case for damages incurred related to the pain and suffering one has endured for the injuries.
The next area is punitive damages where in most personal injury cases, recovery is not an option if it is based on a negligence legal theory.
Finally, in some cases, a person can recover his or her attorney fees and costs but just like punitive damages, this also is typically not an option if it is based on a negligence legal theory.
What are economic damages in a personal injury case?
As already noted, economic damages include lost wages and benefits, consequential damages and lost medical expenses. Economic damages are also known as actual compensatory damages, or calculable known economic loss from the personal injury.
As to lost wages and benefits, an individual in a personal injury case can recover any wages lost due to an injury. If a person had to take time off of work due to the injury, then they can recover for time taken off of work. If a person can no longer work due to the injury, then the damages can really start to add up. This is especially true if a person is no longer physically able to work any kind of vocation moving forward. In this type of situation, a person can recover from lost wages and benefits past and future.
If a person can still work some kind of vocation but cannot work their current vocation, then they can recover the difference between their typical vocation and any future position in the future. A person can also recover the difference in other benefits such as the difference in health insurance and contributions, retirement benefits and bonuses.
Also, with lost wages and benefits, an individual must mitigate his or her damages. This means that if a person is fired from the position and or is no longer able to work that position, the person must make a good-faith effort to find new gainful employment.
The person must show evidence that they applied for jobs after the fact if he or she is still medically able to work. If the person is unable to show that he or she mitigated damages, a judge may not allow any future lost wages and benefits. Additionally, if a person finds a position that makes more than their older position, they cannot recover any additional lost wages and benefits once they start that new position.
So with some personal injury cases, they can be hard to evaluate their worth so early due to the unknown of what future job prospects will look like.
A person can also recover consequential damages. Consequential damages can be damages to an injured person’s personal property. This can include out of pocket expenses such as the purchase of a new vehicle if the personal injury case involved damages to a vehicle or repairs of a vehicle. It can also include out of pocket costs for medical expenses. It can also include the loss of pulling money from a savings account to cover any lost wages or any expenses to cover any other financial needs due to the personal injury.
This is in addition to any money borrowed from a friend or family member or community organization such as a church. However, if a person gets that kind of amount in a settlement or judgment, they may have to reimburse the other party unless they already have. Also, if a person has to use a credit card or in the unfortunate event has to take out a payday loan or any other kind of loan, that person can also recover the interest incurred from
What medical expenses can I recover in a personal injury case?
Economic damages also include recovery for medical expenses. If a person is injured, the liable party is one the hook for all necessary and related medical expenses. This can be a contentious battle in the case. Many defense attorneys look to claim that some or other of the damages were related to a pre-existing condition and not part of the accident from the personal injury. This can require experts to make an opinion on whether or not the accident was caused by the injury. This is called medical causation.
Also, a defense attorney may try to claim that the medical procedures done on the individual were not necessary and not compensable.
An injured person can recover the whole medical cost if he or she can prove that the medical causation and that the procedures were medically necessary. This includes how much your private insurance may have covered as well. Not just your own deductible or out of pocket expenses. This includes the full amount of any prescription drugs, any medical procedures and surgeries conducted and associated costs to those procedures and surgeries.
If you do get a settlement in the end, your private insurance company can recover from the settlement amount they paid toward the injuries as well as if your insurance is through a government insurance plan. If you don’t notify your private or government insurance company of a settlement and pay them the settlement amount, they can file a lien action and recovery action against you to recover its costs. So although you can recover the full amount of the medical expenses, you still will have to reimburse the medical providers that paid for it.
However, you can also recover for future medical expenses as well. If you can prove that you will need future medical assistance for your injuries or need prescription drugs moving forward, you can also recover those future medical costs in addition to past medical costs.
If the injury will affect you the rest of your life and require medical assistance for your rest of your life, you can most likely recover future medical costs from your current age to the average life expectancy of a U.S. individual. Since no costs had been incurred to that point, there would be no insurance company you would need to reimburse for those future medical costs, but you would want that amount to cover you for those costs when they are incurred moving forward.
What can I recover in pain and suffering damages?
The next area of damages is compensatory damages. This is to compensate an individual for the physical pain they suffered from the injuries as well as any future pain they will suffer from the injuries. This is known as general compensatory damages or better known as “pain and suffering damages.” There is no clear-cut method on how to calculate these injuries like how you can calculate actual or economic damages. It is really in the eyes of a jury on how much these damages are worth.
Typically, as a rule of thumb, insurance companies will take the amount of actual damages, or economic damages and times that amount by four or three. However, that is not necessarily what your pain and suffering is or could be. It could be more or it could be less. Every circumstance is different. However, as the calculation amount from insurance company infers, the amount of pain and suffering damages is typically more than the amount of economic damages.
The pain and suffering is calculated on a “per-diem” basis meaning a “per-day” basis. So the question to the jury is, how much is that pain worth that the person went through each day? This makes it more manageable to swallow. Is the pain and suffering worth $100 a day? $1000 a day? It all depends based on many factors including the nature and severity of the injury. This is in addition to how much a day pain and suffering will be for this person into the future.
These types of damages can also include any mental trauma the person suffered and how the injury pay affect them past and future such as suffering from stress, depression, anxiety and other mental difficulties. Again, a person must prove that these types of trauma are related to the accident and not from another life event affecting him or her.
A person can also recover damages under here for disfigurement to his or her person.
In addition to the physical and mental pain and suffering, a person may have suffered from loss of life activities. If a person used to be able to play sports, to outdoor activities, used to have a social life and no longer can do those things due to the injury, a person can recover from those losses.
What is Loss of Filial Consortium in Utah personal injury cases?
Also, the situation may have affected an injured person’s relationship with his or her spouse. The spouse may now have to take on more of the family responsibilities now due to the injury. The sexual relationship of the couple may also have changed due to physical or mental conditions. The situation may also be adding additional strain on the relationship due to the new dynamic.
The situation may also make it so the couple may not be able to enjoy the same activities they once did in the past. These are real injuries. The State of Utah realizes how real these damages are where they carved out a cause of action for a spouse that has suffered these types of injuries from an injured spouse. This cause of action is known as the loss of filial consortium cause of action or loss of love and affection.
As a result, if an injured person files a lawsuit against a person or entity for recovery of damages, a spouse can also be in the lawsuit as well and file a cause of action for loss of filial consortium.
What can I recover in punitive damages from a personal injury case?
Punitive damages in lawsuit are a means to punish the wrongdoer for his or her actions and to deter future actions from occurring in the future. Typically, if the case is based on a negligence theory, then an injured person cannot recover punitive damages. However, different causes of action can allow for the recovery of punitive damages.
For example, in a strict liability cases such as a products liability case in Utah if your injuries stemmed from a defective product or in some defamation cases, a person can recover punitive damages for the injuries if they can prove their case. In other cases, a person may have to prove a higher standard. Instead of negligence, a person would have to prove the other party intended to cause the injury. This can be proven in an assault and battery case where the element intent to cause injury is required. It can also be awarded if the accident involved another state statute where punitive damages are allowed. The exact language from the Utah Statute on punitive damages says the award is allowed if it is:
the result of willful and malicious or intentionally fraudulent conduct, or conduct that manifests a knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of, the rights of others.
Punitive damages in Utah are discretionary by the judge if they should be awarded. The amount is also based on the person the committed the act’s ability to pay the damage. A person can recover punitive damages if her or she can also recover economic and general compensatory damages in the case. The maximum amount a person can recover that doesn’t violate the Utah constitution is four times the amount of the other damages recovered.
This is what can make some cases very expensive as far as liability. However, all the damages do not go to the injured person. The injured person gets the first $50,000.00. After that, the injured person splits half of the damages with the state as the damage award again serves as a penalty fee. It is a high standard to prove punitive damages and there are other factors the court considers when awarding punitive damages.
If a person thinks they may have a lucrative case because they can recover a high amount in punitive damages, that is not a good basis to asses and value a personal injury claim. This is especially true if it may be hard for that person to prove recovery under economic and general compensatory damages.
What can I recover in attorney fees in a personal injury case?
Just like with punitive damages, typically, a person cannot recover attorney fees in a personal injury case. However, a specific statute related to your type of case may allow an award for attorney fees. If your case is on a contingency basis and you haven’t paid your attorney his or his fees and it is based on the award amount, then the other side would be required how much you would have to pay your attorney based on the contingency amount, instead of you paying the contingency amount to your attorney.
The best way to value a personal injury claim is to focus on what is recoverable from economic and general compensatory damages without calculating punitive damages.
Speak to our Utah Personal Injury law firm today and we can better assess your case on your likelihood of recovering legally and the amount of damages you could recover from your personal injury case.