Damages and Personal Injury Actions

To establish a negligence cause of action, the plaintiff must prove the defendant had a duty to act like a reasonable and ordinary  person, the defendant breached that duty by acting below a reasonable standard of care, the defendant was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence.

Damages are often the most important element of a negligence action because it is the compensation a plaintiff will receive to compensate him or her for her injuries. Some plaintiffs are able to seek treatment for their injuries and recover. Unfortunately, other plaintiffs are never the same after a personal injury incident and damages are the closest a plaintiff will get to becoming “whole” again. 

Types of Damages

Damages require proof of harm in order to be compensated. In a typical car accident case, damages are shown by gathering a plaintiff’s medical records and bills and providing them to an expert witness. An expert is someone who specializes in various areas of a personal injury case and are used for various reasons. When it comes to damages, a plaintiff will typically benefit from a comprehensive medical expert and an economist. The medical expert will summarize a plaintiff’s medical records and bills and provide a list of future damages a plaintiff may need depending on his or her medical history, injuries as a result of the car accident, treatment received, and what remains to be done. The expert will then provide a number for plaintiff’s future medical expenses. An economist is used to discount the future medical number into present value to avoid excess judgments. This future number is then combined with a plaintiff’s past medical expenses and other damage values to provide the plaintiff with a total amount of damages. However, it is ultimately a jury’s decision based on the evidence presented on how much they will compensate a plaintiff for his or her injuries. 

A plaintiff is typically awarded economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages consist of medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and property damage. Noneconomic damages consist of pain suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Together, these damages comprise a plaintiff’s compensatory damages.

Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for engaging in the type of behavior that harmed the plaintiff. They are not always available in negligent personal injury cases. However, if a defendant’s actions are reckless, malicious, or wanton and willful, a plaintiff can bring a punitive damage claim. A defendant’s knowledge of the negligent activity without doing anything to stop or change it is usually sufficient to bring a punitive damage claim. 

Damages and the Collateral Source Rule 

The collateral source rule prevents a defendant from introducing at trial certain sources that may have reduced a plaintiff’s damages. Examples are health insurance, liens, or sick pay from an employer. Defendants often attempt to introduce these collateral sources because health insurance will offset a plaintiff’s bills at times, or a lien provider may reduce the total amount a plaintiff owes. However, these sources are unreliable because a plaintiff can never predict if or how much his or her medical bill will be reduced, if at all. 

How an Attorney Can Help

Damages can be difficult and complex to prove at trial. It is important that your damages are accurately worked up during the discovery phase of your case to ensure fair compensation at the end of you care. An experienced defective product lawyer in Las Vegas, NV can make certain your damages are ready to prove at trial and you are made whole as a result of a defendant’s negligence. 

Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight into personal injury claims and damages.