One of the most frequently asked questions in back injury claims is, “How much is my case worth?” Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult questions to answer, especially early on.
If a back injury leaves you permanently disabled and unable to work, this obviously presents a bigger financial burden than if you heal in a few months. A case involving a long-lasting injury will typically result in a larger settlement or verdict.
Doctors may predict whether your injuries will be permanent, but only time can tell for sure. You may be experiencing financial pressure in the form of medical bills and lost wages, but it is a mistake to rush into a settlement before knowing the full extent of your injury. Meet with a back injury attorney before talking to the defendant or the defendant’s insurer.
Your back injury attorney may not be able to tell you exactly how much your case is worth, but he or she might give you an estimated settlement range. More importantly, your attorney will tell you how to preserve evidence of all the costs associated with your injury.
General and Special Damages
General damages are damages that are a necessary or inevitable result of your accident. These include physical pain and mental suffering as well as disfigurement. Special damages are damages that actually arose from the accident but were not the necessary or inevitable result. These include medical expenses and loss of profits of a business.
Do not limit your claimed damages to those for which you can produce objective evidence. For instance, a soft tissue injury can cause disability and disfigurement without evidence of a broken bone or scarring if it severely limits your neck movement.
The following are some of the most commonly claimed damages in back injury cases:
- medical expenses (doctors’ bills, hospital visits, medication, prostheses, therapy, etc.);
- lost wages;
- lost job benefits (bonuses, 401(k) contributions, vacation pay, health benefits, etc.);
- repair/replacement costs of personal property like your car;
- pain and suffering, humiliation, mental anguish, etc.
- disfigurement or loss of use of bodily functions or appendages;
- loss of consortium, services, or family relationship;
- hedonic damages (loss of enjoyment of life);
- lost earning capacity (limits on your ability to qualify for high-paying jobs); and
- shortened life expectancy.
Documenting Pain and Suffering
The best way for you to document your pain and suffering is to keep a personal injury diary. Note difficulties getting out of bed, performing household chores, bathing, sleeping, or doing simple tasks. This diary will demonstrate to a jury that your back injury pervades every aspect of your life, including the simplest movements.
Make diary entries regularly; do not let time slip by. If you wait too long, valuable information will be lost. This documentation of pain and suffering will make it easier for your attorney to explain pain to the jury and more difficult for the defense attorney to trap you during cross-examination. Submit your diary to your attorney monthly.
Most jurisdictions allow for the recovery of loss of society, companionship, marital relations, and services of an injured spouse. Some jurisdictions also allow children to recover for loss of consortium. If you have suffered significant injury, pain, or discomfort and you are married or have children, they should consider filing a claim for loss of consortium.
A claim for loss of consortium is a separate cause of action. Your spouse or children will need to keep their own diaries, sign their own attorney retainer agreements, and be fully prepared for deposition, interrogatories, and trial.
Punitive damages are not intended to compensate you for your injury, but to punish the defendant for bad behavior. Punitive damages are rarely awarded in back injury cases. The defendant’s actions would have to be particularly outrageous, going beyond ordinary negligence. Defendants are unlikely to agree to punitive damages as part of a settlement, so claiming them will probably require a full trial.
Contact A Vancouver Back Injury Lawyer Today
There are many factors in determining liability in a back injury case. To find out if you have a case, contact a professional at the Etengoff Pak Law Group today.