Personal injury lawsuits are commonly filed in cases regarding car accidents or injuries suffered on the premises of a place of business, an apartment building or someone’s home. If you are considering this kind of lawsuit, it is important to understand the factors that play a role in calculating damages.
The term “damages” simply refers to the loss the injury has caused you. Damages can include, among other things, financial harm in the form of lost wages and medical bills and intangible harm such as pain and suffering. A lawsuit determines what compensation you are owed because of the economic, physical or mental harm you have suffered.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the injured person is the plaintiff, who files suit against the person or company that is legally responsible for the injury (i.e., the defendant or an insurance company). During the discovery process, both sides learn what evidence may be presented to a judge or jury. The vast majority of cases are resolved by a negotiated settlement, but it is sometimes necessary to take a case to trial. In either case, the amount of the settlement or verdict depends on a number of factors.
The primary category of damages in a personal injury lawsuit is compensatory damages, which are intended to make the plaintiff whole by providing monetary compensation for an injury. Some damages, such as medical expenses or property damage, are fairly simple to calculate. But other damages, such as pain and suffering, are not as easy to determine. Compensatory damages can also include loss of income, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment. When the spouse of the injured person is a plaintiff, damages can include loss of consortium.
Monetary awards in a personal injury lawsuit can also include punitive damages, which are awarded when the defendant’s behavior is judged to be not merely negligent but particularly egregious or reckless. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant and deter such conduct by others.
Damages may be reduced based on the plaintiff’s conduct. The State of Illinois is a modified comparative negligence jurisdiction. Comparative negligence refers to situations when the plaintiff shares fault for an injury, for instance when two drivers each make errors that contribute to a collision. Under the law of modified comparative negligence, an injured party can only be compensated if he or she is less than 50 percent responsible for the injury, and the amount of damages that can be awarded are determined by the percentage that each party contributed to the injury.