When faced with a personal injury, one of the first questions victims ask is, “What compensation can I get?”, or “How can I calculate the damages to claim?”. But to answer this question, we first need to know the type of damages to claim, and to understand the impact on victims’ life.
In Indiana, compensation is categorized into three main types of damages: general, special, and punitive. This article breaks down each type, helping you understand their significance, how they’re calculated, and how they apply to your case.
According to the Indiana Code § 34-51, general damages (also known as non-economic damages) are those that inherently result from the wrongful act of another party.
General damages, often termed “non-economic damages” include all non-tangible losses a victim suffers in a personal injury case:
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium.
- Diminished quality of life.
For instance, if an individual experiences a catastrophic injury after an accident, the discomfort and its subsequent impact on daily life would be considered general damages. Likewise, those dealing with a concussion after a car accident would be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering experienced as a result of that injury.
Generally, this type of damage is more difficult to quantify because it isn’t based on any specific financial loss. Instead, general damages are meant to compensate you for the physical and emotional pain you’ve experienced as a result of your injury, factors that won’t be tied to a specific financial amount.
How They Are Calculated
As we just covered, the calculation of general damages isn’t straightforward, as they don’t have a direct monetary value. Instead, factors such as the severity of the injury, the length of your recovery process, and the impact the injury has had on your lifestyle are all considered when calculating general damages.
In this sense, it’s crucial to note that each case is unique and the awarded amount can vary widely based on the circumstances. A personal injury lawyer can work with you to maximize the amount of compensation for general damages.
Special damages, in contrast to general damages, are easily quantifiable and pertain to the tangible losses a victim incurs in a personal injury case.
Also known as “economic damages“, special damages cover the measurable financial losses stemming from an injury. This can range from medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages to property damage. Generally, special damages are much easier to quantify than general damages because they are based on specific financial losses.
For example, if someone had to undergo surgery and physical therapy after an accident and couldn’t work for six months, the costs associated with both the medical procedures and the lost wages would be categorized as special damages.
How They Are Calculated
The calculation of special damages is a pretty straightforward process that involves adding up all of your financial losses related to your injury. In this scenario, key documentation like receipts, medical bills, wage statements, and other pertinent documentation serve as crucial evidence to determine the compensation amount.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer (the person or entity responsible for your injury) rather than compensate the victim.
Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly based on negligence or willing and wanton misconduct, malice, fraud, or gross negligence. They are meant to serve as a deterrent to others, discouraging similar conduct in the future.
For example, if a company knowingly sold a hazardous product that led to injuries, the jury might be asked to award punitive damages as a way to punish the company.
How They Are Calculated
The calculation of punitive damages is based on the defendant’s intent and the severity of their misconduct. While there’s no fixed formula, the defendant’s financial status, the gravity of their actions, and the harm caused to the plaintiff are all factors that play a role in determining the compensation amount.
Additionally, punitive damages are typically awarded in conjunction with general and special damages.
The Process of Filing a Lawsuit for Damages in Indiana
If you believe you’re entitled to compensation for damages for any serious injury, including medical malpractice, you may need to file a lawsuit. Generally, these are the steps you can expect to encounter in the process:
Step 1: Consult with a Lawyer
The first step before filing a lawsuit is to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Lawyers have the necessary expertise to provide key insights, assess the viability of the claim, and guide you through the whole legal process. This includes advising you on the best course of action to maximize your claim’s chances of success.
Step 2: Gather Evidence
Solid evidence is the backbone of any lawsuit. Gathering evidence includes collecting medical records, witness statements, photos, surveillance footage, police reports, and any other pertinent documentation related to your injury that can make for a solid claim.
So, make sure you save all medical records immediately after your injury. A personal injury attorney can help you gather the rest of the necessary evidence to build a strong case.
Step 3: File the Lawsuit
Once equipped with evidence and legal advice, the next step involves formally filing the lawsuit. This process entails, among other steps, drafting and submitting a complaint that details the nature of the claim, a comprehensive account of the case, and the damages sought.
Once you have gathered all of the necessary evidence, your lawyer will file the lawsuit on your behalf. The defendant will then have an opportunity to respond to the lawsuit.
Step 4: Negotiate a Settlement or Go to Trial
After filing your lawsuit, there are two primary paths: negotiating a settlement or proceeding to trial. On the one hand, you and the defendant may choose to negotiate a settlement. While settlements are more common and less time-consuming, sometimes going to trial is necessary to secure fair compensation.
In both cases, a personal injury lawyer can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. They will help you with the negotiation process to ensure you don’t settle for less than you deserve. And if your case goes to trial, they can represent you in court and advocate for your rights on your behalf.
If you believe you’re entitled to damages, don’t hesitate to seek expert advice and ensure your rights are protected. Our Indiana personal injury lawyer team at Christie Lee Farrell & Bell has decades of experience handling serious injury cases. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation to explore the legal options available to you.