If your life has been wrecked by a personal injury in which someone else was clearly at fault, filing a personal injury suit against that party can provide you with critical financial compensation. But these legal waters can run pretty deep, so the more you understand about the potential obstacles, the more easily you can avoid or overcome them. Here are important points to underline in your case file.
Calculating Your Claim Amount Can Be Trickier Than You Think
When you're suing to recoup financial losses, you might assume that determining the dollar figure is a straightforward matter. Your out-of-pocket hospital costs, from surgery and inpatient stays to parking fees, can all be added to the list, as well as whatever you may have paid out for followup care such as physical therapy, doctor's appointments and prescription medication. Lost wages, including anticipated future losses, can also be tabulated easily enough. These concrete, calculable losses are called special damages -- but they're not the only ones you need to consider.
There's another category called general damages that can (and probably should) influence the amount you request. General damages are those losses that are not easy to translate into dollars and cents but nevertheless have a drastic impact on your quality of life. These damages may include such intangibles as:
- Inability to sleep
- Chronic pain that resists treatment and causes significant suffering
- Depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders related to the injury and its aftermath
- Loss of consortium (damage to spousal or family relationships)
These damages can be hard to prove in court, but you have to take their effects into account when deciding on a claim amount, especially since you won't be allowed to inflate that amount later on. Engage a skilled personal injury attorney to help you review and evaluate all your potential damages.
Expert Witnesses Can Help (But They're Not Money in the Bank)
A credible expert witness can provide valuable medical testimony to support your claims in a personal injury case. This can be extremely useful in situations where:
- The jury might not otherwise believe your injury could be sustained in the manner you describe
- The jury might have trouble understanding the medical details and consequences of your injury
- Your case depends on discussion of evidence such as x-rays that might otherwise not be allowed
Your personal injury attorney will probably have ready access to respected medical professionals in your area who can serve as expert witnesses. Unfortunately, the addition of such expertise isn't necessarily a "slam dunk" for your case. Keep in mind that the other side has the right to present expert witnesses as well -- and their testimony may completely contradict that of your own expert witness. At that point the jury can only choose to believe one expert witness over the other. The defense attorney may also try to discredit your expert witness.
You Can Sue for Insured Medical Expenses (but You Won't Get That Money)
As you and your personal injury attorney are putting together your claim demand, go through your insurance records to see just how much of the total medical bill was covered by your insurance agency. You might have racked up, say, $100,000 in medical expenses, 80 percent of which was paid by the agency. So should you reduce this part of your claim to $20,000, or can you go ahead and sue the defendant for the entire $100,000? Oddly enough, you can indeed sue for that entire amount -- you just won't be the one who benefits from it.
If your lawsuit includes medical expenses paid for by your insurance company, expect the insurance company to file a lien claiming that portion of the award for itself. This is only logical, since the insurance company has lost $80,000. But if your law firm's contingency fee is based on a percentage of your total award amount, you might end up a higher legal bill than your share of the winnings would indicate. Since your non-covered expenses can still be awarded to you in full, you might be better off reducing your claim accordingly.
As you can see, recouping medical expenses through a personal injury lawsuit can be a complicated process. Make sure you're in perfect accord with your attorney, calculate your claim with care and keep your expectations realistic. For more information, contact a practice like Modesitt Law Offices PC.