Personal Injury Cases: Calculating the Damages
Being the victim of an accident can be a traumatic and life-changing experience. Serious injuries can result following all types of incidents including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, workplace accidents, and even dog attacks. However, when an accident is caused by someone else's negligent or reckless conduct, the victim may be entitled to compensation. In addition to the medical expenses incurred to treat the accident-related injuries, the person liable for the accident may be responsible for other damages that resulted from the accident. Personal injury lawsuits are designed to compensate victims for injuries sustained to a person's body or emotional well-being. Thus, filing a personal injury lawsuit may be the best way for a victim to make his or her life whole again after an accident.
Types of Damages
Once liability is established in a personal injury case, the next step is to calculate the amount of damages the victim is entitled to receive. Wisconsin follows a modified comparative fault system for recovering damages, adhering to the “51% rule.” Accordingly, the victim's award of damages is reduced by his or her percentage of fault in the accident, as long as the victim's percentage of fault is less than 51%. An injured party who is more than 51% at fault for his or her injuries cannot recover from another party.
Further, Wisconsin's Contributory Negligence Statute (Wis. Stat. § 895.045) states that a party who is contributorily negligent is not barred from recovering damages for his or her injuries so long as the contributorily negligent person's “negligence was not greater than the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought.”
Typically, damages in a personal injury lawsuit are divided into economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are those that can be calculated by the actual financial loss sustained by the victim due to an accident. Examples of economic damages include the following:
All medical expenses associated with the accident-related injury: The person(s) liable for the accident is responsible for all costs associated with hospital stays, doctors' appointments, physical therapy appointments, prescription medications, or even the costs of lifelong care if necessary; and
Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity: The defendant may be financially responsible for any work the victim missed due to the injury. In some cases where the victim may never be able to work again, the defendant may be liable for the income that the victim would have earned during his or her lifetime.
Non-economic damages are harder to calculate because it is difficult to measure actual financial loss. The most common non-economic damage claimed in a personal injury case is pain and suffering, which encompasses the physical and emotional consequences suffered by a victim following an accident. Pain and suffering can include things like body aches and physical pain, emotional stress or trauma, fear and anxiety and embarrassment.
Additionally, according to Wisconsin law, there are various monetary caps imposed on damages depending on the nature of the personal injury claim. For example, non-economic damages resulting from medical negligence are limited to $750,000. If the party responsible for an injury was a municipality, damages are limited to either $50,000 or $250,000, depending on whether “the use of an automobile” was involved in the accident. Finally, damages for loss of society and companionship in wrongful death cases are limited to either $350,000 or $500,000, depending on whether the decedent was an adult or a minor at the time of his or her death.
It is important to note that each case is unique so it is in the victim's best interest to contact a personal injury attorney who can advise the victim of his or her rights.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
When you or a loved one is involved in an accident, it is essential to immediately seek medical attention. Next, contact a compassionate Green Bay personal injury attorney or Appleton personal injury attorney at Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd. Our offices are located in Appleton, Green Bay, Oshkosh, and New London and we are available to answer any questions you may have about your pending case. Call today to schedule your consultation.