Anytime you are accidentally injured by another person or persons, Indiana law entitles you to compensation from that person or persons. Compensation is your right in that situation, but it’s not easy to obtain. You’ll need dedicated help from an Evansville personal injury attorney.
In personal injury cases, those who’ve been injured by someone else’s carelessness have the right to reimbursement from the party or parties legally responsible for the injuries. The legal phrase for this reimbursement or compensation is “damages.”
The total damages that a victim of negligence receives may be determined by both parties in out-of-court negotiations, or that sum may be decided by a jury or a judge after a civil personal injury trial.
Keep reading for a closer look at the damages that may be available to you if you’re injured and you decide to seek compensation.
WHAT TYPES OF DAMAGES ARE AVAILABLE TO PERSONAL INJURY VICTIMS?
Damages are categorized in several ways. The two broadest categories are compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages reimburse someone for his or her losses associated with the injuries. Punitive damages – meant to punish the negligent party – are rare.
Compensatory damages can be further subdivided into economic (or special compensatory) damages and non-economic (or general compensatory) damages.
Economic damages compensate a victim for quantifiable monetary losses after an accident and injuries. In other words, economic damages compensate a victim for the expenses that he or she can prove with receipts, medical bills, paycheck stubs, and similar documents. Economic damages cover:
1. all injury-related past and future medical expenses
2. all injury-related past and future lost wages
3. property damage
4. all other injury-related out-of-pocket expenses
WHAT MEDICAL COSTS CAN BE REIMBURSED TO NEGLIGENCE VICTIMS?
As everyone knows, medical bills can pile up fast. Injured victims of negligence may be reimbursed for medical bills that are outstanding at the time of the settlement or verdict, and they are also entitled to projected future medical expenses.
That’s important if you sustain a catastrophic or permanent injury like a spinal cord or brain injury. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates that the average lifetime treatment cost for a spinal cord injury victim injured at age 25 is $3.5 million to $5 million.
You’ll also need to be represented by a personal injury attorney who has substantial experience fighting on behalf of injury victims and winning the maximum available compensation on their behalf.
Negligence victims should understand in advance that if your health insurance pays for medical bills arising from your injury, the insurance company will expect reimbursement from any damages you acquire. Health insurers often place a medical lien on a victim’s expected damages.
HOW ARE LOST WAGES REIMBURSED TO VICTIMS OF NEGLIGENCE?
Economic damages also include lost wages. Obviously, if you are seriously injured, you’ll be out of work, either temporarily or permanently.
If you can’t work for a week or two because your wrists are swollen or your ankle was sprained in a traffic crash, you are entitled to compensation for those lost days of work.
If you can’t return to work because your injury is permanently disabling, you are entitled to projected lost future income for your “loss of future earning capacity.”
If you earn $30,000 a year, for example, and you are injured twenty years before you expected to retire, your claim for your loss of future earning capacity will be worth at least $600,000.
WHAT ABOUT MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES?
Negligence victims are additionally entitled to reimbursement for all other out-of-pocket injury-related expenditures that aren’t lost income or medical expenses. Examples include the cost of:
1. paying for someone to help out around the house during your recovery
2. paying for someone to watch your children during your recovery
3. transportation costs – including parking – for medical appointments
4. anything necessary for your recovery that is a retail purchase, like bandages
Keep every receipt and every bill that is generated by the accident and your injuries. Otherwise, you’ll lose money that is legally yours. Make copies of all bills, receipts, and related documents, and store them securely.
That covers the compensatory economic damages that a personal injury victim can recover.
WHAT ARE NON-ECONOMIC COMPENSATORY DAMAGES?
The other broad category of compensatory damages, the non-economic damages, are more complicated, because you will have no bills or receipts to prove the extent of your personal pain and suffering.
It’s difficult to decide on a dollar amount for a person’s pain and suffering damages, but your personal injury attorney may be able to offer you a more precise estimate.
WHAT ARE PUNITIVE DAMAGES?
Along with compensatory damages, some negligence victims may also be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate a victim but instead are meant to punish the negligent party.
Punitive damages are typically awarded only when negligent behavior was particularly egregious. To win punitive damages in Indiana, the injury victim must show that the negligent party acted with malice, fraud, and/or excessive gross negligence.
HOW DOES INDIANA CAP PUNITIVE DAMAGES?
Like many states, Indiana places limits (or “caps”) on the total punitive damages that a victim of negligence may receive. Punitive damages in this state are capped at three times the amount of a compensatory damage award or $50,000, whichever is greater.
The law allows the injury victim to recover only 25 percent of any punitive damages awarded. The remainder goes to the Violent Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which helps crime victims with medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages, and counseling.
These compensation rules apply to every Indiana personal injury case, but because every case is different, you’re going to need personalized advice. If you are injured by negligence, discuss your case, your rights, and your options with an Evansville personal injury attorney.
Have that discussion as soon as you’ve obtained medical care after an injury. Indiana’s statute of limitations gives you two years to take legal action after a personal injury, but the sooner you put your case in a good attorney’s hands, the more likely it is that your injury claim will prevail.