If you were injured because of the actions or negligence of another person, you can bring a civil case against them.
In this civil suit, you can demand compensation for expenses and suffering caused by the accident.
Courts refer to this compensation as “damages.”
Generally, courts award damages based on the amount it would take to make you whole again.
There are several types of damages that you can ask for in Virginia courts.
The amount and type of damages often depend on the specific facts of your case, as well as the amount and quality of evidence you can gather.
In this article, we’ll go over the basics of determining what damages you can recover in Virginia.
The Basics of Personal Injury
When looking at your suit, the court will make a judgment about whether the damages you are asking for are authentic and reasonable.
Examples of this evidence can include:
- Past pay stubs (to show missing income)
- Medical bills
- Other household bills caused by accident (cleaning service)
- Expert testimony
- Police reports
Some people even keep a journal describing the days after the accident.
Basically, you need to compile evidence that shows how the accident has affected your day-to-day life.
Authenticity of the Expense
If the defendant challenges the authenticity of a medical bill or other expense, the court will create a jury to look over the evidence.
Both sides can argue their case to this jury.
Necessity of the Expense
The defendant may challenge the causal relationship of the expense.
They might question whether that particular expense was necessary.
In this case, the court will require expert testimony to prove or disprove the necessity of the expense.
For example, you cannot sue for damages which occurred before the accident, but were treated at the same time as the accident’s injuries.
In addition, you cannot sue for unnecessary procedures that are not commonly recommended in similar cases.
There are two types of damages that you can ask for in a personal injury claim. They are compensatory damages and punitive damages.
We’ll cover compensatory damages first.
Compensatory damages are meant to compensate for what was lost in the accident.
Another name for compensatory damages is out-of-pocket expenses.
Compensatory damages can be further broken down into special and general compensatory damages.
Special Compensatory Damages
These damages are usually easy to define. You can often prove them in black-and-white, using a bill or invoice. Some common examples include:
Medical Expenses – Any hospitalization or medical care because of the accident is in this category. This also includes future medical expenses. If you anticipate that you will need surgery, physical therapy, or nursing care in the future because of the accident, you can add that to your claim.
Loss of Income – This includes the income that you already lost because you couldn’t work due to your injury. It also includes the loss of earning potential if you won’t be able to work in the future, either temporarily or permanently.
Property Damage – If the accident caused damage to your property (for example, a wrecked car), you can ask for compensation for that.
Household and Other Expenses – If you are responsible for taking care of your children or household, you can ask for the money you would need to pay someone else to take on that work.
You can also ask for any other expenses you incurred because of the accident, such as lost deposits or fees from missed appointments.
General Compensatory Damages
These damages are harder to quantify in numbers, but the court often awards them in personal injury cases.
Usually, these damages amount to about 3-5 times the cost of the out-of-pocket expenses. General compensatory damages fall into three broad categories:
Pain and Suffering – This refers to physical pain that the plaintiff suffered because of their injuries.
Emotional Distress – Often this is in the form of fear and anxiety because of the accident, or an inability to sleep due to injuries. Emotional distress can also refer to broken relationships with family members due to the accident.
For instance, a spouse who can no longer have physical intimacy with their partner because of their injuries may sue for emotional distress in the form of “loss of consortium” damages.
Loss of Enjoyment – If you can show that the pain or limits from your injuries will keep you from enjoying a hobby or activity that you love, you can ask for “loss of enjoyment” damages.
The second general type of personal injury claim covers punitive damages. These are damages that punish the defendant for wrongdoing.
The court only awards punitive damages in certain special cases.
Generally speaking, you’ll only receives punitive damages if the court considers the actions of the defendant to be intentional or overly despicable.
- Knowingly dispensing a harmful product
- Purposeful actions that caused widespread damage
For instance, say a court finds that a drug company knowingly sold a drug that had terrible side effects.
However, they purposefully kept that information from the customer to boost sales.
Because of the circumstances and the scale of the damage, the court may punish the drug company by awarding punitive damages to the sufferers.
Getting your Money
It’s one thing for the court to award you damages for your personal injury case. It’s another thing to collect.
If the defendant is covered by insurance, the insurance company will usually pay the damages.
But if the defendant is uninsured, or otherwise unable to pay, the court will resort to other means to get the money.
Some common solutions include:
- Discovering and selling the defendant’s physical assets.
- Property liens (you cannot sell your property without first paying off your debts).
- Garnishing wages (directly taking money from your paycheck).
It’s important for the defendant to remember that interest will accrue on any damages that they don’t pay right away.
What damages can you ask for in a personal injury case? The short answer is, “Any expense that is both reasonable and authentic.”
Those expenses usually include out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills and loss of income, but can also include damages for pain and emotional distress.
In a few cases, you can also sue for punitive damages to punish the defendant for especially negligent or despicable actions.
In all of these cases, it’s highly recommended that you hire a personal injury attorney.
Civil suits often get complicated very quickly, and if you miss even a single deadline the court may throw out your case.