When you file an insurance claim or lawsuit, you will submit evidence to support your damages claim.
Under Georgia law, damages fall into two categories. The first category is called economic damages, or special damages; these damages must actually flow from the accident. You must prove the amount of your losses.
The second category is called non-economic damages, or general damages; these damages presumably flow from the accidents and the jury or adjuster can infer a value for your losses.
Here is some information about the first category of damages, economic damages, and how you prove them.
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Damages Recoverable in an Injury Claim
The legal system has two parts. The criminal system uses the power of the state to punish people for breaking criminal statutes. After a jury convicts a defendant of a criminal offense, a judge usually sentences the defendant to a combination of incarceration, fines, and probation.
The civil system uses the power of the state to adjudicate disputes between parties. A jury weighs the evidence and returns a verdict. If the verdict finds one of the parties liable to the other, the verdict also includes a damage award.
You should think of your case in two parts — liability and damages. If you cannot prove liability, the jury cannot award damages. If you prove liability, the jury will consider evidence of your losses and calculate your damages.
You can ask for two different types of damages:
- Punitive damages
- Compensatory damages
Juries award punitive damages to punish the defendant for egregious behavior in causing your injury. You must request punitive damages and Georgia law caps punitive damages in many situations. As a result, few cases involve punitive damages.
Compensatory damages compensate you for your losses. Compensatory damages fall into two categories:
Your economic losses include all the financial impacts of your injuries. Economic damages include expenses, unpaid bills, and property losses. Because economic damages stem from financial losses, you can calculate your economic damages by adding up the values of all of your monetary and property losses.
Your non-economic losses include all of the ways in which your injuries diminished your quality of life. Some examples of non-economic losses include:
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Inability to perform tasks
These losses do not have a value associated with them. The jury or adjuster will infer a value for non-economic damages based on the nature of your injuries.
Examples of Economic Damages
Any change in your financial state that flowed from the accident might constitute an economic loss for which you can claim compensation.
Some examples include:
You can claim compensation for medical expenses that arise from your accident. This includes expenses for:
- Physical and mental therapy
These medical expenses must be reasonable and result from the accident. You cannot claim medical expenses for a pre-existing condition unless the accident worsened your condition.
For example, suppose that you suffer from arthritis and tendinitis in your knee. If a car accident tears the cartilage in the knee, your damages include expenses from the torn cartilage and a worsening of your arthritis and tendinitis. However, expenses for arthritis and tendinitis will be excluded from consideration if those conditions did not worsen.
Medical Expenses Covered by Health Insurance
If you have health insurance, your insurer may have paid some of your medical expenses. Your out-of-pocket expenses, like copays and deductibles, constitute economic damages.
The expenses covered by your health insurer also constitute economic damages but whether you get to keep that money will depend on your plan. If you have an employer-based health plan, your health insurer could seek reimbursement from your damage award. If you have an individual health plan, your insurer probably cannot seek reimbursement under Georgia law.
Future Medical Expenses
Your economic damages include your future medical expenses. These amounts will require some expert analysis about the treatment you will need in the future. Your injury lawyer will often use expert testimony from a doctor to describe future medical expenses arising from your injuries.
The other major category of economic losses covers lost income. Wages or salary that you lost due to your injury or the recovery fall within your economic losses.
Lost income also covers reduced pay that you took due to altered duties. Suppose that you normally work in a warehouse. After a motorcycle accident, a leg injury forced you to take desk duty for two months. Your lost income includes the difference in pay between your normal warehouse work and your desk work.
Future Lost Income
Future lost income, also called diminished earning capacity, qualifies as an economic loss if you can prove how much your income will decrease.
In a classic example, a truck driver had to retire from driving after suffering a back injury in a slip and fall accident. Suppose they no longer can drive as long or as much as they could in the past.
The truck driver could claim diminished earning capacity if they cannot obtain a job that provides the same level of compensation as their previous work. Expert testimony is usually required to show how much one’s earning capacity has been reduced.
Supporting Your Claim for Economic Damages
When you first meet with an injury lawyer, you should bring copies of your medical bills and wage statements. This will help the lawyer evaluate the economic damages you can seek. When you file your insurance claim or lawsuit, these financial records will help you prove your economic losses.To learn more about the economic losses for which you can recover compensation, contact Hawk Law Group to speak to an experienced injury lawyer.