What are Future Pain and Suffering Damages in a Personal Injury Case?
Damages in a personal injury case are the compensation you receive for your injuries. Damages are quite broad and can include multiple expenses, future costs, and emotional damages. Future damages all have a component which if they exist because of the nexus associated lead to additional future pain and suffering being warranted.
The purpose of damages in a personal injury case is to make you, the victim, whole again after your injury. Most of the time, damages replace the financial burden of your injury or at least part of the financial burden. Personal Injury cases get lumped together as group but in reality each and every case is fact intensive and rests on its own merits.
While no amount of money can make up for permanent disability, emotional trauma, or even the loss of a loved one, it is the only way the courts have to compensate a person. Past expenses, such as medical expenses you have paid, prescriptions you have purchased, and medical equipment you paid out-of-pocket are easy to compute. Wages you lost taking time off of work to recover, visit the doctor, or even go to court are also easy to calculate.
Sometimes due to gross negligence or intentional acts an injured party may get money from punitive damages. Punitive damages are to deter and punish, they are not compensatory damages that make a Plaintiff whole from the damages committed by the at-fault party.
Future expenses, however, are not as easy. These require an attorney to work closely with an accountant and economist to project your costs, including medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. These future damages ensure that you do not pay out-of-pocket for your injury – even if you are still recovering 25 years after the fact. If you need an attorney call Betz and Baril at 865-888-8888 and we can advise you on the potential and ability for future damages in your particular case.
Why Future Damages are Critical for a Personal Injury Claim
When your injuries are catastrophic, you may have years of recovery ahead. You might require multiple doctor's appointments, follow-up surgeries, or be permanently disabled, which comes with a whole host of costs – including lost wages. It is imperative that an attorney factor in your future costs when they propose a settlement to an insurance company. After all, what good is a settlement if you must pay out-of-pocket for the rest of your life for an injury you did not cause ?
It is your attorney's job to get the compensation you deserve for all expenses, including those in the future. Therefore, when you meet with your injury attorney, make sure that they are considering the future expenses of your injury in the settlement.
What Future Damages Can You Collect?
Generally they are the same damages one can collect prior to a settlement. Damages typically projected in a personal injury case include:
lost wages, and
Future Loss of Earning Capacity
If you will miss work due to ongoing medical treatments, permanent disability, or you are unable to continue working at your current job, these consequences matter. Betz and Baril or your attorney will project the earnings you would have made if you were not injured, and include those in your settlement request.
Future earnings are awarded in cases of permanent disability or long-term recoveries and require a permanent impairment rating that affect your ability to work in the field you have been working in.
How Are Future Earning Losses Calculated?
Your future earnings and losses are not calculated based on your current income; because in the future, you would likely earn different wages. Instead, the law looks at your ability to earn a living.
First, Betz and Baril or another attorney estimates your earning capacity prior to the injury. Then they compare that to the reduction in earning capacity from your partial or complete disability. Your damages are then based on the difference between the two. If your injury severely inhibits your ability to work and thrive in the future, the purpose of your loss of earning capacity is to ensure that you do not suffer financially as a result.
Note, you do not have to be employed at the time of your accident to claim a loss in future earning capacity. If you are in between jobs but would have been able to find a job and earn money in the future had you not been injured, you still qualify for a loss of earning capacity.
Future earning capacity is a powerful form of future damages – and often increases a person's settlement by hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. When you are compensated for the income you would receive for your earning years, you might receive compensation for this type of settlement spread out in payments over the next few years – rather than a lump sum. Also because these damages generally are very high one can expect the defense to do everything possible to try and eliminate or mitigate them for their client.
Future pain and suffering can be allotted here as well because you can not work. The anxiety and depression often associated with not being able to do these things increases the pain and suffering.
Future Medical Expenses
Medical expenses are costly, and when you have a severe injury that requires future surgeries, physical therapy, and years of medical treatment, the compensation can be extensive.
In personal injury cases, medical expenses do not have a minimum or maximum allowed. This is because the courts assess your injury on a case-by-case basis. They look at the costs of your treatment, your prognosis, and the expenses associated with your diagnosis. Every bill and every procedure adds to the future pain and suffering associated with each claim.
For example, say you have been paralyzed in an accident. Your physician recommends a series of surgeries over the course of several years to try and reduce the areas affected by the paralysis to help you recover. While you will be permanently scarred, the surgeries will help restore your movement as much as possible.
These surgeries are expensive but required. Therefore, your attorney would calculate the amount of each procedure, including potential inflation costs, and include that expense in your compensation. There is also future pain and suffering associated with each of these medical expenses.
What Future Medical Expenses Can be Included in a Settlement?
Any future medical costs associated with your injury could potentially be included in the settlement. This includes:
- Hospital Bills: If future surgeries are part of your prognosis, you will obviously stay at the hospital – and that stay could be over several days for each surgery. All expenses associated with your hospital stay are included in the estimate.
- Surgery Costs: Any future surgeries are estimated and projected.
- Diagnostic Tests: To monitor your progress or as part of a pre-op procedure, you will have diagnostic tests, including laboratory work, medical scans, and other tests. The cost of these tests is included in your settlement.
- Prescription Medications: You might require prescription medications for the rest of your life, and prescriptions are expensive. Therefore, your attorney will calculate the costs of those prescription medications.
- Therapy and Rehabilitative Costs: You may require several months of physical therapy, vocational therapy, or psychotherapy to recover from your injuries. The costs of these, including recommended appointments in the future, are included in your calculation.
- Medical Equipment: Some injuries require medical equipment, such as a wheelchair. These medical costs should be added to your future damages, especially if you will depend on medical devices for several years – or the rest of your life.
- Modifications to the Home: You may be required to modify your home as part of your disability, such as adding ramps to entrances, widening hallways, retrofitting bathrooms, or installing medical equipment.
Each of the above whether they are necessary and the duration will have a direct impact on the future pain and suffering associated with each potential claim.
Future Pain and Suffering
A permanent injury could leave a person with chronic pain for the rest of their life. They may suffer from depression when they can no longer work or enjoy life, and a person's quality of life, in general, could change dramatically.
When an attorney calculates future damages, they include the physical, emotional, and mental pain of the injury in their calculation.
Calculating Future Physical Pain
To insurance companies, the longer you will suffer from an injury, the more you deserve in pain and suffering damages. Also intensity is another element to take into account when trying to determine future pain and suffering. Your medical records will indicate how long you will physically suffer from an injury. Typically, this is your estimated recovery time – if you will ever fully recover.
If you have been injured and need an attorney call Betz and Baril at 865-888-8888.