The calculation of damages in a personal injury case depends on the losses suffered by the injured party. Damages usually include medical expenses to treat injuries or the cost to replace or fix the damaged property. However, damages can include more than just money directly used to address injuries.
For example, if the injuries caused a person to miss work, damages can include medical bills and lost wages. There's even a chance that you can recover for lost future wages - known as loss of earning capacity - if your injuries prevent you from working in the future. Punitive damages may be awarded and can include extra costs to punish the negligent party for the damage they have caused, or compensatory damages may be intended to make up for pain and suffering. If wrongful death occurred, your personal injury attorney can also ask for funeral costs and compensation for emotional distress for the family.
FindLaw's Injury Damages section provides information about how economic compensation plays out in personal injury cases. In this section, you can find articles about damages caps, a plaintiff's duty to mitigate damages, as well as a helpful damage estimate worksheet.
When injuries are serious and severe, they usually result in high monetary payments. These payments can come from an insurance company or the person who caused the injuries. Because the amount is usually high, the person who has to pay for the injuries usually wants to make sure the injuries are real and as bad as the victim claims they are. For this reason, an evaluation from a doctor who isn't the victim's regular doctor may be required. In the personal injury claim context, this is known as an "independent medical examination."
Generally, a person who sustains injuries will go to his or her own doctor to be examined and treated. The concern for a defendant or insurance company is that the doctor could be biased because he or she has a prior relationship with the victim. An independent medical lamination, or IME, allows an independent physician to examine to the victim to make sure that the victim really did sustain injuries, the injuries are as serious as the victim claims, and the injuries were not caused by someone or something else.
In some circumstances, an injured party can be required to submit to an IME. Many states, for example, have passed laws that allow insurance companies to require an IME when a claim seems questionable. However, if the IME would cause an undue burden, such as traveling a long distance from home, the injured party may not be compelled to attend the exam. Many states also have court rules that allow a judge to order an IME under certain circumstances.
Even if your injuries occurred because of the intentional or negligent actions of another person, you still have a duty to minimize or mitigate your damages. Mitigating damages means that the injured party takes certain steps to reduce the effects and loss related to the injuries. If a plaintiff fails to mitigate his or her damages, a defendant can use that fact to reduce the amount of damages the defendant must pay to the plaintiff.
The duty to mitigate damages requires a plaintiff to act in a way that an ordinary and reasonable person would have acted in a similar situation. This includes acting in good faith and with due diligence when choosing a doctor or treatment and possibly looking for another job. For example, failing to seek medical attention or refusing medical treatment, could be seen as a failure to mitigate damages. Whether or not the plaintiff failed the duty to mitigate would depend on whether a reasonable person would have sought medical attention or accepted that particular medical treatment. Similarly, if an injured person can do some kind of work, even if it's not his or her usual line of work, and work is available, the injured person's damages will probably be reduced for failure to mitigate damages.
If you or someone you love has suffered harm or injuries because of someone else's intentional or negligent actions, you might want to contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options.